“Who We Be: The Colorization of America” by Jeff Chang

And Why We Haven’t Had A Real National Conversation About Race — The way America sees itself — The rise of the idea of multiculturalism — The culture wars — USA is headed toward becoming a “majority-minority” society in 2042.

From the moment of the first cave drawing, art was grabbed for use as a weapon and politics uses it as a tool.

Click for Source Article by Jeff Chang on HP

THEME: The moment of recognition between two people — the “I see you” moment — Including empathy for the struggle and fully recognizing who you are — Not ignoring you.

Ultimately where we want to get = We actually NOD our heads at each other when we pass as a natural cultural practice of solidarity-building.

RACE Backlash to USA’s multiculturalism and the Civil Rights movement through to Obama’s election plus the fight over the DREAM Act, and Trayvon Martin’s death.

RACE = Four-letter word for social divide

Race has figured into America’s visual culture since the 60s.

“We can all agree that race is not a question of biology. Instead (race) is a question of culture and it begins as a visual problem, one of vision and visuality. Race happens in the gap between appearance and the perception of difference. It is about what we see and what we think we see and what we think about when we see. In that sense, it’s bigger than personal affinities, preferences, tastes and bonds.” — Jeff Chang

“Colorization of America” is a way of talking about the demographic shifts that have happened in the last five decades, and the cultural shifts that come along with that.

Our culture is a vision of our past shown through the kaliedescope of histories and experiences of the artists who captured the images that still teach us today and shows us how all the colors flowing in Our melting pot can become equal.

FACT: The Civil Rights Act = Took down legal segregation

FACT: The Voting Rights Act = Mainstreaming into American life of people of color.

FACT: Immigration And Nationality Act = End of racist quotas against people from non-European countries, immigrants of color.

FACT: 1970s and 1980s = Massive cultural shift begins to drastically change America = MASSIVE BACKLASH OF THE FAR RIGHT in convulsions of fear.

Chang looks beyond at what could happen if America was made more inclusive as we march towards 2042 and full “Colorization” and U.S. becomes a “majority-minority country.” The kinds of cultural changes that will happen — Artistic Changes and Multicultural Changes — Folks from feminist movements + Third world liberation movements = American Culture(S) expand from WASP culture. — All of the shifts that happen — Cultural desegregation in our popular culture.

BACKLASH = Racial Resegregation

NASTY TRENDS = Growing Wealth Gap + Income Gap + Housing Gap + Education Gaps = KEEP WIDENING

Chang’s approach to race = Visual culture in the last 40, 50 years – How we see race in our culture = how People are going to live together — the artists define.

Comic strip called “Wee Pals” by Morrie Turner = Multicultural, multiracial “Peanuts” launched in early ’65 — Shows kids literally figuring out how to play together.

What are the biggest things that go wrong when we talk about race?

MTV/David Binder Study = Only 20% of millennials are comfortable talking about racial bias — NOT even discrimination or inequality

Study found white parents don’t talk to their young children about race. — Perhaps thinking “well if we don’t talk about it then we’ll be OK.”

Conservative politics keep fighting against racial justice. — Policies for decades say the law should completely ignore race and racial discrimination and racial inequity and cultural inequity.

But at the same time parents of kids of color talk in their households about race — Not just injustice in wealth + income + housing + education BUT IN TALKING ABOUT RACIAL FACTS.

BIG Question = Each generation either CULTIVATES Racial Injustice or Talks about how to address these Injustices and resolve them.

Ferguson Poll asked these questions:

#1 Do Ferguson events raise the question of race?
#2 Should Americans have a deeper conversations about race?
#3 Did Ferguson focus too much attention on race?


Blacks say overwhelmingly YES to it raising issues we have to talk about.
White plurality said we’re focusing too much attention on race = Lets leave the room.

RESULT: Massive Polarization

MAJOR TREND = Racial resegregation — Schools + Communities are reaching levels of segregation in schools pre-Brown v. Board of Education.

MAJOR TREND = Cultural Desegregation

CONVERSATIONS ON RACE seem impossible because people won’t even believe there are issues = “white community” seems to see conversations on race as an assault?

WHITE IDEA = Equality means less CHIOT for me = Success of the Far Right in 1980s when rebuilding the Southern Strategy.

“Nixon believed that people did not vote their hopes, they voted their fears.” = The Silent (White) Majority

Race Comedy = Only weapon = One of the few places these discussions CAN HAPPEN

FACT: The Right often co-opts the language and tactics of the Left = Part of the process of change in the USA.

1980s Right co-opting the language of the Civil Rights movement to keep segregated bathrooms but make themselves out to be civil rights champions.

2000s the Right is saying we’re all multiculturalists now as GW Bush appoints Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice and TRIES to “peel off” the Latino vote.

FACT: RIGHT using LEFT LANGUAGE = RESETS The boundaries of civility and argue within that reset language to be heard within the debate. = We see it in the art that’s happening now = Discussions within grassroots movements — There’s a need for new language now about how we’re going to define ourselves moving up to 2042 and beyond.

FAR RIGHT GOAL = Preserve the status quo USING PROGRESSIVE LANGUAGE to continue to be heard. So those interested in change have to continually evolve our language to describe new visions, new imaginations of what change can look like — That is the skill of artists thinking working at the outer fringe of social acceptability and able to see things aren’t able to articulate.

The title “Who We Be” what does it mean? Linguists of color ask why select this particular title?

ANSWER: In the heat of the culture wars (1980s – early 1990s), the big question was “Who are we?” Samuel Huntington wrote a book called “Who Are We?” against immigration. Related to Pat Buchanan’s question: “What happened to the America we all grew up in?” — “Who are all these people anyway? Chang realized THE RIGHT doesn’t know who we be. They’re still asking “who are we?” And it just made perfect sense. Chang said I want to do this book about mutliculturalism, it’ll be called “Who We Be.” My editor and my agent all go “Ohhhh that’s a good title!”

We approach talking about race with a kind of wipe-the-slate-clean kind of racial innocence to avoid the incredibe trauma of our history. In order to have conversations that matter, we have to be able to dive into it anyway.

NOTE on ART: Ice Cube caused change with Death Certificate and Black Korea.

AMERICAN RACE EXPERIENCES: Slavery + Civil War + Lynching + Racial Terror + Legacies of 1960s + Age of the student activists + Anti-Racism + Culture wars during 1980s to early 1990s + Third Worldism + RIOTS + The work of feminists of color + Idealistism and utopian = By 1991 and May 4 of 1992 outmoded and in need of a sore rethinking our organizing and our cultural + Michael Jordan + First Black President + Trayvon Martin + Lebron James + Michael Brown…..

Now the Question revolves around the question of 2042 when we’re all supposed to be minorities.

The NEW question becomes: if we’re all going to be minorities, how do you form a new majority? The 18 to 30 generation must figure out that question or they’re going to be in pretty tough shape.

ART Miami Heat players released a photograph of themselves wearing hoodies after Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager wearing a hooded sweat shirt, was shot to death on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. by a neighborhood crime-watch volunteer.

The other thing that brought your book to mind was the report saying the great majority of artists who make a living off of their art are white.

ART FACT: Artists Space = Nonprofit alternative gallery opened in 1973 = first time the census started to gather information on artists.

FACT: The RIGHT emphasized the economics of being an artist + Have Demonized the arts = The Right began in the 1980s to define artists as folks who were comfortably entitled — stick their fingers in the silent majority’s eyes using sexually explicit, horrifying, divisive art. = Defund the arts and erode and destroy cultural policy.


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