By Cedric Sunray
During workshops I typically lay down numerous contemporary magazines at the tables where the youth congregate in order to facilitate discussions on the power of media within their lives. Ninety percent of the time, the latest issue of XXL (which can be picked up at any Wal-Mart) or another similar “urban” magazine, is immediately reached for by those assembled. Native Peoples and This Week From Indian Country Today don’t stand a chance.
XXL’s July/August 2012 issue features on the cover the snarling face of rap’s current king, Rick Ross, decked out in his platinum links, diamonds, and trademark “angry at the world” facial expression. He hails from the Opa Locka communihood in South Florida where my family once lived prior to moving down to the Florida Keys final stop. When I picked up the issue I recalled his song “Everyday I’m Hustlin” where he spouts “most of my niggas still deal cocaine…still b***ches and business…mo cars, mo hoes, mo clothes, mo blows….” Now this guy is a class act, notwithstanding the reality that he was formerly a corrections officer who took the moniker “Rick Ross” from a notorious drug dealer in the community to falsely project a gangster image. I recall seeing my first threat of gun violence vividly while standing near my father in Opa Locka. I was four and beginning to learn that “these here streets” and their nouveau misogynistic, violent, and abusive media forms which are glorified and financed via corporate America, were here to stay.
The 108-page XXL magazine that had seized the attention of the youth who were gathered contains 152 images of males with angry faces, 18 with smiles, 7 with faces that don’t show any emotion, and one sexualized image in a personal ad. There were 23 pictures of females dressed in panties and bras, with two wearing faux plains Indian headdresses, 12 wearing extremely tight sexualized clothing, and three smiling. Forty-eight advertising pages comprised clothes/shoes (13), liquor (5), car rims (7), music industry related items (10), hair products (3), jewelry (1; though every page with a man on it was a non-stop jewelry ad), sex services and products (5), and, for good measure, a tobacco ad. Add in foul language in every other sentence of every article and everyone gets the picture—there isn’t enough empowerment or cultural workshops in the world that can hold at bay the onslaught.
I wonder if there's a distinction between the Native and non-Native attraction to the "thug" life. Maybe any minority without enough power is attracted to the outlaw mentality. That would be good to know.
Someone on Facebook wrote:
I believe males are programmed to be aggressive, but why the thug life? I'm aggressive about debating politics, culture, and religion, so I'd be drawn to a magazine about that. Guys who look brawny and brain-dead don't interest me.
For more on America's violence, see Sikh Shootings Reflect White Supremacy and Aurora Shooting Shows America's Pathology.