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Guest Blogger: Náthalie Wiltinge

Náthalie Wiltinge is a Dutch international exchange student at UCMO, studying Public Relations for 1 semester.

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Social Justice through music

Nearly two weeks ago on the 22nd of October, Usher released his new song “Chains” featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly . With over one million views on YouTube, Usher and Nas decided not to just bring out a new song, but to address an important issue within this song, namely racial injustice. The song starts of with a short, but strong message: “While racial injustice keeps killing, society keeps looking away”.
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The music video of “Chains” centers around black lives lost due to police brutality, showing the victims full name, age, face and story on the screen as the song plays on the background. With the release of the song, Ushes and Nas demand society to stop ignoring the police brutality within America, to look up and face it. “We got a problem that needs some acknowledgement” is what Nas raps as gun shots sound in the background. On top of the strong lyrics and the video, Usher also released an interactive video on the website of Tidal. The site asks for your webcam permission to detect your eyes as you watch the video. The goal of this is to make people stop looking away, every time you look away from the screen or look on another tab, the music stops and the text “Don’t Look Away” shows up.

“In writing this song, I was motivated by the events involving prejudicial injustice that are still happening today. The reality is that racial bigotry diminishes the lives of too many people in our country. The pain and suffering that these victims and their families have endured is something we must never forget. When we look away from this problem it gets worse. To fix it, we have to face it. We have to come together as a country to solve these problems and this is one way I can contribute.”

~Usher

 

The lyrics together with the powerful message in the video left me speechless at first. I read every story, word for word, thinking how it even is possible for things like this to happen. One of the stories specially grabbed my attention, and it will probably sound familiar to fellow students of UCMO you as well… Michael Brown, 18 years old, Ferguson Missouri… As I read that name and see the place, chills run over my spine. And then suddenly it felt as if this issue is getting close to me too. Not because I know him personally, no, I didn’t know Michael or anyone close to him at all. But because it happened not very far from the place where I study, the place I live. A place where I feel safe, where it feels like these things can’t happen. Yet they do happen and reading it makes me get the chills. It kinda feels unreal, yet it is very real and happens too often.

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As someone from outside America, these forms of brutality are pretty much unknown to me, the police barely has to pull their gun. Our biggest fear in The Netherlands, no matter which color skin you have, is that our bicycle could be stolen, which results in buying a new one and that only hurts the wallet. Therefore news, or no, tragedies is a better word, as described in “Chains” just leaves me baffled, speechless, and above all, sad. No one should ever get killed over senseless violence while being unarmed, especially not by an entity who is supposed to protect civilians. Of course I am no where near a position to judge about the situations, I only read what others say about it and have to take their word for it, I wasn’t there, I don’t know these people. However I do know that these things are uncommon where I’m from. And no, I am not saying that my country is perfect, we also have our flaws just like anyone else in the world. But issues like these? They simple barely to never happen, and if they do happen, the officer in question gets put off duty until all the facts are on the table and justice is served when needed to whomever is responsible. For me that is enough to tell others to look up and put a stop to it. We can no longer close our eyes to these issues, and it doesn’t matter which skin color you or to whom this injustice happens too has. They won’t stop until people stop looking away. They won’t stop until people want to make a change. I believe Usher did a good job in creating awareness for this issue by using his music to send a powerful message to the world. A message that I believe should be listened too, looked at, thought about, and shared throughout the nation and even the world.

 

Here is the video, but if you want the full experience with all the eye detection stuff, go to https://chains.tidal.com/ and watch it there.

I hope it leaves you as speechless as it did to me. I hope it made you think about and realize the problem. Because that means the message came across and that we are one step closer towards change.

 

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