Sunday, December 18, 2011

Materialism and the Black Culture

Gator Boots, with a pimped out Gucci suit
Ain't got no job, but I stay sharp
Can't pay my rent, cause all my money's spent
But that's okay, cause I'm still fly
Got a quarter tank gas in my new E-class
But that's alright cause I'm gonna ride
Got everything in my momma's name
But I'm hood rich da dada dada da
 
- Lyrics to rap duo Big Tymers' “Still Fly”
The Black community is not the only community that is affected by materialism, but it is quite prevalent. Don’t believe me? Just turn on the television or listen to the radio. Every other commercial shows a new gadget, new clothes, or new “toys” that an individual “must” have to be in the hip and in the now. Furthermore in almost every mainstream video given on countdowns that range from B.E.T. to M.T.V. to V.H.1., this materialism is oozing from the television. In order to be considered hip and cool a person is shown what is hip and cool, this includes clothes, rims, fragrances, etc. Funny thing is these outlandishly priced materialistic possessions are advertised by the same persons that are in these videos who seem to be “role models” in our culture within certain age groups. These "role models" are used advertise to our culture because marketing agencies know that people in the black community will buy the products if it is connected with a familiar face. (A note should be made that we don’t necessarily buy things made from people within our race, simply advertised)

We are a race that is culturally and imperialistically oppressed even while we try and keep up with the fads and trends of the dominant race/culture. As summized in Equal in Every Way: African Americans, Consumption and Materialism from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, we as a people tend to use goods (materials) as a way to show our own desires to be equal in every way possible to other cultures (Chambers, 2006). However, somewhere along the way that desire has overtaken us and overshadowed common sense. As Robert Young stated, “Race operates at the economic base and produces cultural and ideological effects" (2006, para. 1). Thus, while we live in a capitalistic country that has to vote on if African Americans/Blacks can vote again, they have no qualms with taking our money. Then we as a people freely give them our money in order to put on the façade that we are materialistically rich? Someone please stop me if the above statement doesn’t make sense.

For instance, I’ve seen this in action at the Florida Classic. I was fortunate enough to attend the Classic on a year that we (Bethune Cookman University) won against F.A.M.U. (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University). My car (A Ford Explorer) at the time was a bit finicky. The car had its own issues with shocks, and transmission but got me to and from school as well as to and from home (South Florida). Anyway, I reserved a car to rent prior to the game. By the time I got out of classes to go and get the car only a handful of cars were left and those who hadn’t reserved a car were shit out of luck (I literally mean S.O.L.). By the time I actually got to the vacation house in which I had reserved, got my friends together (There were eleven of us) and got to the game I realized that I had spent over $400.00 in preparation for a measly weekend. What flabbergasted me even more was that I spent a small amount of money compared to my other friends there and other persons who attended the game. Some even went as far as to spend entire paychecks (Of which should have been used on bills) to attend the game, and to be in the freshest outfit that they could find. When I look back on this time I can’t do anything but shake my head in disdain at my stupidity and others stupidity. We could’ve put a down payment on a house for what was spent between the eleven of us that weekend.

To sum things up, we live in a materialistic country, and quite the materialistic culture. We’ve adopted Eurocentristic values without the money to supplement these values. We try to keep up with what we see on television, in videos, and even with the advertisements we hear on the radio. We are constantly trying to flaunt invisible wealth through materialistic things. Why, some may ask? My opinion is that our minds are still enslaved, and that we have become a classicist culture.


References

Chambers, J. (2006). Equal in Every Way: African Americans, Consumption and Materialism from Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement. Advertising & Society Review, 7(1). doi: 10.1353/asr.2006.0017.

Young, R. (n.d.). Putting Materialism back into Race Theory: Toward a Transformative Theory of Race. The Red Critique. Retrieved from http://redcritique.org/WinterSpring2006/puttingmaterialismbackintoracetheory.htm

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