Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bridging the Generational Divide with Common Sense

In “The Miseducation of Hip-Hop – Discrimination in Education”, Jamilah Evelyn takes another swing at the lengthy debate over the lengths an education institute should go to reach the students. Here, Evelyn focuses on the unique perspectives of Jason Hinmon, a 22-year-old student, and that of Dr. Thomas Earl Midgette, a 50-year-old Director of the Institute for the Study of Minority Issues at NC Central University. Both offer the perspectives of two very different age groups that need to come to terms with the generational divide that is hindering the process of imparting upper level education from one generation. Though it is true Hinmon has a right to individuality, it is an unrealistic position to insist that society conform to your identity needs, claim racial bias through stereotype and cling to an entitlement mentality that fosters resentments on both sides of the issue.
Hinmon’s need for individuality is causing him to expect society to conform to better meet his needs. The information presented by Evelyn presents Hinmon as ‘Dark-hued, dreadlocked and, well, young’ (Evelyn, 2008, p. 559). This very well could be how Mr. Hinmon wishes to present himself to society, but it just isn’t realistic to expect society to get over the negative preconceptions associated with his look. The Hip-Hop genre seems to go to great lengths to promote a thug and gangster life-style, and has successfully marketed this mindset to the masses. This look presented by Hinmon is purposefully done, as he was not born looking that way and is no different than possible misconceptions directed toward a large white male in biker clothing and tattoos. If an individual wishes to project the look of a perceived criminal, then it is ridiculous to demand that the public think otherwise.
Hinmon alleges that racism is at work fueling the misconceptions that are holding him back. He stated ‘my professors didn’t know how to deal with me’ (Evelyn, 2008, p. 559) and was backed up by Evelyn’s statement referencing his ‘mostly white professors’ (Evelyn, 2008, p. 559). This is rebutted by Midgette, a black professor, who goes as far as relating the student’s dress to that of ‘hoochie mommas’ (Evelyn, 2008, p. 559). The problem is that dressing up in Hip-Hop fashion is neither acceptable for school or places of employment. There is no right to higher education, just as there is no right to a job. If Hinmon wishes to be taken seriously, he should focus on professional attire while either at a job or being groomed for professional life at college. This is not a race issue at all, as cultural constraints dictate appropriate dress patterns. There are negative vibes attached to clothing that is culturally significant to many different races, but that does not make it ok to wear these in a professional setting.
The entitlement mentality of the upcoming generation is fostering resentment for both the individual expressing their identity through clothing and those they wish to interact. Generally speaking, no one wishes for confrontation or to be seen in a negative light. It is actually a selfish position to expect special treatment for identity or any other reason. Hinmon states ‘They…thought that I was some hip-hop hoodlum’ (Evelyn, 2008, p.559), but doesn’t consider that while he is at school, he is interacting with these people at their jobs. Hinmon’s perception is that all are against him, but doesn’t consider the lack of respect he is showing these people that are simply trying to do their jobs. Couldn’t it be argued that Hinmon’s lack of reverence for the school actually cheapens every student’s degree? Midgette said it best when stating ‘I learned to dress a certain way if I was negotiating the higher education maze’ (Evelyn, 2008, p. 559). Midgette has direct experience relating to cultural and identity differences with what is established as professional and correct attire in certain situations.
Hinmon’s search for individuality does not imply the right to force an education system to adjust social standards to placate his perceived offense against his identity negating the claim of racial bias or resentments formed. Hinmon’s account of being conscientious about his looks reveals that he already knows what the solution to the problems he faces. There are no rules preventing Hinmon from dressing however he wishes, but in life there are consequences for every action taken. This is true for both positive and negative actions. Midgette has developed credibility by studying the cultural problems faced by individuals such as Hinmon, and relates that he too had very similar experiences. In the right setting, there is nothing wrong with how Hinmon presents himself, but there should be no expectation that everyone will accept that in every situation.


Evelyn, J. & Gray-Rosendale, L (2008). “The Bias of Language, The Bias of Pictures” Pop Perspectives: Readings to Contemporary Culture E. Barrose (Ed.).  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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