Miseducation of the Thug in Pop Culture strikes down stereotypes

Karsceal Turner I Got NEXT!

Dr. Vincent Adejumo
Dr. Vincent Adejumo

It is safe to say that Dr. Vincent Adejumo shares a common disgust with the negative perceptions of Black people in today’s society. The difference here is Adejumo, 28, is in a position to effect the change he wishes to see.  The Tampa native currently teaches three courses to include: Black Masculinity, Intro to African American studies, and a course based on the HBO show “The Wire”.   

In early September, the graduate of Florida State University, who is now is employed as a full-time lecturer for the African American Studies program at University of Florida gave a presentation entitled “The Miseducation of the Thug in Pop Culture” at the Institute of Black Culture, located on the university’s campus in Gainesville.

As a projected slide flashed reference books from his personal collection of extensive reading and research served as a backdrop for his presentation. Adejumo (which is a common surname of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria), delves deep in to the misconception.  At least this man knows his name. I dare ask the readers of this column if they can truly say the same? Anyway, moving right along.

One slide depicted Dylann Roof, (who is accused of gunning down nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.).  As the lecturer gave his insight, that particular slide evoked a great deal of emotion in the venue, which was filled to capacity.

Adejumo said the reasoning for the lecture was sparked by President Obama’s use of the term thug and the media’s use of the term in which both entities used it to describe black bodies. “The lecture started as a section in the black masculinity course that I teach at UF and the students wanted a rendition of it to kick off the Think Tank lecture series for the institute of black culture at UF,” he said.

Adejumo pondered why the president used the word “Thugs” to describe those protestors who were upset at Freddie Gray’s death? The scholar of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity further asked why the same questions are not posed when Hockey fans who commit the same disruptions after their team wins the Stanley Cup are not seen in the same light.

Early Influences abound

Adejumo said his interest in African American studies was sparked by his attendance at Middleton High School, a predominately black high school in East Tampa. “My counselor Kathy Wiggins who is an AKA, constantly talked about the importance of learning the history of our people and putting that knowledge into action. My parents also played in a role in my interest as well, often connecting politics of the day and what it meant for blacks,” he said.

Perception is key

“I feel the lecture was effective in reaching those who may have been familiar with the term “Thug” but not familiar with its history. I’ve had people from all walks of life from traditional students at UF of all ethnicities and races to those who were much older and from the Gainesville community approach me and express that the lecture enlightened them as to the perception of African American men in every day life, popular culture, media, and politics and how that perception contributes to the situations that we see today such as police brutality, caricatures in music and film, and pawns for political actors at all levels,” he stressed.

Adejumo also stresses education of self at an early age.  “I think the best method starts from education. I believe it starts with educating the youth at an early age about their African American heritage, not just in the month of February but consistently throughout the year. Once the youth get a sense of who they are from this education they will be able to dispel the notion of thug not only in pop culture and politics, but also in everyday interaction with the larger white dominated society,” he said.

Adejumo believes the biggest hindrance in dispelling stereotypes are those black folks who are complicit in those stereotypes in pop culture, in social media, in politics.

“I say this because, when we share things on social media, or rap things without conscious, or portray caricatures of blackness, or use black bodies as political football, it tends to confirm the stereotype to the larger white hegemonic society and thus enables them to create the laws, the images, and the lyrics that reinforce their belief that blacks are inherently criminal,” he added.

Melanated people Know Thyself

What we must do individually is to first start think of ourselves as an African American nation. From there we need to support our institutions that were built for us, by us such as HBCU’s, philanthropic outreach at black churches, volunteering, buying at black owned and operated businesses, supporting positive black film, and positive music. Also, supporting positive black media, whether social or traditional,” he continued.

“As I mentioned in the lecture, African Americans will have a buying power of 1.4 trillion by 2019. Unfortunately, not much of that 1.4 trillion is being spent in black owned businesses and institutions. If we make the commitment to do so, then that increases our power because those black owned businesses and institutions are able to expand and give another brother a JOB that directly benefits the  community. That is the base of POWER! not twitter hashtags and mentions, but BLACKANOMICS and its what Malcolm X and Garvey were trying to tell us back then and warn against integrating our with white institutions instead of keeping those dollars in black institutions and making them strong for  a children to patronize and work at in the future,” Adejumo said.

Adejumo will be a speaker in the upcoming, 14th Annual James E. Scott Black Student Leadership Conference at the University of Florida, November 12-14.  “We will be discussing careers in African American studies after graduation”, he concluded.

View the entire lecture at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW5l5K9DYdE&feature=youtu.be



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