That White Guy

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This is the most iconic sports photograph taken. Images of athletes making political statements still endure. In this iconic picture, we have two Africa-American sprinters, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, raising their gloved fists in a black power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Their gesture was powerful. They showed defiance against the oppression that was taking place in America at the time. The story of the two sprinters and how monumental their silent protest was has been soliloquized for years. What has been lost in this is the role of that white guy in the picture. His name is Peter Norman.

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At that track event that morning, the 200 meter final, Tommie Smith won gold with a world-record of 19.83 seconds. Mr. Norman finished second with a time of 20.06 seconds. Carlos finished third. Norman’s time was not only his all-time personal best but an Australian record that still stands. After the race, the three athletes went to medal podiums for their medals. Smith and Carlos had previously already decided to make a statement on the podium. They were going to wear black gloves. However, Carlos left his at the Olympic Village. Mr. Norman was the one that told them that they should both wear Smith’s gloves instead but on alternate hands. Which is why Smith is seen raising his right fist, while Carlos raised his left. Mr. Norman had no way of making a protest of his own so he asked a member of the U.S. rowing team for his “Olympic Project for Human Rights” badge so that he could show that he supported Carlos and Smith.

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The consequences were swift for Smith and Carlos as they were sent home. Norman, on the other hand, was never picked to run in the Olympics again. He had qualified for the 200 meters 13 times and 100 meters five times but the powers of Australian track and field decided against taking him to Munich. Norman would retire as soon as he heard that he’d been cut from the Munich team. He even wasn’t invited to the 2000 Sydney Olympics in any capacity. His own country had shunned him for standing with Carlos and Smith. Norman would not get an apology till after his death on October 3, 2006. In August of 2012, the Australian Parliament passed a posthumous apology.

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Norman was a hero for his small but unwavering stand against racism.  The biggest price that he paid was that his outstanding 200 meters final has been overshadowed by the Black Power salute. His run is still seen as one of the best unexpected individual performances by a sprinter.

Like a true hero, Mr. Norman had no grudges.

“It has been said that sharing my silver medal with that incident on the victory dais detracted from my performance,” Norman explains passionately in the bio-doc “Salute”

“On the contrary. I have to confess, I was rather proud to be part of it.”

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Well Frankly When That Ocean…

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Frank Ocean. His music is soulful, holistic, and emotion metabolic. One thing I believe that goes unnoticed is Frank’s references to social justice and the plight of Black people. His references to social issues and it being overlooked isn’t the fault of the listener. Frank Ocean’s voice and music are so angelic that it’s easy to disregard what he’s talking about because the man makes pain and suffering sound so beautiful. I think that Frank does this on purpose to show that through all this suffering there is beauty in it all. But that’s a whole other topic on its own. What I want to do is analyze the beauty in Frank’s music when he discusses inequality and rise and fall of Black royalty.

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Let us start with “Pyramids”. “Pyramids” is a near 10-minute-long song on his critically acclaimed album, Channel Orange. In the song, he tells the tale of the ancient history of the Black women. He uses Cleopatra, who brought dishonor to her country by becoming Marc Antony’s mistress, to symbolize the Black women. For those who don’t know, Marc Antony was a conqueror who wanted Egypt to become a Roman territory and achieved that goal through her. In part one of the song Ocean narrates about how Cleopatra has been stolen from the kingdom. The jewel of Africa. In the outro, he talks about how “our” queen has met her doom and that “He” has killed Cleopatra. “Our” is about the black man and how our queens have been stolen and killed by the White man, “He”. “He” has killed the image of our jewel, Cleopatra. “Cleopatra (black women) is no longer respected but she is instead used and abused by the men who would have risked their lives to protect her honor years ago. This is evident today as men have hypersexualized the black female body. We have made it an object of expenditure. We dishonor what should be honored.

Image result for pyramids cleopatra frank oceanIn part two of the song, we fast forward to today’s world. Cleopatra has now been reduced to a stripper who is also taking care of her unemployed man. She now works at the Pyramids. This was very clever by Frank. He turned a symbol of the greatness of Africa, the Pyramids, and reduced it to the name of a strip club. The song is using history to tell the story of the fall of the Black man and woman in America. Particularly, the Black woman. They went from the worth of a blue moon diamond to a cubic zirconia.

Another song I want to play close attention to is “Crack Rock” off Channel Orange. The song talks about the so-called “War-On-Drugs” in America.  In the bridge of the song, he refers to the crooked cops that fuel the drug trade by letting the dealers sell, as long as they get some of that money too. These types of cops are no good for the community.

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Note: One thing I realized through my research of this song is the famous case of a crooked cop, Barry Seal. Seal is a former CIA operative who worked with cartels to ship cocaine to the town of Mena, Arkansas. Once again Frank Ocean is being very clever. In the first verse of the song he states:

“You don’t know how little you matter until you’re all alone”

“In the middle of Arkansas with a little rock left in that glass dick”

There are many things going on with this. First, Frank Ocean tied the crooked cops in the bridge with the state of Arkansas which happens to be the state one famous cop, Barry Seal, used to make money. Also, in the line “In the middle of Arkansas with a little rock left in that glass dick”, he references to the high use of crack that Arkansas is notorious for and the dealings that happen in Little Rock. It’s a double entendre because little rock is a name given to crack but also the capital of Arkansas.

Furthermore, in the bridge and outro, Frank states how if his brother- I believe he’s talking about black males in general- gets shot he wouldn’t get as much attention as a cop getting shot. For a cop, they will literally send out hundreds to look for the shooter, but there isn’t any justice for the average black male. And we have seen this being played out recently with police shootings of unarmed black people. It sets out the hypocrisy of America and the crooked cops in the justice system. A crooked cop will become remembered and revered if gunned down even though he/she is part of the issue.

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There are many other songs that Frank Ocean talks about social injustice. For example, in Chanel he sings “Police think I’m of the underworld, 12 treat a nigga like he 12”. And his more popular reference in “Nikes”: “RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me”. To me these lines make Frank Ocean fall in the same line of other social justice artists. We should be looking at Frank Ocean the same way we look at Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and many others. It’s easy to overlook this because of the beauty of his music. I think that’s why Frank Ocean is my favorite artist. He talks about pain, suffering, corruption, and social justice in a stunning and angelic way. He shows there’s beauty in the struggle. But he also sings about the beauty of hope and how we can overcome our struggles.

 

 

SCHADENFREUDE

What do schadenfreude, Trump, politics, and social media have in common? In my opinion, a lot.  First, let’s tackle that weird looking word “schadenfreude”. The origin of the word is disputed and debated but most agree that it’s German. The word that refers to the feeling of pleasure from another person’s misfortune.

This concept of pleasure from other’s misfortune can be traced back to as far as biblical times. From the Book of Proverbs mentioning an emotion close to schadenfreude: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displeases him, and he turn away his wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17–18, King James Version) to Iago in the play Othello, as he mocks Othello’s suffering. Schadenfreude is even more present today. Just look at twitter for example. Many of the videos that go viral are of someone else’s misfortune. It can be as simple as someone slipping on a wet floor in a humorous way to a less than funny video of an individual finding out they have been cheated on. Look at reality shows like Bad Girls Club. There are numerous instances of schadenfreude being played out in shows like that. Our media in some fashion has been revolving around schadenfreude.

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There’s been research done on this phenomenon recently. A recent study from Ohio State University suggests that people use social media to manage their moods. The study found that when people are feeling down about themselves, they start to show more interest in the less attractive, less successful people on social media. So, does this mean that nowadays we love to see other people fail if it makes us feel better about our own failures? Honestly, who knows. I’d personally like to think that regular people aren’t like that but schadenfreude isn’t a new concept. It has just been enhanced with the advent of social media.

Right! Social media. In my opinion, social media helped Trump get elected and that in turn has changed how any future candidate is going to run their campaign. Trump isn’t the first to use social media effectively. I believe that Obama was the first one to use the medium successfully, especially on his reelection campaign. However, Trump’s use of social media was by far more potent. To understand this, you must first understand Mr. Trump’s history and business practices.

To begin, the company that Trump now (used) to run was founded in 1923 by his grandmother Elizabeth Trump and father Fred Trump. The company was called Elizabeth Trump & Son at the time. The company had interests in real estate development, investing, brokerage, sales and marketing, and property management. Before Fred handed the reins of the company to his son in 1971 the company was going through a credibility crisis. Fred had lost millions of dollars to the state of New York. The transition of making Donald president was, in part, because the company needed a new face from the loss of credibility. In 1974 Donald rebranded the company and renamed his enterprise the Trump Organization. At the point of rebranding, the conglomerate comprised of more than sixty separate enterprises. Mr. Trump’s takeover led to a dramatic change in the business strategy of the company. You have to give credit where credit is due and his approach towards publicity was smart. He took his dad’s idea of marketing and put it on ultra drive. Fred was more focused on local real estate, mainly Brooklyn. Mr. Trump had bigger ambitions. Donald’s goal was to transform himself into a living brand. A brand that screamed success and luxury. To that end, he sought out as much media attention as he could get (which he would later use to in the 2016 election). Reasons why you see him in past WWE events and the very reason the apprentice was so successful. Trump knew how to work the media to sell his brand and himself.

Furthermore, I think many of us fail to realize how smart of a man Trump really is. I still think he’s an idiot but just a smart idiot if you catch my drift. If you think a man who used the media to sell his brand did not in some way or fashion use the same platform to help his election you are being disingenuous to the genius of Trump. I’m sure that Trump doesn’t know what schadenfreude is. However, he can thank it for his seat in the oval office and why he has a lot of political power now.

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The 2016 election to me was all about schadenfreude, social media, politics, and the infamous remarks Trump made. The remarkable thing about Trump candidacy is the fact that not only were his supporters taking pleasure in it but so were his opponents. Trump’s gaffes and controversial remarks for many was just as enjoyable as watching a fail video. At first, no one took him seriously so there didn’t seem to be any harm in expressing schadenfreude regarding him. I remember at the early onset of the 2016 election all I ever saw on social media was something controversial Trump had said or did. Trump was a walking talking fail video and the media may have taken the number of retweets, views, or clicks on videos of his gaffes as interests. As a result, Trump got a lot of media coverage compared to his Republican opponents. 55.4% of it to be exact. The closest to that number? Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush with around 10%. Yeah small.

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Mr. Trump got a lot of free media and in the United States media is king. Trump knew this. The media is how he grew his brand. He knew any type of publicity was good publicity. The media also gave him more of a chance to voice his “policies” as he would phone in many times unannounced to networks voicing his pleasure or displeasure in something. There was even an idea thrown out to have a debate aired between Bernie and Trump. Bernie at the time had no business being in a debate with Trump as Clinton had pretty much already won the Democratic nomination. However, the media kings knew how much viewership and money that would bring. I personally think the media had a love and hate relationship with Trump. Some hated the way he talked but they sure loved the attention he brought. And attention like that equals $$$. And they made A LOT of money off the election and Trump’s controversies. Just google how much these networks made.

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In conclusion, schadenfreude, just as in media, is apparent in politics. America is a two-party system ran country. You’re either a Democrat or Republican (that’s slowly changing) and a victory for one side means defeat for the other side. When a member of the Republican party makes a huge gaffe, Democrats report a feeling of schadenfreude and vice versa. This is where things can get complicated as our political climate involves the well-being of others. One side’s downfall can lead to bad consequences for millions of people. Take for example an economic downfall like a recession. Whichever party is in control during it will evidently be blamed for it even if the reason for the economic downfall was due in part to policies that were made by the other party eight years ago. When something spells bad news for one party the other reports a feeling of schadenfreude. As they get some type of joy in the parties’ failings. And I believe we as a nation must very careful about this feeling of schadenfreude. It can become a drug. If it does, just like a drug we will want more and more of it. So, don’t be entirely surprised if someone else like Trump starts getting some political clout. Because we have become a nation of schadenfreude. Just check Twitter and Facebook.