Tuesday, 22 March 2011

"According to The Jetsons there's no Blacks in the future..."

So apparently blogs are meant to be topical and not just the out-pourings of a confused mind. That might present a problem to me, but here goes...

The recent mini-controversey over the ITV series 'Midsomer Murders' has prompted lots of people to come out with their well rehearsed positions on 'these things'. As yet, I've not heard anyone use the term 'White on White violence' to describe the show, but then this phenomenon also goes unnoticed in the real world. The simple point I'll make about it, is that you can get away with racial exclusion for 14 years without any problem here in the UK. But the moment you talk about it, you're in trouble. It's little wonder some White folks think talking about race is itself the problem. And, some of those White folks will inevitably be teachers.

As a teen in the eighties, Apartheid was still in effect and Mandela was still in prison. There had been uprisings in a number of British towns over police treatment of Black people. There was nothing unusual in Black and Asian people being abused on the streets, or the terraces at football matches and some of my schoolmates spent their time writing NF wherever they could.  Yet, one poetry lesson aside, there was no talk about race, racism or any related matter at my school. (We did watch a couple of horrific videos of the treatment of Jews inside Nazi concentration camps, but I don't recall any discussion about them.) I was being taught at school that it was not appropriate to talk about racism. Meanwhile,  Hip-Hop was talking about race, and I was beginning to join in the discussion.

The 'Midsomer Murders' discussion was framed by some people as being about how many people of colour live in the countryside, as if finding an all-white English village was proof that nothing untoward had happened. But people of colour are often written out of places (Remember Notting Hill!) or times. And not only the past...

"According to The Jetsons there's no Blacks in the future..."

This Masta Ace line from "Wake Me When I'm Dead", has long been one of those 'notable quotables' I'd throw out in any discussion of hot lines in rap. Ace is a hugely underrated MC ( the absence of his lyrics from the recent Anthology of Rap  illustrates just how slept-on he remains in some quarters), who I will write about in greater detail in the not-too-distant future. For now though I want to focus on this one line.

"According to The Jetsons there's no Blacks in the future..."

It's simple observation that hints at a deeper issue, not unlike "A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon"by Gil Scott-Heron, who Ace sampled on his debut album. Whereas Gil's anger is at US public spending, Ace has his sights on race and representation. Fertile ground for educators.

"According to The Jetsons there's no Blacks in the future..."

It has a structure that can be used again and again:
According to Midsomer Murders there's no Blacks in the country.
According to True-May only Whites can be English.

And it can be used in the classroom as part of a Literature or Media Studies project;
According to JK Rowling only White men are Wizards
According to the adverts only women do the laundry

So finally to today's task - Yep even Hip-Hop teachers set tasks sometimes. Why not create your own "According to... " and send it in? (Yeh, yeh that was a desperate bid for a comment on my blog). Or, if you're teaching, why not try using it in class? I think it's the discussion that follows - "Is that what they're implying? Why? Is this important?"- that opens up space for learning to happen.


  1. First off, Masta Ace is dope. Slaughter house is one of the best albums of all times. Here is the only thing: There were actually black people on the Jetsons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc6Rpd_oYz4&feature=plcp

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and for the youtube link! I think the video, whilst proving Ace's line to be factually inaccurate, strengthens the argument that black people were under-represented in the show. Would you agree?

  3. Under represented and not represented are different. Sometimes minority groups are so used to being excluded that they begin to marginalize and overlook their our own presence. What is interesting here is that you seem to be evaluations British race relations against the exaggerations of American pop culture. Doing this could provided a lot of room for context to be lost. We have to be careful when we take parts of an artistic work out of context and present it as a concrete fact. We have to be even more careful when our target audience is a group of primary school kids. -Same Anonymous from November 1

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    There are a lot of unsubstantiated assertions in your comments there. I don't have the time or inclination to address each of the assumptions you make.

    So rather, I thank-you for your interest in my blogpost - it certainly seems to have provoked some thought on your part.