The fastest way stereotypes propagate is through media. Books, TV, radio, internet, and, of course, films. If in every single Hollywood movie, black people are portrayed as gang members, thieves, and murderers, there is a high chance this image will get stuck in our minds.
Famous people, like actors, musicians, politicians, etc. also play an important role in shaping the public perception of things. We tend to listen more to them than to anybody else, we consume their opinions everyday. Most of them however are no “experts” in what they talk about, they usually lack deep knowledge in subjects that go beyond their professions.
However, they are the contemporary oracles.
In the case of artists, when these opinions translate into their creations, things become even more dangerous.
This is a bit of old news, but more than a year ago, there was an episode involving the famous musical band Red Hot Chili Peppers.
I think it was in 2011 than two of the members of the band traveled to Ethiopia as part of project called Africa Express. The idea was to make musical connections between Western musicians of different backgrounds and African musicians.
Apparently they went to the city of Harar and “got lost”:
”I got lost in a city called Harar. One day we got the bus and I got off the bus, walked down this little street, turned around and the bus was gone! I was lost. I walked around this little town for about an hour. No one speaks English and it’s kind of crazy. I started getting scared. People were coming up to me and speaking to me but I didn’t understand. Then one guy came up to me and he started speaking in broken English. He found my friends and helped me. So when I came home, I told that story to Anthony and he wrote that song. It’s very special to me. ” (Flea, of the band Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Luckily this “frightening” episode became the inspiration for the song "Ethiopia” and he didn’t risk his life in vain…
They are either ignorant, or under the influence of some drug; or both.
Or maybe they truly believed the stereotype that blacks are “savages” that eat white people all the time. Congratulations Flea, you just helped propagating a stereotype and left behind a song so future generations will never forget it!
People who has traveled to Ethiopia and specially to the city of Harar know that this is not a particularly dangerous place. Ethiopians sometimes can be annoying to white tourists but you hardly feel threatened. And if you ask for help, even if they don’t speak English they will try to help you.
Of course there is danger, like in every city on Earth, but I can bet than Harar is far less dangerous than certain neighborhoods of New York city, Madrid, Manila or Buenos Aires. And I’m sure they noticed that but probably, to add some spice to their story of how they became inspired to write a song, they had to say that they were “scared”, “lost”, and surrounded by a bunch of black people who didn’t speak English.
Since when one has to speak English to be considered civilized? Other common phrase I also hate: “broken English” and the need to emphasize it. I bet they don’t even speak “broken Amharic”, or any other language for that matter.
I was never a fan of the RHCP, but now, even less…