Hedreich Nichols

Play That Funky Music

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SmallBites Friday Five (songs) 11-12-21:

Use this week to learn about microinsults found in songs. Here are five you might use to spark reflection. It should be noted, unless you have older students and a group accustomed to discussing controversial topics, these are not necessarily G rated lyrics or themes. Please review them before using them in any academic setting. The songs are listed in order from least to most school appropriate.

Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones

In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry

Illegal Alien by Genesis

Kung Foo Fighting by Carl Douglas

Mexico by James Taylor

Oohhh That’s My Jam

When I look at the above songs, each of them is attached to a memory from my youth. I think about how innocently I rocked out to each of them. Now, I listen and I think, what would it be like if I rocked out in a class with my students of Mexican and Asian descent? What if I taught my girls about sending “no noodles” and then played In the Summertime. Would they pick up on the subtle threat to girls from poor backgrounds? WOuld they still find me credible if they did?

Am I saying that all these artists are cringeworthy and to be cancelled? No, absolutely not. While some lyrics, for me, cross a line, others are more parody than mean spirited. Still, how would a Mexican student in a mostly White school feel if “Mexico” or “Illegal Alien” were played? Or imagine a lone White student in band having to hear “Play that funky music White boy” as his walk on song when he entered the band hall?

Everyone Does Not Feel the Same

Students may not all be offended and I don’t think burning albums is the solution. However, taking a closer look at what we read, watch and listen to will provide us with opportunities to learn. Are lyrics misogynistic? Are racist stereotypes portrayed through the songs or videos?

Once again, before you throw the records on the fire: I am not advocating that the artists be vilified. I am simply saying that cultural awareness is called for. I have danced to Brown Sugar, and while I cringe now, it simply shows that we can all learn and grow.

As you grow and make different choices, use the graphic below to identify the consequences of little unintended slights.