advice · challenge · diversity issues · experience · inspiration · life · Uncategorized

Black Friday means we’re suffering, not selfish: The big, deep, dark, ever-present disease of capitalism

Black Friday passed recently and it got me thinking about the psychological effects of capitalism on our society, about how some people are shamed for their consumption while others are not. Now to state from the start, I am not a supporter of mass consumption and consider myself to be quite minimalist and frugal in my shopping habits; however, I recognize that capitalism is the system our country operates on and it is nearly impossible for us to escape. This system maintains a great wealth gap, meaning millions of folks can’t afford school, healthcare, or food, while the top 1% could pay for these things 1,000 times over. The wealthy can have whatever they want, whenever they want it. They could help solve social justice issues by redistributing wealth into marginalized communities, since dismantling systems of poverty would do so much to bring marginalized folks to a level where they are in control of their circumstances, but they don’t. There is no “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” if you are just trying to survive. Poverty is a cycle which few people are ever able to escape. White supremacy keeps money in the hands of white, mostly male, elite who lead our corporations and our governments, which hold the power to oppress or equalize our society. Corporations and the government beat down on marginalized folks wherever they turn. They are unable to achieve what they want, because they can hardly find what they need to survive. When you are trying to survive, self-actualization isn’t even a thought in your mind. Realizing your full potential and being a positive influence aren’t your goals, especially if you have other family members to provide for.

Humans in this society are caught in a web of capitalism, working endlessly to provide for themselves, and thinking that making enough money to buy anything beyond necessities is success. If everyone was provided for in our society, our goals would shift, and we would focus more on what really matters: learning experiences and our positive impact, not material objects we use to fill the voids that real fulfillment should be filling. We crave instant gratification; it’s cheaper and easier in the short run to make ourselves happy with our purchases, but the happiness doesn’t last. In the long run, we have less money and we are still lacking from what will truly make us feel successful. Now everyone does define success differently, but I wholeheartedly believe success goes beyond financial success; while this is important, without emotional growth and a personal sense of accomplishment, it isn’t worth much. Even if we attain wealth, we will still be grasping for straws by using our consumption as a means to our enjoyment in life.

If we lived in an equitable society, with hard work anyone could be wealthy. We live in a class hierarchy, and poor folks often work significantly harder than wealthy folks and can never advance enough to not have to worry about money anymore. If we had everything we needed provided for us, we could work to earn the things we want, but don’t need, like travel and other leisure activities. The concept of leisure is dead in the U.S.: we work to live and live to work. In some socialist countries, the average workweek maxes out at 20 hours- leaving significant time for people to do the things that make life meaningful. Most people are at least bilingual, have traveled to multiple other countries, and their mental health is much better. Although I recognize a factor of depression is biology, I believe our culture makes us depressed. We are living in a way we were never intended to: one where we are constantly under pressure to work, constantly in a hurry, and constantly overwhelmed. Most older adults I know have spent their lives working jobs they don’t enjoy, looking forward to the one day they can retire, and forget all of their adolescent goals for their life. We are psychologically ill, and the effects of our society bleed into all facets of our health, as well as that of our future generations. The fight against capitalism is the fight for a world where we all have the time, energy, confidence, health, and safety to pursue the things we want to, instead of selling our souls to fund a life we never wanted.

So Black Friday had me thinking…In this society, what kind of messages do we send about who deserves to have the things they want? Although most wealthy people have not “earned,” but rather inherited, their extreme wealth, they are not shamed for their excessive consumption. They could use their money for a thousand other things that would benefit society, but their consumption becomes an addiction and their lifestyles become emblems of excess. Poor folks, however, are expected to continue to make sacrifices until they somehow magically earn enough money to have the things they want, or finally “deserve.” But no matter how hard they work, they will always be light years away from the financial freedom of those born into wealth. Poverty is an ever-looming weight for those who live paycheck to paycheck, and things like homelessness are only a few bad circumstances away from a reality. On Black Friday, we shame lower class folks for seeking out things they want. Although the consumption is not good for the environment or the enslaved workers who make most of our cheap goods, it is interesting how the narrative turns to shame when we speak of lower class folks’ consumption. It is true that some consumption is necessary to exist in this society, and that some consumption can be good for our psychological well-being, for instance, being able to afford a membership to a gym or yoga studio, or some workout equipment to workout at home. These are investments for your physical and emotional health, and everyone deserves the ability to do this. Many people cannot afford the things they need, let alone want, for the entire year, and Black Friday might be the one time they can. Black Friday is only evidence of how broken our system is. People who feel deprived of their financial freedom most of the year overly consume because they feel they are gaining something in their lives, but marketing ploys and corporations are tricking them into thinking that their products are beneficial, and poor folks end up spending money they can’t afford on things they don’t need. People are deprived, and live waiting for the moment where they can feel like their hard work has paid off and they can buy the things that they want. For our society to be equitable, everyone should have everything they need, and everyone should be able to earn the things they want. True equity would be a society where consumption does not come at a price for the environment, non-human animals, or human workers, but we are far from this becoming a reality. It says a lot about our society that we feel we need Black Friday, but it shows how much our working class is suffering, the voids they are trying to fill with material objects- which is not a behavior of only the working class, but one which only the working class is shamed for.

The financial consequences of living in a capitalist society are evident: our lives revolve around work. It’s the psychological effects that are understated. Folks who are already marginalized, such as people of color, face the absolute worst consequences: they succumb to early death due to the stress of living in an oppressive society. Economic injustice feeds into food injustice, meaning many marginalized folks only have unhealthy food options, and their poor health makes it harder for them to work, all contributing to poor mental health and quality of life. Capitalism follows us throughout our entire lives, beating us down. The media perpetuates the myth of individualism, that anything is possible if we work hard enough, but this is a lie. When we realize this, it depresses us, but we continue fooling ourselves into thinking that working hard is what we owe society. Society owes us a lot more than we owe society, and if we were given all we deserved as human beings in a society that preaches advancement, we would truly have the freedom we think we do, meaning how hard we work would determine the success we have. We have the right to define success the way we want to, and as long as we are not guaranteed basic human rights like a livable wage, housing, and education, we will keep holding these things as the ideals of success, and depriving ourselves-and the world- of all things beyond that that we could and should be able to achieve, those great acts that actually make up our purpose.

So who deserves to have the things they want? How does it feel to live an entire life without ever actually being fulfilled? Fulfilled, which does not mean spending our hard-earned money on things we don’t need for happiness that doesn’t last. Fulfilled, which does not mean earning the things we should have been guaranteed from birth. Fulfilled, which does not mean dismissing your higher dreams for your life in place of something more “realistic.” Fulfilled is something we all should be able to feel, but capitalism deprives us, robbing us of a psychological health that is achievable through a healthy, equitable society. Right now, we are expected to be happy “in spite of” the poor circumstances of our lives and our society. In spite of the oppression we face, in spite of the corporations and governments which do not have our best interests in mind, in spite of the continual destruction of our world by these powerful folks. Money is power, and while I do not believe it is the key to a happy life, it is the start. Having the bare necessities of life is essential to start to work on one’s own happiness and true fulfillment. The pursuit of survival and the pursuit of self-actualization will never be parallel. Until we dismantle the racist, sexist, colonialist system of capitalism, we will have no choice but to sell ourselves short to survive. We will all suffer as talented, intelligent, and inspiring individuals are denied the chance to use their passions to better the world, because they can’t afford to- emotionally and financially. We will continue to live in a society that is sick, unable to self-actualize, unable to bring all of our struggle, the hard work that is supposed to amount to something, into a productive fruition.

 

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challenge · diversity issues · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · society · truth · Uncategorized · writing

On being oppressed and problematic at the same time

I am a queer woman. I am not always unproblematic.

I am a white female middle socioeconomic status college student who identifies as pansexual. I hold some privileges, and lack others. The reason I’m writing my truth is that I want people to understand that just because you belong to an oppressed group doesn’t mean you never participate in that oppression. Black cops kill innocent black kids. Women argue against the rights of sex workers. Gay and lesbian folks are often transphobic. We’re all socialized in the same society, so not one of us is immune to the biases that are ingrained in our culture. That’s why it’s impossible and pointless to call someone racist or not racist, sexist or not sexist, homophobic or not homophobic. We all have the capabilities to think in oppressive ways, even towards ourselves; however, what matters is that you learn to stop this thinking before it starts and actively resist oppression. I learned from the brilliant Beverly Tatum that most people are either actively or passively racist. To most, passively racist people would not be considered racists because they don’t wield Tiki torches or publicly harass people of color- but this is not the case. Passively racist people consist of a majority of the population, and this mindset includes behaviors such as laughing at racist jokes, locking car doors as a person of color passes outside, not trusting people of color in high up positions, and not dating people of color. Passively racist people may have POC friends, may have voted for Obama, and do anything they can to not be seen as racist. But it’s not that simple. I used to be passively racist as well, and I didn’t see a problem. I was internalizing all of the things society told me about people of color, but I wasn’t directly harming anyone, right? It took me getting to college to realize that you can be racist without realizing, that it’s not simply a matter of racist or not racist, and that to really not be racist you must be anti-racist. You must work actively every single day to address your implicit biases and work against what society tells you about people of color. This can be incredibly challenging. Most people, especially liberals, would never consider themselves to be racist or have racist tendencies, and that’s a huge problem. Unless you live in a different country that was never colonized and doesn’t operate under white supremacy, you have racist tendencies and you must do all you can to stop them. This includes educating yourself on racial oppression, reading the works of POC, unpacking your implicit biases and noticing every time you fall into them, listening to the experiences of POC, joining the movement for equality as an active participant in fundraising, marching, and advocating, and taking any comments of how you’re problematic seriously and changing yourself accordingly. It is a tough process, but it is necessary if we will ever build a formative enough nation to ensure equal rights for everyone.

The fight continues on all fronts, and I’m writing this post to admit that, although I am a progressive social justice activist I still make mistakes. I still internalize my own oppression. I only recently recognized the oppressive thoughts I’ve had about women and queer folks, which is bizarre considering I identify as both. But that’s how oppression works. It’s sneaky. I only recently decided to openly talk about my sexuality, and still am struggling to be more open about it. Why am I scared to come out about being queer? Because I’m scared of the stigma. Being pamsexual in a hetero relationship, I’m someone no one really would consider queer. They either think I’m confused, or experimenting; I’m not gay enough to be included in queer spaces but I’m not straight enough to feel comfortable in straight spaces. It’s a weird feeling. There’s a lot of discrimination within the queer community. Biphobia is a huge issue. I saw a meme that said if a man is bi they consider him actually gay and if a woman is bi they consider her straight but confused, because no one can accept a sexuality that doesn’t revolve around men- and that really stuck with me. I’m nervous to be open about my sexuality because people have only seen me with men and I fear they’ll think I’ve been hiding something or I’m actually just straight. Just because I’m in a hetero relationship doesn’t mean I’m not queer. I feel like I have to somehow prove my queerness, like post a photo kissing a woman, just so people get it through their heads that queer people come in all shapes and sizes, and, yes, you can know someone your whole life and never know they’re queer. I am learning to be less problematic. I’ve always secretly and silently felt some discomfort towards masculine lesbians and trans women and I’m unpacking why that is. I believe it’s due to my underlying lifelong fear that I would be stigmatized as severely as they are. I resent their confidence despite their oppression. Deep down I want to dress more masculine sometimes but fear being categorized as a masculine lesbian, even though I know this isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The bias comes from the messages I’ve been exposed to: women should be feminine, but I know this isn’t true and I am working to stop believing this.

As a woman, I’ve messed up too. I’ve judged women for being attention seeking, for the way they dress, for the way they talk and act, and for embracing traditional gender roles. I’m a feminist, and I’ve still fallen into the pit of sexist thinking. This is what I mean when I say no one is immune. It’s how you handle it that matters. I’ve learned to question my automatic thoughts if they support oppression and get them out of my head. I’ve learned that there are many people in these communities who support their own oppression and do great harm to themselves unknowingly. Unlearning what society tells you is a process, but we all need to start now. Wherever you do and don’t hold privilege, learn how you can be less problematic. Just because you don’t hold privilege in an area doesn’t mean you’re not problematic at times! All oppressions are interconnected, so we must address all our biases against all groups of people (including non-human people).

I know how exhausting and defeating living under this system is, but we must take personal responsibility to do the work to take this system down. You will make mistakes, but if you take all feedback from others to heart and improve, you will be helping create a more equitable world. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve been problematic; this is a lot more genuine and helpful than denying it. Sitting on the sidelines and staying silent won’t do anything for social justice- use your various privileges to amplify the voices of oppressed folks and actively join their efforts. I’m proud to finally embrace another aspect of my identity and I will continue learning about systems of oppression and becoming a better activist every step of the way. It’s not a matter of being problematic or not; as humans, we all are at times. It’s a matter of making amends for any harm you may have caused, learning better, and doing better, and doing your absolute best to be the least problematic you can be. As an activist, that’s all I demand, and I hope you demand that from yourself, your peers, and your communities as well. Let’s turn everyone from passive supporters of oppression into active advocates for social justice.

challenge · experience · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · truth · Uncategorized · writing

let’s not figure things out

Don’t ask me what my plans are

I’m still figuring them out

I’m still rearranging the ideas in my brain that dictate how I live my life

Convincing myself that each day it is okay for the future to change

I am not a liar for never doing those things I said I would

Because they turned out to not be what I wanted

It is okay for my idea of love to change from one to many

It is okay to see where everything goes before committing

Giving precedence to my mind’s health and the nourishment of my soul

It is okay to live according to the sun’s rising and falling

Following my natural impulses like an awakened cavewoman

Because all too often we ignore our impulses and follow the lead we are expected to

To convince others we are successful, we are where we are supposed to be

But maybe where I am supposed to be on a Friday afternoon is crying in the bathroom

Because my heart is bursting with love

And all of the feeling has returned to my body, all of the bliss that others bring me has boiled up,

And spilled over,

And I’ve spilled over,

Reminding myself I am human, not a people-pleasing machine

I am more than my ability to make others happy

I am more than the physical connection or listening ears I provide

I am a being simply because I am being,

My being does not depend on my utility to others

I am not just a tool for accomplishment,

Whatever that means to society

My idea is different,

More feeling comfortable and confident wherever I am,

Spending my time just how I would like to, and not how I feel obligated to

I believe in the inexplicable beauty of love.

Let’s not define things,

Let’s not stress or worry, or force our anxiety to act up

By convincing ourselves we need to do more, be more, live more

Let’s honor the place we are now and continue on the path that brings joy to our face

A warmth creeping up the corners of the lips, reaching out through the limbs of the body

Enabling us to love, naturally, freely, without obligation

Let’s not figure things out right now.

It’s better to live in this uncertain moment, and worship its divine possibility.

advice · challenge · experience · inspiration · life · self help · society · truth · Uncategorized

Getting Real about derealization

I know what it feels like to be dead while I’m still alive. I’ve lost my sense of self and connection to this world more times than I can count. I want to share my story in case anyone out there has experienced the same thing, and we can support each other.

As long as I can remember I have experienced depression. I grew up in a very chaotic, stressful, upsetting, and damaging environment and I cried myself to sleep a good amount of it. I was constantly surrounded by emotional abuse, whether between my parents, or my other family members, and it turned me into an adult with a strong outer core, but a crippling mess on the inside. I have never fully processed everything I heard and saw as a child, and because of it I have anxiety about random things like spending money and loud noises, recurrent depression and loneliness, and a fear of abandonment. The year I turned sixteen was the worst year of my life, as my mom was forced to leave our house and she moved far away with her boyfriend at the time. I was lost, heartbroken, and an emotional wreck. My older sister was always at her boyfriend’s house and my dad worked at night, so after I came home from school I cried a solid six hours daily, collapsing on the ground and struggling to breathe while my dog stood by my side in confusion. I could barely sleep, and every night I laid in my bed praying an airplane would crash through the roof and kill me. Luckily I was too scared to kill myself, but several times I tried to choke myself and scratch my arms bloody. I had too much pain deep down in me, and no one to talk to, as my sister was never home, my dad and I had a broken relationship, and I didn’t feel like I could go to my friends for support. I suffered in silence, and I regret that everyday.

When I moved away for college, I felt like I was pushing away all of the family problems that were waiting at home, but whenever I came home for the weekend they came back. My family relied on me as their emotional backbone, and every problem had to go through me before getting resolved. As a result, I lived under extreme stress and when I had to go home, I often sobbed either on the drive there or back. Added into that was the fact that I received no financial help from my family since I was sixteen, so the $40+ in gas to come home gave me a mental breakdown. I have worked so hard since I got my first job at sixteen, but my money has dwindled away so I could buy the necessities like food and school supplies that my friends’ parents all provided them. I grew angry towards my family, for cursing me with financial and emotional instability and I knew I had lasting mental health issues from the years of untreated pain. When I was bullied by my first-ever roommates in college and contemplated dropping out of school, I finally sought help from the free counseling at school. It was nice to talk to someone, but overall I do not feel like these services provide anything revolutionary. The next semester was better, and I stopped the services.

My sophomore year in college was the worst of my college years for mental health. Because I have two majors, I had a 19-credit semester and an 18-credit semester, and those coupled with my numerous involvements on campus meant I left my dorm at 8am and did not return until 10 or 11pm Monday through Thursday. My roommates were often laughing and enjoying themselves when I got back and had yet to start my homework. My sleep suffered, and I did not feel like myself. I spread myself way too thin, and I learned my lesson. It was also in this year that I stopped smoking weed after a traumatic incident where I got too high, had a panic attack, almost called 9-11, and felt high for weeks after. I think this may have triggered the main topic of this post, derealization and depersonalization (DR/DP). This year I again sought out counseling services for the tremendous stress I was dealing with, and I also asked to do an assessment for bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, of which the tests determined I had none. I tried to talk to my counselor about DR/DP, but she told me it was all in my head. I felt invalidated and tried to pray it away.

My summers have involved traveling for the past three years now, and that is always good for me, because being in my dad’s house on breaks brings my depression back full force. Old family pictures feel awkward and unfitting, and our large house filled with old things no one cares about and not enough love to go around brings me to the brink of sadness. My relationship with my parents is a lot healthier now, but for me nostalgia is like a ton of bricks dropping on me: it has weight, and it comes with a lot of pain. Things were decent when I was really young, but most of my memories aren’t positive. Every time I travel to a new place, I feel DR/DP for a while, until I’m adjusted.

My junior year I spent the first semester abroad, which was incredible, but I was also in a committed relationship, so it was very difficult at first. I was too attached to my romantic partner, and found myself hyperventilating and bawling my eyes out for the first month, until I made myself numb about it. The second semester I came back and thought the pain of missing my partner would be gone, but my attachment intensified, like I wanted to keep him close so that would never happen again. I became distant with many of my friends from before I went abroad, and my only source of happiness was my boyfriend. I sought a counselor for codependency, and he gave me some techniques for grounding and ways to create a healthy relationship. I continued to struggle with DR/DP, and didn’t even bother to mention it to this counselor.

This brings me to today. I have been stuck in this episode of DR/DP for over a week, which happens quite frequently and which I have never been able to defeat. It defeats me. DR/DP makes me feel like I am high, but worse. There is no joy, there is no love, there is no happiness. Bodily sensations like pain, having to use the bathroom, and hunger seem distant, and I can ignore them if I want. I would starve myself when I’m in an episode, but I fear I’d get too sick and throw up. The worst part about it is that life doesn’t stop. I have to go to work, keep plans with friends, drive places, etc. even though I feel like I’m asleep.The only thing I want to do when I’m like this is sleep. I could stare at something all day. I’m not myself at all. I can’t smell, taste, or feel emotionally or physically. It is, in an essence, being dead. I imagine it is worse than death though. There is no meaning to life when I’m in this state. Sometimes it lasts for days, sometimes for weeks, but it always comes back and there’s nothing I can do to make it go away.

I’ve sought online support, and it has helped validate this and let me know that many, many other people go through this too, but I have yet to find a professional who can help me. School counselors are either unknowledgeable or unqualified, and everywhere else is too expensive. DR/DP is caused by extreme anxiety, or a traumatic panic attack, and it could be both for me. Recently I have dealt with anxiety more than ever before, and panic attacks for no apparent reason. My mind is a dark and twisted place, and I cannot figure it out. I tried to seek help in Los Angeles, but because my health insurance isn’t from this state, I couldn’t get free counseling. I don’t know where else to turn. Mental health services should not be this hard to come by. People die slow and painful deaths due to mental illness, and if this continued to go untreated, I will be in the same boat. I have so much passion for life, but having an unexplained and untreated mental illness takes every ounce of passion out of me and convinces me I am a machine that lives my life on autopilot. That’s the reality of derealization and depersonalization. It sucks the life from you. My DR/DP is worse than my depression and anxiety combined. It’s like living in purgatory with no way out but to silently suffer. I have only dared to tell a few people about this, because I’m scared many will think I’m insane. Even a counselor thought i was over exaggerating. But I’m tired of having to pretend like everything is okay when I talk to friends. I want to help end the stigma of mental illness by being completely transparent about my lifelong struggles with emotional instability. This won’t help it go away, but it will give me a sense of freedom to not hide what I go through on a daily basis. That’s too exhausting, and not fair to myself.

I truly hope I can find some treatment for anxiety, which will hopefully cure my DR/DP. There are many success stories online, but everyone is different, and I’ve been going through this so long that I have no hope. I will keep looking though, and I hope everyone suffering inside does the same. Don’t give up on yourself just because it feels like everyone else has given up.

If anyone thinks of me differently now, then they must accept the fact that this is the real me. We can’t pretend to not suffer, because it encourages other people to stay silent too, and suffering in silence is self-destruction. If someone can’t accept that lately I have had more days with panicking, crying, numbness, confusion, and sadness than without, then they can’t accept me wholly.

If anyone out there is going through something similar, don’t hesitate to reach out. We must care for each other in this society that treats mental illness like a burden.

 

Rapper Logic has opened up about his struggle with derealization disorder.

challenge · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · support · truth · Uncategorized · writing

Lifted

Some would say I’m floating on a cloud

Because convention means nothing to me

I will save every penny

So I can afford to live my fantasy

Every day is a brick to build my dream house

And I am tired of hearing that

My youth dictates my naivety

That all of my experiences amount to nothing

Because I don’t have a trail of debts following me

That life will suddenly catch up to me

And I will find myself in your shoes.

But with all of the intentional decisions I have made-

Why do you think I will suddenly lose my autonomy

And forsake all I have worked for

To live a life of safety?

There is nothing within me begging for comfort

I force myself into discomfort so that with squirming I grow

I scare myself straight so that nothing may scare me

I experiment with life so that I find what feels right

Trusting my instincts in the path that I take,

And knowing that nothing is enough to be the end of my fate

Nothing is so threatening that I will succumb

To the societal forces that drive others numb

There is no living on a cloud when you come to accept

life is built from dreams when you take concrete steps

towards passion and purpose and a generous path

in which you unfold with joy and others can laugh

sharing in how life rarely goes as planned

but if you continue seeking better, in a paradise you’ll land

with contentment and success in the deepest sense

not a pawn in the mundane game, but forever blessed

embodying the living in life and accepting nothing less

than the fruits of your labor and lovingness

for all aspects of living a life of cold truth

that may pain you to follow but to which you must commit

that’s why I’m vowing when I’m young to never submit

to the easiest path of instant gratification

my dreams are worth more than an occasional vacation

I will build my dream life so there is no need for escaping.

challenge · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · tips · truth · Uncategorized

On forgiveness

There is more to be earned from forgiveness than from bitterness.

I was once a burning-bridges type of human

The one that feels the sting of rejection and malintent

And cannot forget it.

And cuts ties to reduce the persistent pain.

But I have learned there is much to lose from not forgiving.

Even if I have loved more, given more, been more for the other person,

They may still have something genuine to offer

It is enchanting: the power of pushing away what has proven difficult

But what bewitches me more these days is the idea of not how others can improve

But how I can improve, for one

Doling out more chances for imperfect humans

To provide some sort of shelter for us both

Sometimes the strongest bonds are also the most volatile

And other times, if a mountain of energy is gifted for little to no return

It is time to let them go.

But one should know

Only after trying, really trying,

To form something real-

Because deep below the surface, profoundly, within all of us, exists

A desire to connect and an obscured ability to do so

So maybe all our comrades need is a reminder

That the effort is worth it

That their humanness means something to you.

challenge · experience · inspiration · society · Uncategorized

The case for more conscious rap

**Trigger warning: sexual assault**

Conscious rap is a term that describes rap that aims to impart knowledge on listeners and has a higher meaning than other rap. For some, it’s a preference. I believe it is necessary.

As I explore more rap, the more I discover its damaging aspects. First, there’s the misogyny. This is so much of an issue that there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to it.

Tied to this misogyny is the disgusting usage of rape as a joke. Tyler the Creator rapped about raping a pregnant woman in “Tron Cat.” Eminem says in “No Favors,” “I sodomize like an ass-raper.” These two artists continuously promote sexual assault and abuse with their lyrics, and it’s not something we can laugh off.

Sexual assault should not be mentioned in a song unless it’s to raise awareness for the alarming rate of it. (See: Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You” from the Hunting Ground)

As rap becomes more popular with young listeners, the more damaging its overt talk of drugs, crime, and sex becomes. For young men, it’s encouraging. For young women, it’s threatening.

I don’t have a problem with explicit lyrics, but I do have a problem with misogyny and the glamorization of drugs and crime as attributes of success.

I will be the first to admit that I do listen to problematic rap. My favorite rapper, Kanye West, while “conscious” in many ways, is also famed for his misogynistic lyrics (“I made that bitch famous”). I still believe the rap world needs more conscious rappers. Rappers like Kendrick, Logic, Raury, and Cole address social problems and use the attention they receive to educate the public on things that matter. And while they aren’t without their flaws, I recognize their efforts to address social issues and use their art to promote a positive message. I worry that other rappers have strayed from their original intent to do the same.

Rap has been a heterosexual male-dominated genre since it originated, and time is well overdue to bring justice to women and LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s already hard enough for anyone other than straight men to succeed in the game, and to succeed female rappers typically must either masculinize themselves enough to be on par with male rappers, or sexualize themselves enough to receive their validation. Justice is long overdue for women and queer folks in music. The continued exploitation of sexual assault in rap is threatening to their well- being and provides an overall unwelcoming environment for their success.

It’s time to open the world of rap to more social consciousness. As more and more citizens become engaged with social justice, they will no longer tolerate ignorance in their music. Artists needs to catch up to the times. I don’t believe all rap needs to be conscious rap, but all rap should be free of blatantly irresponsible lyrics. If you’re going to rap, say something worth listening to that doesn’t demean anyone.

While conscious rap is on the rise, with albums like All Amerikkkan Badass by Joey Bada$$ and Everybody by Logic addressing the current political sphere, there remains a large portion of rap that continues to perpetuate not only negative, but destructive ideas. Rap may be free from clean language, but it should not be a free-for-all where all ethics go out the window. Rappers receive ample attention and fame, and they should use their influence to advance knowledge. When they promote negative ideas, their artistry is trashed and the name of rap is defamed. Rap has deep roots in protest culture and pride in one’s identity. A return to this will not only appeal to more listeners, it will help empower the public to continue fighting for justice.

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Conscious rap selections, from top to bottom: Logic’s Everybody, Joey Bada$$’s All Amerikkkan Badass, Childish Gambino’s CAMP, and Vic Mensa’s There’s A Lot Going On