Text Review: To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album, and earned him him 11 nominations at the Grammys in 2016. This album is not a traditional rap album, as it combines poetry mostly at the end of the tracks, some jazz, some soul and funk, and of course rap. This album is very politically charged, taking on issues of institutional racism, with a song titled “Institutionalized” along with many others, and racial inequality playing a large part in most of the songs, and discussing his own struggles with mental health and other facets of life throughout. In this Text Review, I will only be reviewing in depth certain songs throughout the album that allude to these main themes and the ideas we discussed in class.

The album opens with a track called “Wesley’s Theory”, alluding to Wesley Snipes who went to jail for tax evasion, Kendrick Lamar playing on the idea that“no one teaches poor Black males how to manage money or celebrity, so if they do achieve success, the powers that be can take it from right under them” (Kendrick Lamar). In the song, Kendrick makes many references throughout to racial divide and how the success of black artists are often taken from them and prone to temptations. The track also samples several old tracks and audio samples, including a line that says “we should never gave ****** money, go back home, money, go back home”. This line is obviously stating how people say that they should’ve never given black people money, or a chance to make it, and for the money to “go back home”, its home being white people. Later in the song, Kendrick starts off a verse listing off things that “Uncle Sam” is trying to seduce Kendrick with, at one point offering “forty acres and a mule”, which was a proposal for reparations to former slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War as a way to get a new life started. The allusions Kendrick make in this track alone, along with all of the other tracks on the album, display the hidden and in depth references Kendrick uses to show his feelings on the current state of racial inequality deeply rooted in society. Using Uncle Sam as a symbol of institutional racism rooted within the country, and how it is constantly affecting those like him and preying on their downfall.

This is just one example, in other songs he has lines such as “Lookin at the world like where do we go?” and “We hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho” revealing how he truly feels the state of his and other black lives are in. Left looking at the world about where they turn to now, police killing them in the streets (referencing trayvon martin along with many others). Also addresses several black stereotypes in “The Blacker the Berry”, listing off stereotypes by the dozen and how society wants him internalize the thought of being “just another slave” in his head.

This album overall is an extremely politically charged album, exposing all of the flaws in society in the form of racial inequality and systematic racism and injustice. Kendrick speaks from a perspective that has actually been through it all, and speaks of his experiences along with the stereotypes that he fights so hard against.

Yo, is this Racist?! – Owen Brown, Eric Bradley, and Jared Villalobos

Eric: Hi I’m Eric, welcome to the first installment of Yo is this racist. Today well be talking about the capitol riots and I’m joined by Jared and Owen. Jared, what’re your thoughts on this topic?

Jared: In the 2020 election, Joe Biden was awarded president-elect. Following this event, President Donald Trump proclaimed to his supporters that it was a rigged election and that they must take back what was right. On January 6th, rioters stormed the U.S Capitol during the joint session of the House of Representatives to count the votes. The rioters were able to get past the police barricade and enter the Capitol building without any repercussions. Following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, it was reported that only 69 individuals were arrested after (Shamsian 2021). From the arrests you can see the systematic injustice of the criminal justice system. In the Black Lives Matter protests, people were fighting against police brutality. In the Capitol riots, which were pre-dominantly Caucasian people, they were fighting because the person they supported lost. You can see the dynamic of fighting for basic civil rights versus fighting because a candidate that you supported lost. I believe this is a systematic injustice because although the BLM protests were composed of a variety of races, their cause was African American focused. Rioters at the Capitol got into one of the most protected buildings in the US, this without a doubt was due to the color of their skin. I think the only way to prevent these incidents is to implement a better training program for police officers in general. Police officers should not have to judge whether someone is a threat or should be arrested based on the color of their skin, or what they believe in.

Jared: So, Owen my question for you is, what is your thought on the differences in law enforcements in the BLM protests and then the capital riots.

Owen: A massive group of citizens stormed and broke into the capitol building in Washington DC. The group broke in, stole personal and private items, terrorized police, and refused to leave. This instance is not the injustice, but it is within the reaction that the injustice lies. The group of people was not met with threats or police throwing tear gas or fear for their life, they were met with unarmed guards that did not try to fight or instigate, they just tolerated it. This situation was gut-wrenching to me because I along with the rest of the world witnessed the harsh systemic injustice that the US reacted with during the BLM protests. BLM protestors received tear gas, rubber bullets, and real bullets, just to name a few. Now, there was a group of people who were looting and acting with violence. It is important we do not confuse these people with those who are trying to peacefully enact change and raise awareness. The actions of looters have corrupted the message of those who are demonstrating without violence. Distinguishing these two groups is essential to uncovering the truth: The Black Lives Matter movement is not about inciting violence. These Protestors were thrown in jail for doing no more than protesting within their legal right, but when a group of an overwhelming majority of white people break into our nation’s capitol, they’re not arrested or shot at, they’re allowed to continue in peace, its unacceptable. And it’s this type of contrast illuminates the looming injustice and bias still rooted within our nation. I am not calling for the same to be done to those white protestors as was done to BLM supporters, I am simply calling for the opposite, and I think that is what the people want as well.

Owen: Building off of that, Eric, what do you think these events will look like and how do you think they’ll be handled in the future?

Eric: In the future I believe we’ll see a more prepared and ethically trained task force, to deal with any type of protest, at any type of level. Now that we have a different president with better morals and values, I think this is a great step in the right direction.


Eric: Jared, what do you think the world needs to do to make this a more attainable goal?


Jared: I think the only thing we can do is to educate ourselves. Right now, we live in a very divided world. Educating our people to view life from other people’s perspectives is incredibly important to understand what they are going through. It all starts with the criminal justice system. We need to instill curriculums that can educate the police force on diversity and inclusion. They need to understand that not every African American “fits the description”. We overall just need to do better.

Jared: And Eric I know that you did a lot of your systemic injustices happening within the African American Community, can you tell us more about that.

Eric: In the United States, African Americans currently make up 13% of the population. However, they represent about 40% of the prison population. If a white person and an African American person both commit the same crime, the African American has a higher chance of getting arrested than the white person. A study done showed that when African American people are convicted, they are about 20% more likely to be sentenced to jail time, and typically see sentences 20% longer than those for whites who were convicted for similar crimes. A felony conviction also leads to the loss of the right to vote. More than 7.4% of the adult African American population is disenfranchised. Lastly, police surveillance is a huge problem in society. Day to day life is more challenging for African American drivers. African Americans are 30% more likely to be pulled over according to a study done by Ben and Jerry.

Eric: Being pulled over while Driving is just one of the many obstacles that African Americans face in their day to days lives. Owen, I know another obstacle that African Americans face is marijuana arrests. Would you like to go into that?

Owen: Yea of course, I think one extremely prevalent statistic today, with the topic of legalization of marijuana sweeping the nation, is the difference in marijuana possession arrests between the races. Per 100k arrests, there is a whopping difference of 411 more black arrests than white arrests, when the difference in usage is only 1.3%. These statistics provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services really display the vast difference in treatment between these populations, and how even though the nation may think that it has come a long way, it has not progressed nearly close to enough.


Owen: For instance, A restaurant named Choptank, located in Fells Point, Baltimore, posted a sign outside of their restaurant listing a dress code that prohibits several apparel items that are affiliated with black culture and style. this restaurant lists off excessively baggy clothing, inappropriate attire, jerseys, brimless headgear, backwards or sideways hats, and sunglasses after dark as strictly prohibited. All of these items of clothing typically associated with Black culture, making it quite evidently systemically racist. The restaurant also lists work boots as a banned footwear, a popular type of footwear within black and Latin communities. This sign received many complaints on social media and from critics all correctly accusing the restaurant of racial discrimination. These attempts today in society by restaurants and people like this are why there is still an underlying problem in this country, people can still get away with blatant racism through these methods.


Owen: Jared and Eric, are there any other instances of discrimination you have noticed in today’s society?


Jared: Yeah, so I can go first. My father immigrated from the Philippines when we were a young child, so he and I have faced our fair share of discrimination recently. This increasing hate can be pointed to Covid. On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 as a global health emergency, then later in March, declared a world-wide pandemic. Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, China and because of its originating location, Asian-Americans would quickly see a rise in unjust treatment around United States. Asian-Americans are being treated as a scapegoat for the virus and associated all Asians with the Chinese ethnicity. Furthermore, it’s important to note that just because the virus originated in China, doesn’t mean that all Chinese people are responsible for it spreading. According to the New York City Police Department, “it was reported that there was a 1900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020”. To add on to this hate, previous president, Donald Trump, remarked the virus as the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan Virus”. Not only did he put the blame on the Chinese citizens of Wuhan, but he also added fuel to the fire of American-Asian hate. I believe that this is a systematic injustice because not only did the previous president inspire Asian American hate, but he did nothing to address it as well. Anti-Asian hate crimes are still at an all-time high due to the mislabeling and blame of the virus. Due to the wrongful grouping of identity, all ethnicities branching from Asian are also receiving hate. Asian-Americans are born and raised in America but yet still receive hate because to everyone else’s eyes, they are still foreigners. I think the only way to resolve this injustice is to educate the American people. I think it’s important to engrain the idea that just because the virus originated in China, doesn’t mean that all Asians are responsible.

Jared: Eric, have you noticed any experiences such as this, as a minority living in the United States?

Eric: Like Jared, I also come from a Hispanic background. I personally haven’t experienced a form of direct discrimination, but my mother has. My mother migrated here in her mid-20s from Mexico in hopes of starting a new life. When she first got here, she felt unsafe and unwelcomed, she experienced a lot of hardships while trying to establish a new life. She’s been mocked for her accent, made fun of, and more. Currently, there are thousands of children locked up in cages parentless along the border. In the future, I think we need to treat minorities with better intentions to make them feel less afraid and that they are welcome here.

Jared: This concludes the first segment of Yo is this racist, I just want to say fellas, I’m glad we were able to come together and talk about our experiences. This is Jared,

Owen: I’m Owen!

Eric: And I’m Eric.

Jared: Hope to see you on the next episode!

[The End]

“Re-Education Camps” in Xinjiang

In Xinjiang, an autonomous region in china, there are currently over one million Uiguhrs interned in more than 85 camps. The construction of these camps supposedly happened in 2017 and was denied for years by the government until images finally came out of barbed wire fences and watch towers. The government acknowledged what they called “re-education centers”, however, many of the prisoners were detained, beaten, and interrogated simply because of their religion. The prisoners were detained because of their religion and looks, some because of their long beards. The Muslim’s that are locked up in these “education” camps are the same subaltern people who are silenced, stripped of their voice and beliefs, and told what they are forced to believe. They do not have a voice in these camps, they are told what to believe by the Chinese government and forced to believe it. This is much further than just systemic injustice, it violates everything that the world has worked so hard to prevent and repair after the holocaust. The imprisonment and torture of this selected group of people simply because of their religion is disgusting, especially in today’s day in age. The response by the world has been present, but coverage and acknowledgement has been quite lacking. It didn’t even become apparent to me until recently, and after doing more research I found that I’m not the only one late to find out. I also looked more into the response by the world and was greatly disappointed, 37 countries backed China saying that they had remarkable achievements in the field of human rights, and the lack of action from the UN and countries around the world uncovers the fact that we may have made progress, it is no where near what needs to be done. Something so unjust and terrible should not be happening after the history that the world has been through.

Here is a photo of the up close layout of the camps that have been created, in the deserts and hidden away.

Xinjiang's re-education system is a hybrid of Gulag and Indian Residential School | by Shawn Zhang | Medium;

The BBC wrote a good piece about how the Chinese government had gone about constructing these camps, where they did, and the change of the landscape over the years that they were building it. They actually had cars trying to go and film driving by the camps, but were followed and finally stopped before they could go any further. The satellite images taken reveal just how quickly these buildings were erected, and how far out they are trying to go to hide them.


Week 6 Context presentation: The Reality of Achebe’s Single Story

Chinua Achebe wrote a story of a young Nigerian warrior who experienced so much adversity throughout his life that it deserved to be broken down into three parts. Each part of the three parts of the story is broken down into is a different period in Okonkwo’s life, each facing different struggles in different places. Okonkwo’s story is like many others in history, and ends like one as well, eventually having his whole tribe face British colonization.

The story Achebe writes is not necessarily based on one true story, but rather one that is based on a whole history of events that people have been through. Immediately when reading this story, I thought back to the Ted Talk of “The Danger of a Single Story”, the story and writing of people only to be dismissed by the rest of the world as “third world” or just a tale that is made up. Achebe’s story speaks about experiences that one would not know of without works like his, people within the “first world” would not have a clue as to the damage caused by some of their own countries, or the lack of attention to the “third world” countries. The British colonization coming into Achebe’s story is a tale known all too well for small countries all over the world, specifically Africa and countries with valuable land or resources. After the colonization of these countries, their personalities and stories are wiped out by the “first world” and they’re left to be whatever picture is painted of them. These stories such as Achebe’s tell the true story, what actually happened and what it is like to live and deal with these experiences. The struggle for these “third world” countries to have an identity is similar to Achebe’s main character Okonkwo, both ending with the all too familiar colonization. By looking at Achebe’s Things Fall Apart alongside some of the other excerpts and articles we’ve read reveals the extent of the worldwide struggle, the connection to single story and Things Fall Apart is just one of many that do so.


Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Penguin Publishing Group, 2017.

Adichie, N.A . (2009October). The danger of a single story [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg&feature=emb_title