Using Popular Culture to Address Violence and Bullying With Youth of Color

written by Love Isn’t Enough columnist Bianca Laureano; originally published by RH Reality Check
I saw this video Tuesday evening when a friend posted it on her tumblr page. There was a trigger warning regarding suicide, violence, and bullying. I wanted to share this video because I did not know what to expect while watching and when the video was over I was stunned. Not just with the messaging and representations, but in the possibilities of using this video in a classroom or youth group. Please watch the video below. I’ve posted a few ideas I have on how to use this video, please share some ideas and suggestions you may have!

There are so many ways to use this video with youth. I wanted to share and hope others want to add how they may use this video as well or what discussions you may envision having.

I’d first start by introducing the video. This may require some background of the artist Marsha Ambrosius, who is one half of the R&B duo Floetry. They reached a height in mainstream popularity in 2002-2003. This is important to keep in mind, as some youth may not know who the artist is because of this time period.

Discussions of Bullying

I’m not sure if the concept of “bullying” would connect clearly with some viewers. It may be that some youth and other folks may view the experiences presented as intra-racial violence and not only bullying. There may also be a connection between bullying and age. Some may view the men in the video as adult males who may be too old to experience bullying in the ways we’ve heard about it in the past several months. This may lead to some interesting dialogue about how bullying can be considered an age-specific experience.

Conversations about masculinity and how it is connected to gender, race, ethnicity, age, geographic location, and ability (to name a few) will also be important. How are racially Black men living in the US expected to present themselves? How was Black masculinity represented in this video (make a list of all the forms of masculinity and Blackness seen, for example clothing, forms of affection, solidarity, etc.). Were there attempts at defending masculinity? How is intra-racial violence affecting our community? (this may be a good opportunity to have information about intra-racial violence as connected to various forms of violence from rape to murder). What could some community responses to violence look like in this situation/scenario?

Discussions on Men of Color & Same Gender Relationships

I’d make it clear that this is NOT a “down low” relationship. Both men have publicly been together and showing affection for and with one another. Living in NYC where the anti-homophobia campaign “I Love My Boo” began in October 2010, representations of men of Color in same gender relationships remain limited (see some of the images here). I have not seen in mainstream popular culture such images since Noah’s Arc (which I’m still recovering from it’s absence in my life) and the film that was released in select theaters in 2008, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom.

The phrase “alternative Lifestyles” is the one thing I have an issue with in this video. My opinion is that this term assumes there is a choice in how people are living and I believe that we do not choose our sexual orientation. I came to this space while working as an intern at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) over a decade ago. GLAAD has a great Media Reference Guide that has a section on offensive and problematic phrases/words to avoid and “lifestyle” is included with this discussion:

Offensive: “gay lifestyle” or “homosexual lifestyle”

Preferred: “gay lives,” “gay and lesbian lives”

There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase “gay lifestyle” is used to denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured

Heterosexual Privilege

In the beginning of the video the viewer may assume that there is a heterosexual relationship until there is affection in a specific way shown among two men of Color. This would be a useful time to discuss how we assume heterosexuality often, how heterosexuality is seen as a “norm” in our society, and what that does to all of us, not just people who do not identify as heterosexual. Here is a good article about heterosexual privilege and a checklist that may be useful for this conversation.

These are a few things that immediately come to mind and I’m hoping that others will share some of their own. I know over the next several days as I think about this video I’ll come up with more ideas and possibilities. Thanks in advance for all of you who share!

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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