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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Punked by Afropunk

I was sitting on the floor of the Lucy Parson’s Center amidst a reasonably diverse crowd (roughly 25 Caucasians, eight African Americans, and two token Asians, myself included) and for some reason I expected to feel some sense of unity; I didn’t. I was excited to view a documentary on minorities in subcultures, and Afropunk promised to be great. I was disappointed.

The documentary interviewed African Americans that were active in the punk rock scene but they only discussed the usual story, ordinary. I felt the film was mediocre because it discussed all the same issues we discuss when we talk about diversity but fail to go any deeper. Furthermore I found a problem with the idea of clinging to a specific culture as in that’s all you are, that is, what you are made of. You are punk rock. You are black. You can be nothing else, not only can you not be anything else but also you are forced to choose between the two. Whatever. I find it a danger when groups/cultures/ethnicities become inclusive and exclusive. You are black; act this way. You are white; act this way. I am a Chinese female, oh, that must mean that’s all there is to me. Wrong. I am way more then that and I would find it hard to believe if anyone claimed to be purely demographics. The movie was about fitting into social constructs and the conflict they felt over it but it failed to question the social constructs, why are they there? Are they valid? Do I care? I think the film should have been more a celebration of the strength to overcome social constructs. I, at least, would have been happier if it had been about that. Person after person came on screen and gave their story about how they are the only black person at a punk show, about how they’ve wound up dating white people, about how other black people don’t except them and criticize them for being too white. And again, I feel like these are valid issues, but what is the point of presenting these issues if you aren’t going to explore them further? Why give a sob story if you’re not searching for the solution?

Summed up in the production notes, this is the problem I have with the documentary: “Total dedication to the scene often equaling total disregard for racial identity.” Why? The film doesn’t answer why it just accepts this idea as true. I call it bullshit. I would even go as far as to say that this totally and completely undermines the idea of diversity. I train in Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art; I train with Brazilians, white folk, people from Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bangladesh, Morocco, etc. I am Asian. I do not feel like that undermines my racial identity no matter how rooted in Brazilian culture Capoeira is. I went to high school in a predominately white neighborhood; I’m still Asian. I like punk rock, always have (just guess what I’m going to say).

I can’t say what that what the people interviewed said is wrong, or invalid, because of course it’s valid, but why waste your film, money, and time trying to deepen a rift? The film identified race in subcultures as an issue and I agree; it is an issue. America, Boston, is still very segregated till this day, and this can be made clear by a ride on the red line. There is a stop where all the brown folk get off and all the white people get on. The division between Cambridge and Dorchester is extreme both in color and in wealth. Depending on what club/venue/show you walk into on a Saturday night you will be confronted with a very homogenous crowd whether that be white, black, Asian, or Latino. I feel that this is tragic.

I think racial pride, cultural pride, pride for who you are, is a much better focus then the imaginary line that divides us. I feel that exploring another culture is much more entertaining then feeling isolated by one. There is so much in this world that has the potential to bring us such extreme joy, so why limit yourself, whatever race, whatever music, and whatever culture.