The Harlem Shake as Blackface – Panel Discussion at Hamline University

A few weeks ago, I had the incredible pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on The Harlem Shake and the meme that has since run its course.  I was invited to speak after publishing a piece called “Racism, Appropriation, and the Harlem Shake.”  The panel inspired me to write “Shaking Off the ‘Harlem Shake’ Meme: Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation,” but the most powerful perspectives on that panel were not mine, so I wanted to make sure my readers had a chance to learn from the incredible knowledge dropped at that event.

First up: Dr. Don C. Sawyer III, Professor at Quinnipiac University and The Harlem Son

“It’s just a dance to you because you don’t go into these places where the students are dealing with underserved schools, lack of music in schools, dealing with gun violence, dealing with the NYPD or the NYPD gang if you want to call them that, so you’re not there dealing with all of this, so that’s why this is not just a dance.”

Second: Dr. Daniel White Hodge, Intellectual, Professor, Author, Hip Hop Scholar

“Who gets to tell the story of Hip Hop?”

Third: Mariah Kenya Cannon, Hamline Student Community Organizer and President of the Hip Hop Collective

“When you say it’s just a dance, you’re taking the meaning from Hip Hop.”

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The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21

I’m really proud of this week’s post, though most of the credit needs to go to the other three authors on the piece who worked hard to put it together and include my perspective while I was on a busy speaking tour in South Dakota.

Originally published at The Good Men Project:

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A list of parenting action items, created in the hope that we can raise a generation of children who have less rape and sexual assault in their lives.

The ongoing horror of rape in the news, from Penn State to the young women raped and killed in India to Steubenville, has proven to be a wake-up call for many parents. We always knew that rape was a problem, but never before have we been so mobilized to create change.

As writers, educators, and advocates of sex-positivity and healthy consent, the four of us have been inundated with requests from parents for advice on how to help create a future with less rape and sexual assault.

We believe parents can start educating children about consent and empowerment as early as 1 year old and continuing into the college years. It is our sincere hope that this education can help us raise empowered young adults who have empathy for others and a clear understanding of healthy consent.

We hope parents and educators find this list of action items and teaching tools helpful, and that together we can help create a generation of children who have less rape and sexual assault in their lives.

There are three sections, based upon children’s ages, preschool, grade school, and teens and young adults.

Sincerely,

Julie Gills, Jamie Utt, Alyssa Royse and Joanna Schroeder

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For Very Young Children (ages 1-5):

1. Teach children to ask permission before touching or embracing a playmate. Use langauge such as, “Sarah, let’s ask Joe if he would like to hug bye-bye.”

If Joe says “no” to this request, cheerfully tell your child, “That’s okay, Sarah! Let’s wave bye-bye to Joe and blow him a kiss.”

2. Help create empathy within your child by explaining how something they have done may have hurt someone. Use language like, “I know you wanted that toy, but when you hit Mikey, it hurt him and he felt very sad. And we don’t want Mikey to feel sad because we hurt him.”

Encourage your child to imagine how he or she might feel if Mikey had hit them, instead. This can be done with a loving tone and a big hug, so the child doesn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.

3. Teach kids to help others who may be in trouble. Ask your child to watch interactions and notice what is happening. Get them used to observing behavior and checking in on what they see.

Use the family pet as an example, “Oh, it looks like the kitty’s tail is stuck! We have to help her!!”

Praise your child for assisting others who need help.

Read the rest of the piece at The Good Men Project.

Shaking Off the “Harlem Shake” Meme: Tools for Resisting Cultural Appropriation

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Last night I had the incredible honor to participate in a panel at Hamline University entitled “The Harlem Shake as Blackface: A Critical Look at Cultural Appropriation.”  Some truly inspiring and powerful voices spoke their truth about the problems with, dangers in, and hurt that stems from cultural appropriation like that of the Harlem Shake meme (shout outs to Dr. Daniel White Hodge, Mia Jackman, DJ Francisco, Chris McQuire, Mariah Kenya Cannon, Dr. Don C. Sawyer III, Ryan Willians-Virden, and Antoine Duke for speaking their powerful testimonies and truths).

Once the video of the event is out, I will make sure I publish it here on the blog.

As others in the panel responded to oft-asked questions like, “What’s the big deal? It’s just dancing!” and “What is this cultural appropriation thing anyway?”, I spoke to a question that I’ve been answering a lot since I published “Racism, Appropriation, and The Harlem Shake: “What am I supposed to do to resist/stop cultural appropriation?”

To be clear, every single time that I’ve been asked this question, it’s come from a White person, and most often it came from a place of defensiveness.  While many folks of Color know exactly what they need to do to hold onto their cultures and preserve them in spite of White appropriation, we as White folks (even the most well-meaning among us) are usually clueless about how we can resist this subtle form of racism.

Because I’ve been getting the question quite often, I figure it would be easier to respond here publicly.  That said, I am by no means an expert, so if you have ideas or suggestions for people to resist racist cultural appropriation, please share them in the comments.

How People of Racial Privilege can Resist Cultural Appropriation

1. Listen to Varied Voices and Perspectives of Color

Cultural appropriation is, at its root, more often a product of ignorance than of malice, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful in its impact.  If people of privilege like myself did a better job of listening to and educating ourselves about the varied perspectives of people of Color, we would be MUCH less likely to act in ways that further appropriate cultural expressions from their roots and locus of control in communities of Color.

HOWEVER, this does not mean we should be going up to people of Color and saying, “Please teach me! I don’t want to be a racist any more!”  Frankly, folks of Color are tired of having to educate us about history, oppression, privilege, and justice.

There are lots of ways for us to listen.  As noted by Mychal Denzel Smith in his brilliant article “White People Need to Give Up Racism,” “White people have to diversify their media consumption.”  We need to read, listen to, watch, and reflect on the voices of a variety of people of Color in our media consumption.  If you want some suggestions of where to start, Smith offers some good ideas in his article.

And when we DO find ourselves in a position to listen to people of Color speak their truths, we need to shut up, listen, and stop thinking of ways that we can simply respond or push back.

In the case of the Harlem Shake meme, if more of the White folks who helped to launch this meme were aware of the life-saving force that hip hop music and dance has been in Harlem and of the history of the dance itself and of the ways that the culture of folks of Color is regularly stolen and repackaged by White folks, I like to think that most of them would have been less likely to participate.

We must remember that listening is the root of justice.

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How We Can Address Sexual Violence on Campuses

Everyday FeminismThis week’s post is published over at the incredible Everyday Feminism.

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On every single college campus in the United States, there is a powerful, committed group of feminists and feminist allies who are working to prevent sexual violence and respond to the needs of survivors.

These incredible coalitions of students, professors, staff, administrators, and wider community members are working every single day to ensure that survivors have the support they need while working to prevent further sexual assaults.

Too often, though, they are working against institutions and campus environments that shame survivors, protect perpetrators, and reinforce the rape culture that is endemic in our society.

The grim reality is that at least 1 in 4 college women are survivors of sexual violence, and our institutions are not doing enough to stem this terrible tide.

It is time that more of us join these committed activists in transforming the culture and climate of our college and university campuses.

Whether you’re a parent, a student, an alumni, or simply a concerned community member, here are a few ways that you help:

1. Change How We Talk About Sexual Violence

The messages that are sent to women and men about sexual violence on college campuses tend to be misguided at best and downright dangerous at worst.

Whether the message is delivered formally through a New Student Orientation program or through norms and mores, the traditional wisdom for sexual violence prevention on college campuses can often be boiled down to:

“Ladies, be careful so you don’t get raped.”

Whether we tell women to go out in groups, watch their drinks, or never walk across campus alone at night, the conversation is the same – the responsibility for preventing sexual violence is on women.

But considering that the VAST majority of rapes are committed by men, we can’t afford to leave men out of the conversation!

To place the responsibility for sexual violence prevention on women not only completely ignores those who perpetrate the majority of sexual assaults, but it lends itself to victim blaming.

“You shouldn’t have been dressed that way.” “You shouldn’t have gone out alone.” “You shouldn’t have been drinking.”

Thus, in both our informal conversations and as we look to change how our institutions address sexual violence, we must shift the conversation to ones of positive sexuality, enthusiastic consenthealthy masculinity, and support for survivors.

First, if sex and sexuality is talked about openly and honestly, we can begin to have more accountable conversations regarding positive sexuality.

We can introduce the ideas behind and methods for realizing enthusiastic consent. We can encourage healthier relationships and healthier sexuality in all their forms. So that people of all genders understand what healthy and consensual sexual relationships can and should look like,

Secondly, we must also end the culture of male sexual entitlement, disrespect, cat calling, and objectification that protects perpetrators of sexual violence.

Men, women have been trying to tell us these things for ages. It’s time for us to be the leaders in ending sexual violence. We, as men, need to work with other men to change how we talk about and practice sex.

Third, we need to change how we talk about sexual violence so that it reflects reality and not myths about rape.

A good place to start is changing where we place the onus for prevention. The only person responsible for a sexual assault is the perpetrator. Plain and simple. From there, we can do a better job of supporting those who experience sexual assault.

Finally, we have to make sure that our conversations don’t accidentally silence survivors who don’t fit our understanding of “normal.” Any person of any gender or any sexual orientation can experience sexual violence. 50% of transgender peopleexperience sexual violence and approximately 8% of all men (by conservative estimates) are raped by a former partner.

Often, conversations around rape focus solely on straight relationships, but lesbian, gay, and bisexual people commonly experience sexual violence too. Further, 1 in 10 survivors of sexual violence are men, and we need to have resources that support male survivors.

Lastly, we need to expand the conversation around sexual violence beyond rape (forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration) to other types of unwanted sexual contact and coercive sexual activity (including forced kissing, groping, forced hand jobs, non-consensual kissing, etc).

Otherwise, those who experience sexual violence that they would not call rape may feel like their experience is not legitimate or worthy of attention. But they often still experience trauma like rape survivors because it was still not consensual.

In short, we can make our conversations more inclusive, and we can push to make our campus programming more inclusive.

2. Transform Party Culture

Read the rest of the article at Everyday Feminism.