For Them, By Us by Dr. Rajah E. Smart
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
The title is similar to a 1990s brand developed by three black brothers out of New York called #FUBU, which stands for “For Us, By US.” The brand was the first time I consciously noticed the magnitude and strength of black culture and its impact on popular #culture. The black culture is rich in literary and performing arts, music, invention, education, sciences, service to the United States (U.S.) military, and more. That culture has and continues to be appropriated by the overall U.S. culture.
What I find interesting about the appropriation of the black culture is there is still no credit given which shows that our culture is good enough to be appropriated but the rights that make this country “America” are not equitable. While people of color have historically added to the portfolio of the dominant culture, the same protections offered to white people are not afforded. This country was designed for the white man in mind and continues to prove the point as women are now fighting for the rights of their bodies. The proof is seen each day in the use of the national anthem, which we know previously had racist connotations, to the right to fair treatment under the laws.
Black people have continuously fought for equity, and in this current time, we see groups rising such as Black Lives Matter, white anti-hate and rebooted Black Panther groups stand to support. This country has a history of tearing down, appropriating, but replicating the very things torn down for popular culture because our culture has always been colorful and beautiful, yet, we are treated as we don’t belong...so much for being compensated for your contributions. Our culture seems to be for them, by us and will continue to be until we (all people) take it back and use our economic power to change society.
Like the #Natives of this country, we have been historically devastated. Our communities have become poor, lack necessary resources, and receive unfair treatment by this country. We are over-policed, under-educated, and ignored. This is not an attack on white people as they tend to feel attacked when black people discuss the inequities of this country. However, they sit by and watch as people of color are poorly treated because they “don’t want to get involved.” How can a person appropriate a culture but not support the culture? Welcome to the U.S., where we see it every day. The country has so much potential to be greater and a place for everyone.
We have to take back our culture, remove the minstrel images that harm our children and young adults, not allow our culture to be used as we have seen in the transformation of hip hop. This includes taking back our schools, using our money to build ourselves as a powerful race instead of using our platform to tear our people down. We say our children need mentors and guides; well, we adults also need images to help us keep moving. White people and their privilege and black people have to get involved and stay involved. Our youth are dying or not being educated appropriately. Let us stop the appropriation by using our economic power to make it For Us, By US.