Columnists, Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Why China’s hip-hop ban matters to us

China recently banned hip-hop culture from television. That sentence didn’t originally make an impact on me in the slightest. Since China is notorious for censoring what its citizens can and cannot see, I was not that surprised. After first reading the details, this ban seemed pretty hysterical. However, after reading for a few more minutes, the disturbing nature of the decision set in, because I connected it to what is currently taking place in the American political landscape.

As a slight aside, I have definitely been positively affected by hip-hop culture in the United States. Rappers often express themselves and tell their personal struggles better than any other genre of music. Hip hop’s sound itself can be very raw. You can get an inside look into a person’s story and struggle in a three or four-minute song. The culture that comes with this genre has often been scrutinized as disrespectful and distasteful, but often times it is the opposite. The whole culture is an art that is not appreciated by enough people around the world because of the stigma that seems to follow it.

Not only is China banning hip-hop music, but it is also banning “actors with tattoos … hip hop culture, sub-culture and dispirited culture” I wonder what will happen to all of those American basketball players with full tattoo sleeves playing over in China. Above all, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT for short) is banning actors who aren’t aligned with the communist party which currently dominates China.

Essentially, what China is doing is further suppressing those who want to have a voice in their society. Americans praise China for its ability to have one of the stronger economies in the world, but often forget about the government suppression and censorship that goes on.

While I do not think this sort of thing could happen in America, conversations about what people can and cannot say have started to take place. Radical groups like antifa and white nationalist organizations claim that they should have a platform to say what they want to say, while others vehemently argue against them. Even though this is wildly different than the hip-hop ban, at the very root, a group of people is being silenced for sharing their thoughts and outlook on life.

John Stuart Mill often spoke about the disastrous impacts of silencing opposing opinions. When you silence an unpopular opinion, you take away the chance for other people to build up their own arguments against what their opponents are saying. You also ruin the opportunity to learn from the other side. A complete disregard for what someone else has to say will leave you in the dark as much as it will leave them in the dark. Imagine there are 100 people in a room, and 99 of them thought the earth was flat. Should we automatically discredit the one person who believes that the world is round just because they are severely outnumbered?

As a disclaimer, I don’t think that any group that preaches hate or calls for harm against another group should have an opinion that is broadcasted. But if we hear arguments that we disagree with, we will be better off. We can start to poke holes in their opinions and show them where they may be wrong. This can happen to our arguments as well. Maybe this is what the Chinese government should have done. I’m sure they could have learned some things.

At the base of this issue, I really think we need a more open dialogue with people that we disagree with. We need to stop automatically writing people off as bigots or babies because of the side of the political spectrum they fall on. We need to take a break from watching CNN and Fox News because news outlets like those only exacerbate the sensationalist news problem we face in America. We should always remember how lucky we are to be able to have these dialogues because people that live in places like China can’t even enjoy the type of music they can relate to.

Chinese hip-hop may have no impact on your life — it has no impact on mine. However, what was done to that culture should be alarming, and it should serve as a wake-up call that we are lucky to be able to express ourselves freely in music and in politics, without being reprimanded from our government.  

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