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Reflection Paper 2

Reflection Paper 2

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Published by Andrew Knox

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Published by: Andrew Knox on Oct 05, 2010
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Andrew KnoxHUM 125 – Hip-Hop Theory and CultureOctober 5, 2010
Reflection Paper #2: The Socio-Political Foundations of Hip-Hop
While Hip-Hop and Rap music now dominates the mainstream popular culture, Hip-Hop began as an expression of frustration. This frustration had been slowly building since the initialinjustices of American Slavery, through Reconstruction, through the World Wars until the CivilRights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Civil Rights and voting legislation in the 1960’sclarified the meaning of equality in the law, but by the end of the 1970’s, this equality was stilltheoretical and not practical.
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Statistics indicating quality of life for African-Americans(poverty, unemployment and annual income rates) were slow to rise. In fact, some statistics, like poverty, violent crime and drug use, got worse as the years wore on, and vibrant neighborhoodscrumbled and decayed into urban ghettos.The root of these troubles (in spite of great progress in modifying racial statutes and public opinion) is the fact that in the 1970’s (up to the present day) the United States Economy began moving away from a manufacturing-based model towards a more service-based model.The vast improvements in transportation and communication during the 20
th
century enabledcorporations to export middle-class manufacturing jobs to third-world countries on the other sideof the world. Some specific corporations noted for their outsourcing are “Ford Motor Company,Chrysler, General Motors, and major steel companies.
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” This “outsourcing” was conceived as away to save money (and thus protect the bottom line), since you could pay foreign workers muchless, offer no benefits and prohibit unionization.The downside to all of this was the closing of factories across the country and thetermination of millions of unionized manual labor jobs. These jobs were essentially the backbone of the American middle class; the strength of America’s manufacturing industry hadtransformed it from a regional muscle into a globally-reaching superpower. An untrained bodyfresh out of high school could earn a living wage in a factory, could afford to buy a house and anew automobile, plant an atomic family and save enough money to put their children throughcollege without student loans. This living wage and many benefits like health insurance and pension funds were hard fought victories of the Labor Union movement from the 1880’s to the1930’s. In mid-western cities like Chicago and Detroit, the entire local economy was based on
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Andrew KnoxHUM 125 – Hip-Hop Theory and CultureOctober 5, 2010the factory’s prosperity; restaurants and service businesses opened in the vicinity of the localfactory and thrived on income from factory workers.
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This prosperity abruptly came to a halt when the role of the local factory was outsourced.All of the sudden, most available jobs for high school graduates paid little more than minimumwage and were not unionized. College became a requirement for anyone desiring a career, not just a job that you work at for your entire life. The new labor pool in the third world had noexpectation of benefits or employee rights, and were more than happy to be paid a third of theAmerican minimum wage to stand in one place and pull a lever every fifteen seconds. Theaftermath of this dramatic economic reorganization eventually resulted in the inner-city ghettosthat eventually created Hip-Hop, as explained by Dr. Black of the University of Washington:
Soon the commercial establishments close or relocate. Next the middle class and stable workingclass relocate. Vertical class integration declines as a result. New residents move in to replacethose who have relocated, but the new residents are more likely to be poor and to have limitedresources. The housing stock deteriorates and in some cases is actually abandoned by former owners, as is the case in Detroit, Michigan and Gary, Indiana.
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So while the legality and social acceptability of racism, discrimination and segregationhad completely changed in a relatively small amount of time, outsourcing prevented African-Americans from fully taking advantage of the economic opportunities that had been available toWhites for generations. If outsourcing had never occurred, African-Americans could have proportionately integrated into the factory workforce and could have, as an ethnic group, joinedthe middle class en masse. Instead, poor Blacks moved (or were herded/redlined) into thesedevastated neighborhoods in search of cheap housing, only to find little to no employmentopportunities. “High rates of joblessness trigger neighborhood problems that undermine socialorganization, ranging from crime, delinquency, gang violence, and drug trafficking to family breakups and problems in the organization of family life.
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Thrust into this daily hell, Black men developed a coping mechanism called “Cool Pose.”If one could remain calm, unfazed and emotionally distant from daily threats and stressors, theywould be “cool,” apparently charismatic and “bad-ass.”
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The problem with Cool Pose is that itcan lead to some of the situations it was originally designed to ignore. Arguments can quickly
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Andrew KnoxHUM 125 – Hip-Hop Theory and CultureOctober 5, 2010escalate to violence and even death because backing down would show weakness. Use of drugsand alcohol and joining a street gang are some negative outcomes of peer pressure and striving to be cool.
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Both of the readings (
Cool Pose
and
The Sociology and History of African Americans
)and the video (
The Fire This Time
) pointed to the same factors for why the African-Americancommunity hasn’t prospered in the years following the Civil Rights Era. Chuck D (of PublicEnemy) whittled these factors down to three alliterative categories: Economics, Education and(Law) Enforcement.
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In addition to the economic factors detailed above, a cycle of distrust between poor urban Blacks and the White establishment has undermined progress at every turn.Promises of urban redevelopment and maintenance have gone unfulfilled, replaced instead byunilateral imminent domain takeovers. Most venture capital money invested into South CentralLos Angeles has been designated for construction of liquor stores.
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While the quality of education for African-Americans has vastly improved since Brownv. Board of Education, there is still a great deal of improvement needed. Social programs likeArts in the Schools, Music programs, and Community Centers should be generously rewritteninto government budgets. The Black community as a whole needs to set college education as a priority in order to foster future development of a professional Black Middle Class.Law Enforcement is the single most difficult to resolve factor of the three. The viciouscycle of distrust between the Black community and the predominately-White police force has ledto a pandemic of discrimination, profiling, brutality and hatred. This culminated in the RodneyKing Riots of 1992.
 The Police-Prison complex has gotten bigger and bigger as “law andorder” politicians attempt to quick fix social problems like gang violence and narcotics withharsher prison terms. As the prisons get bigger, they demand more funding, which in turn leadsto funding cuts for rehabilitation and community release programs which would actually help.Holistic therapy and rehabilitation can readjust criminals to society, whereas prison tends tomake hard criminals harder, and even introduce them to a wide network of colleagues.
 
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Majors 11-12
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