If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that the cultural divide within our own is deeper than we thought.
As we meet the climatic end of 2016, we’re hopeful for a few things. We’re counting our lucky stars the universe doesn’t shade our souls with more tragedy and that everyone will get on the same page about topic A, B or C. The latter seems to be what we struggled with the most this year; not the court of public opinion, but that of black opinion. Social platforms are now becoming a catalyst in the way we’re seen around the world. Tweets and Facebook posts about tectonic culture shifts like an Empire episode or a non-indictment of an officer are curated, packaged with GIFs and presented as a story. We all do it, VIBE included. In a weird way, it showcases what outlets believe are important to readers—themselves.
It also gives the public a voice in the culture like never before. Take sisters Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson. The platform transformed them into a sassy soapbox for president-elect Donald Trump. After sharing their support for the then-Republican presidential candidate earlier this year on their YouTube channel, the ladies were welcomed on the campaign trail as Trump’s way of proving he had black friends. “First of all, if y’all haven’t noticed, we black… And just because we black, we found out, that doesn’t mean we have to vote Democrat,” Diamond said in a bumptious manner at the “Women Vote Trump” rally during the Republican National Convention in July. “We can come off the Democratic plantation, and we can vote for whoever we want to vote for.”
While the black voter turned out for Hillary Clinton in the polls (88 percent), there’s still the 8 percent who found solace in Trump’s rhetoric and many more who didn’t vote. Voter turnout hit a 20-year low in 2016, with only 55 percent of voting age folks actually taking part in the election. As much as we like to believe we’re on the same page, it turns out we really aren’t.
The case was painfully proven by the rollout a few months ago for Nate Parker’s directorial flop, The Birth Of A Nation. His previous sexual assault allegations seeped through the media, erasing the discussion of Nat Turner’s significantly historical slave rebellion of 1831. As the public watched the train wreck of public appearances and articles Parker took part in about the film and his past, black feminists were to blame for the movie’s “failure.” The conversation, inspired by this Medium post (which happened to be inspired by social media), started a finger-pointing war that has people confused about the thoughtful nature of black feminism, unity and simple conversations. Poking holes in someone’s narrative may bring the same joy as playing Candy Crush, but it does nothing to further the conversation.
This trails into the current age gap fiasco in hip-hop. Several rappers like Kodak Black, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert have shared their less than fond opinions about the golden age of rap. Much like someone knocking over a child’s ice cream cone, this didn’t sit well with hip-hop savants. Middlemen like Anderson .Paak, an artist who has worked with the likes of legends like Dr. Dre to mainstream acts like Mac Miller, provided fair insight into why the group known as “mumble rappers” should pay homage to those who helped fuel the hip-hop engine.
The suggestion to simply know the history of a fairly young genre seemed to fall on deaf ears. Not surprisingly, it’s only gotten worse for elders with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex taking visceral cuts into Yachty for merely existing. It seems like all tunnels into black culture are clogged. We’re finding it harder to engage with other black people who may not agree with our beliefs and the platforms that we obsess over so much could be a part of the problem. A 2015 study from Microsoft Corp. shows our attention spans have dropped from 12 to eight seconds in a course of a decade. This puts us just below the attention span of a goldfish. While we’ve gotten better at multitasking, the presence of a digital lifestyle has weighed on our consciousness. Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center, showed that in 2010 adults were captains of the social media ship. Older adults engage in blogging, while the younger crowd has taken to microblogging platforms like Twitter, and now, Snapchat and Instagram.
As we go on and experience changes like an orange president, family matters and executing New Year’s Resolutions, our brains will adapt to the change. One thing that we should remember is how different the black experience is for everyone, hence more opinions and outlooks that won’t be like yours. We shouldn’t tap into evil Kermits for the perfect zinger to what a black republican or a black anti-Black Lives Matter critic has to say. Instead, try to find a healthy way to discuss the people, places and things that help or hurt this very complicated world. As far as we know, it’s the only one we’ve got.