“Yeezy, Yeezy, Yeezy just jumped over Jumpman!” exclaims the notorious, self-proclaimed King of Pop, Mr. Kanye West in a recent single, “Facts.” Within the song, Kanye chronicles his experience with corporate America, his struggle with intellectual property and fallout with Nike, and his newfound success with Adidas, which has propelled him over the jumpman, Michael Jordan. The moral of Kanye’s “Facts” is that he simply cannot be bought or halted by corporations and Mr. West is by far one of the only hip-hop artists who has taken deliberate actions toward denouncing corporate control over artists.
Unlike Kanye, many artists and athletes alike who receive endorsements are less prone to speak out on controversial topics or against corporate control due to the fear of financial loss from their respective sponsors. Hence, as Kanye so vividly articulates, one can see that endorsements and sponsorship can coerce artists and athletes into acting “politically correct.” Nevertheless, Kanye West’s “Facts” is a track that not only criticizes corporations, but any form of authoritative control. As a college student, particularly a student of color, I have found myself in coercive situations with an authoritarian professor on numerous occasions, that have always ended in me being silenced.
Junior year, as I sat in my Industrial Engineering 202 class, I found myself shocked at what my professor had said before the class. “If you don’t bring a calculator to your exam, I will chase you out of here like a lynch mob,” noted my professor. Within the class of 50 students I glanced over at the one other Black student, who I found looking back at me in awe. Her facial expression let me know: Yes, that just happened. She and I talked briefly after the class ended and we agreed that what we heard was completely unacceptable, but there was just one catch. The teacher distributed our grades.
As a result, we collectively decided not to address the teacher’s actions because we felt it could negatively impact our class evaluation and ultimately our letter grades. Moreover, we were not sure if two Black students complaining about a tenured Caucasian professor would be heard by anyone and taken seriously. Hence, we were ultimately silenced and coerced out of fear. Given how often students of color are the minority in classroom settings I would imagine that this happens far too often. If you were ever wondering what a microaggression is, here is your example. Microaggressions are real. They are unacceptable. They are coercive. And those “Facts” are facts only.