by Dalton Karwacki
The role of hip-hop music in furthering stereotypes was the focus of a workshop Wednesday night led by Hasani Pettiford, an award-winning writer and relationship expert.
Pettiford started off the event by discussing leadership. This part of the workshop emphasized the importance of being unashamed of who one is and taking a leadership role whenever it becomes necessary. He told the crowd that everyone has a predestined purpose in life and that the only path to true happiness is to find that purpose and take charge to fulfill it.
“If you’re a leader, it means that you are constantly striving for success,” Pettiford said.
He then moved on to racial stereotypes, particularly those concerning black women. Pettiford broke down many of the common stereotypes regarding black women and explained their historical beginnings.
“When you talk about black women, you’ve got to understand, from a historical perspective, that there have always been stereotypes that have been placed on black women,” he said.
Pettiford showed the disparity between stereotypes about black men and women by having the audience first give as many slurs about black men as possible, then as many about black women as possible.
The results were quite clear; more than twice as many slurs about women were provided in less than half the time.
After again touching on the historical roots of several of the slurs, Pettiford described the ways in which hip-hop music helped to further these stereotypes and slurs. He talked about the roles of women in the world of hip-hop, and explained how the only roles available to them were modern extensions of the old stereotypes he discussed earlier.
“When hip-hop was first created, it was very political and very social,” Pettiford said. “It dealt with a lot of the issues that we faced in society. But it seems as though the mass-produced hip-hop that we hear on the radio, that’s the music that really demonizes men [and] women. It’s very misogynistic, it’s very materialistic, [and] it’s very hedonistic.”
Also, according to Pettiford, the use of racial slurs in hip-hop is the reason that the words continue to see such widespread use. He urged the crowd to stop using the words, as their use has no redeeming value.
“Hip-hop is a tool,” he said. “It can be used for good or it can be used for evil.”
Pettiford looked at many aspects of relationships at the end of the workshop, particularly the expectations of gender roles in relationships. He examined the historical roots of black men and women’s differing expectations in relationships.
Pettiford also covered the double standards held by many in relationships and concluded by emphasizing that expectations in a relationship are personal and are not determined by membership with any particular racial or gender group.
This part of the workshop was reinforced with clips from the movies Crash and The Brothers.
Crash, released in 2004, examined a number of racial stereotypes that exist in American culture about African-American, white and Chinese individuals, as well as men and women. The Brothers, released in 2001, had a primarily African-American cast and explored their lives in relationships and in general after one of the characters announces his upcoming wedding.
Response to Pettiford’s lecture was overwhelmingly good.
“I would pay to go listen to him, so it was good,” said Kiara Roberts, a sophomore.
Others shared Roberts’ positive opinion.
Tyree Barnes, a sophomore, praised the way Pettiford encouraged the crowd to get involved as student leaders, not just for the title, but for the experience of leadership. He also enjoyed Pettiford’s examination of racial stereotypes.
“I think it was amazing the way he explained the public portrayal of African-American women versus the African-American male, and the way he broke down the stereotypes and showed us how they are portrayed through the mass media, such as film,” Barnes said.