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Friday, July 10, 2015

Institutional Racism and Minions

We've officially reached the end of the week for our first week here at Penn. I'm definitely trying to appreciate each passing moment because time seems to be going fast. I seem to be constantly busy and I like that feeling, but sometimes I just need a moment to just reflect and comprehend exactly what's going on around me. 

I woke up earlier than I usually do, so I sort of went about my morning routine in a slow but productive manner. I took extra time to wash my face and to moisturize and it felt nice. I walked out of my dorm building and basked in the morning sun, just grateful to be alive I suppose. I felt extra appreciative today most likely because it was Friday and this week was especially exhausting. 

I walked to breakfast with the usual squad, as we sat to eat, I engaged in interesting conversation with Leann about the effectiveness of labor unions. She spoke of a union that burned down a place of business because that particular business hired non union workers. I was surprised when I heard this story because I never really imagined labor unions to be extreme. 

I was looking forward to class this morning because we were having a guest speaker on racism in relation to media. During the morning session, we met Shani, a professor from UCLA who taught critical media literacy and she taught us what to look for in a music video that we would eventually analyze together as a class. We analyzed Nicki Minaj's video for her song Only. We criticized the abundance of curse words which created a presence of negativity. A majority of my classmates attacked her over-sexuality of the women and men in her videos. We traced her music back to the big parent company named Vivendi, a company worth over 22 billion Euros. We traced their money back to slavery times, and came to the conclusion that most of the money the company had could be considered "old money" made during the plantation days. As a class, we concluded that companies like Vivendi pay artists like Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj to portray African Americans in a bad way in order to perpetuate the institution of racism. Racism is defined as an institution that advantages whites and disadvantages people of color so when these videos and lyrics make its way to our youth, we are subconsciously supporting the ideas of racism. I appreciate rap music just as much as the next guy but this session made me realize that as consumers, we have to demand better music and better material from these artists. We have to stop our obsession with separating colors into the category of superior and inferior. Change is slow and if we want to change the institution that we are a part of today, we have to band together as humans rather than separate people. 

After lunch, we had a field trip to Fleisher Art Memorial in order to visit the organization called Juntos that supports undocumented immigrants in America. Before entering to see the panelists, we were able to view some of the art in the sanctuary. I have always appreciated art, but I've never been to an art gallery before. It was cool to interpret the art and to also hear other people's interpretations of what was going on in the paintings, statues, and diorama, 

Immigration is a topic that I am very passionate about and being able to hear the panelists (Maria, Yarel, and Alexis) stories broke my heart in a way. Maria is a year younger than me and she had one of the most harrowing stories. I mostly related to her struggle in learning English because I remember going through the same struggle a little over a decade ago. She crossed the border when she was three, but before then, she had no idea what her father was like and she met her father for the first time at that age. 

During the Q&A, we learned more about how it is possible for undocumented people to go to college, despite what high school counselors fail to inform them. We learned about detaining camps which haunted me the most because there are thousands of children in detention camps along the border for no good reason. I asked the panelists how they responded to ignorant people that spoke to them disrespectfully, saying to them that "they were stealing jobs." Yarel, said that she tries her best to be patient and  tries to educate them. I couldn't imagine dealing with such ignorant people and being able to stay so calm and composed. I wasn't sure how old Yarel was, but she showed some of the greatest strength that I have ever witnessed in a young woman. She went from leading gangs, and getting in trouble at school, to founding a club called Fuerza that unites people, and informs young undocumented people about their access to college. She is big on mediating and just showed so much growth that I found inspiring. 
selfie after the Minions

After touching on such heavy topics throughout the day, it was nice to be able to unwind with a nice movie. I watched Minions with my cohort members and I have to admit that it was pretty funny. I found it nice to be able to stop thinking so much and just laugh at the little yellow blobs in overalls trying to steal a crown. Tomorrow, we head out with John to tour Columbia University and I'm very excited. I haven't been to New York since last year, but I'm sure it'll feel like I never left. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow your day sounds amazing! Just by the topics you and your class are discussing, I know that you love taking the course. I can't wait till you come back, so you can teach me more about society and its different perceptions of it. I hope you are having a great time!