Reviewing the year that was has become the major tradition on this blog. Last year I wrote about the fact that sexism and feminism had become a critical flashpoint in the West. In 2012 I highlighted the ubiquity of violence around the world. This year, my review deals again with similar threads: oppression and violence. However, the spin this time is more positive. This year I wanna talk about something that I'm seeing that is actually positive - standing up.
To set the definition here, I mean to say that there have been sustained efforts to hold perpetrators of the egregious accountable. 2014 was, without a doubt, full of horrible news - as we are about to recall. Sexism and racism were rampant this past year, but thankfully there has also been a mobilisation, both online and in person. I have selected three stories from 2014 that I feel really illustrate my argument.
I'll start with the most clear example: Ferguson. I've already written about the shooting of Michael Brown, pointing out that institutional racism in the United States is at the root of this, and numerous other, tragedies of late. It's unsurprising that this type of violence is occuring - we can think back to the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012. However, what's really impressive is that the reaction to the shooting was so massive. Protests started in August and continued through the fall as the grand jury deliberated an indictment. There was support throughout the state as well as around the world. Campaigns online led to the creation of numerous successful hashtags like #blacklivesmatter, #handsupdontshoot, and #millionsmarch. While there was some violence, often prompted by the presence of militarised police, these protests highlighted a non-violent response to the institutional problem of police brutality and racism. Also, as I'm writing this today there are reports that citizens are peacefully taking over the police station in Missouri following another tragic shooting of a young black man.
The next issue is the recent Twitter explosion surrounding Iggy Azalea. Azalea is a hip-hop artist from Australia who has experienced incredible success in worldwide this year. She also happens to be white. Much of her success has come from co-opting black hip-hop culture (much in the same way the other forms of music like jazz, rock, and blues have been appropriated by whites). She is unapologetic about her success, seemingly unaware of her white privilege and the fact that she is making hip-hop more accessible on account of her race and class. Moreover, she's made uniformed comments about slavery and the history of black resistance. Azalia Banks, a black hip-hop artist has led the charge to expose this cultural appropriation as well as the incredible ignorance of Iggy Azalea. This, naturally, exploded on Twitter. Other artists and celebrities joined in, creating a chorus of voices promoting the reality of co-optation in hip hop music.
One of the other major items in the news this year was a series of high-profile rape and sexual assault allegations. I wrote about the case surrounding Jian Ghomeshi, but this is merely one of many stories. Most people have likely heard about victims coming forward with claims against Bill Cosby and . In a newly released video Rape in the Time of Celebrity a character exclaims: "they're impossible to touch, but they'll touch you". For numerous reasons, many of which I've articulated in my previous post about Ghomeshi, the victims, even when they are numerous, are not taken seriously. But the problem goes much beyond these sensational tabloid stories: rape on college campuses has reached a flashpoint. This has spilled over at Dalhousie in Halifax, York in Toronto, or the University of Virginia. With numerous clever social media campaigns, women in colleges around North America have stood up and fought back against university administrations that have pretended that sexual assault is not a campus issue. I'd argue, as many others have, that 2014 was a pivotal year in turning the tide against rape apologists.
It's nice to see that, even though hatred, oppression, and violence are seemingly alive and well, so too is the will to stand up against injustice. It's worthwhile, however, pointing out that our interest in solidarity only goes so far. Take for example the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which for the record is ongoing as I write this. The international response was painfully slow and poorly organised. Media coverage was focused on the few westerners who contracted the virus or on spreading fear and paranoia. It's my hope that in 2015 people continue to stand up for themselves and others. Here's to the end of 2014.