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A Critical Race Theory interpretation of responses to Afrocentric messages in Hip Hop

A Critical Race Theory interpretation of responses to Afrocentric messages in Hip Hop

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Published by: loomz on Jul 16, 2012
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A Critical Race Theory interpretation of Afrocentric messages in Hip Hop
Luis A. Caraballo-BurgosSYG 6126.7887Final PaperApril 25, 2010
  As long as you can be convinced you never did anything, you can never do anything.
- Malcolm X
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Within the genre and culture of Hip Hop one is able to find a whole host of issues whichlend themselves to a critique. To that end this paper will situate a critique of Hip Hop throughthe lens provided by critical race theory which has over the last several decades become aprimarily pervasive theoretical framework for understanding, interpreting, and critiquing issuesof race and ethnicity in the social sciences, particularly sociology. Critical race scholars at timeswrite about their own experiences with racism to depict, anecdotally, issues that have farreaching and much greater influence in contemporary society than can often be understoodthrough larger macro-level descriptions. In Hip Hop, the most vocal proponents have tended towrite about their own, or their interpretations of others, experiences in order to authenticatethemselves within the culture. This paper will focus around one of the less popular concepts thatHip Hop has endeavored upon, the pro-Black, African pride, Afrocentric aesthetic that waspopularized by groups and performers such as: A Tribe Called Quest, X-Clan, 3rd Base andPublic Enemy, and continued by performers such as: dead prez, Common, Mos Def and TalibKweli. I will first introduce the biases inherent to this paper. I will then continue by presentinga brief history of the racial dynamics that created Hip Hop. Following that discussion, I willdiscuss the four main tenets or themes of critical race theory that will inform this critique.Finally, I will discuss issues of identity and the support of and discomfort with Afrocentricmessages.Authors aligned with critical race theory have astutely recognized that although the civilrights movements of the 1960s helped to drive the United States towards racial equality in theeyes of the law, the pace of such movements slowed dramatically in the years since the mid-1970s (Delgado 1995). Critical race theory attempts to develop an understanding of thesocializing mechanisms built in to our American society that have trained us to be observant and
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critical of perceived and misperceived racism. The pressures and stresses of racism become aninherent part of our identity.
The pressure and stresses provided by the “culture industry” that
has perverted much of the loudest voices in Hip Hop have also become part of the identity of those who associate themselves with Hip Hop (Adorno & Horkheimer 1993; hooks 1990).
Beginning Assertions and Biases
Towards the notion of critique, this paper is predicated on a two predominating ideas;that critical race theory provides valuable insight into, especially, American
society which othersocial theories miss or ignore, and that Hip Hop is a valuable tool for the creation of multi-ethnic, multiracial creative space. This paper will present what would best be described asinsider research. I am a part of the Hip Hop cultural community, both in name and in practice. Itis the first set of community linkages I have aimed to create when moving to a new city for atleast the last nine years. When not focusing on academic pursuits, my attention is on Hip Hop,which has taught me so much. This insider insight that I have on the subject is, of course,
somewhat problematic as I am by all accounts “native,” and am therefore much more willing to
explain or excuse negative behavior. However, as with most science I am attempting here to beas objective as possible without turning individuals or groups into objects. The value in being aninsider, however, lies in that much of what takes place in the Hip Hop community has a certainesoteric quality, and is therefore difficult for outsiders to interpret or understand.
In this critique I will argue that the “color blind” method by which some have decided to
deal with race and racialized issues is a fallacy, in that it cannot solve the problems that havebeen entrenched through generations of pervasive thought and in the current dismissiveness of the struggles of people of color (Bonilla-Silva 2006; pond cummings 2010; Wise 2010).
I am of 
The United States of America’s society.

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