November 12, 2013

Faulty Logic or is it Racist?

Before I get into anything else, I hope that you heard about Typhoon Haiyan’s damage to the Philippines. If you could, please find an organization to donate to. TIME has a compilation of organizations and ways you can help. If you’re going to donate to the Red Cross, click through the above link and donate to the Philippine Red Cross.

Now, having spent a lot of time on Tumblr, I’ve seen a lot of overreactions to media. As much as I’ve learned – about living with mental illnesses, different perspectives on stories in the media… often you see a lot of overreactions. People who see something and immediately declare it racist or sexist or insensitive without looking at context.

Which brings me to this article proclaiming Lorde’s Royals to be racist. Essentially, the writer says that all the things Lorde is saying that she and her friends aren’t are references to hip hop and rap, which are African-American- hence, it must be racist.

And while it is something that we should be mindful of, the writer was writing this from an American-centric point of view. Lorde is from New Zealand, so you should probably view it more as a reference from music from a NZ POV. (Which obviously, I can’t) There were plenty of commenters saying that hip hop and rap in NZ is more diverse racially than it is here in the US.

I could easily point out, not even as a fan of rap and hip hop that it’s become increasingly commercial in tone. That most of what I remember from the 80s was more about power and politics than anything else. And sex. Which hasn’t changed, it’s mostly now about peacocking rather than a show of strength.

Beyond that, if you look at all the things that Lorde mentions, while they are things mentioned in rap and hip hop- they’re also a large part of the music world at large, not just one genre of music. Where pop stars regularly talk about their fancy jewelry, timepieces, big houses, flashy cars. The music industry as a whole tries to sell this glamorous commercialistic image- and to my ears, that was what she was singing about. Rejecting the messages being sold to do things her way.

What is problematic is writing a full essay on the intention of the artist without actually interviewing the artist. Or sourcing any published interviews to support that intent. Because ultimately, we don’t know specifically what the song was targeting- all Verónica Flores had to draw from were the lyrics. And examining a song without any context is problematic.

I’m not going to suggest that context solves all problems. But certainly, having context would avoid a situation like this one. (Set down your drink before clicking through)

The post was put up at the beginning of October, and while I only learned of it yesterday, I thought that the problem with the blog post was worth mentioning. So what do you think? Was Flores right to view it solely on the lyrics, or do you think she’s missing pieces of the puzzle?

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