Sunday, December 18, 2016

Controversy and Censorship: Meet the Flockers, Part One

Greetings. Some time ago, I decided to blog more. Alas! The last few weeks other life obligations have gotten in the way, but here's another try.

Recently on facebook, one of my Chinese friends posted an angry post concerning a controversial hip-hop song called "Meet the Flockers," outrage over the song among the Chinese American community, and  a petition to the White House to ban the son, as well as the official White House response to the petition, a response that led to further frustration among many of those who had signed the petition as the White House, citing the first amendment's freedom of speech provisions, declined to ban the song. Hear I give the background to the controversy and the song. Next time I shall describe the response.

Having a background in censorship issues and being a former contributor to the 1990s publication, Gauntlet, a publication that dealt with censorship issues in a balanced and interesting way, such issues fascinate me. Let's begin with some of the issues surrounding this controversy a bit first.

If you'd like more information on the controversy, sources include this NBC news story -  

The song, "Meet the Flockers," discusses how to break into a house and rob it, setting out a plan in detail in the first verse. Here's the lyrics. 

First, you find a house and scope it out
Find a Chinese neighborhood, cause they don't believe in bank accounts
Second, you find a crew and a driver, someone ring the doorbell
And someone that ain't scared to do what it do
Third, you pull up at the spotPark, watch, ring the doorbell and knock
Four, make sure nobody is home
They gone, okay it's on
Don't be scared, nigga, you're in now
If the police come you gonna find out who your friends now
That ain't them talking, that's your mind playing tricks on you
You're conscious cause you know you got nines with two clips on you
But fuck that, motherfuck that plasma
And fuck that laptop, go and get that jewelry box
You tryna get paid?
Go take that jewelry box to the Slauson they'll give you cash back

It's easy to see how such a song could cause a controversy. But of particular controversy was the line "Find a Chinese neighborhood, cause they don't believe in bank accounts." Although there actually is some truth to the idea that many Asians keep larger quantities of cash and valuables in their house than some other ethnic groups, the specific targeting of Chinese and Chinese Americans did provoke outrage among those groups, at least once they became aware of the song two years after it was released. ( For those interested, in my book, Tongs, Gangs, and Triads --Chinese Crime Groups in North America I do discuss this briefly. Although not all Chinese do this it is particularly common among groups that come from countries where the banks are not as insured as here, or among those with refugee experiences who had to grab their valuables and flee such as many of the Chinese of southeast Asia. )

The controversy around the song was made worse following a shooting in Gwinnet County Georgia USA when a 36 year old woman named Chen Fengzhu shot three African-Americans in her residence after they had entered with the intent of robbing them. Chen and her husband had closed circuit cameras inside their house and the incident was filmed. After authorities in Georgia made the film public in the hopes of catching the surviving intruders it went viral and became quite popular viewing in China apparently.

Not surprisingly the incident got media coverage, both in the USA and China.

For one source of information on the shooting and controversy,  see 
Next time, the reaction to the song from the Chinese-American community, the response from the US government, and a discussions of legalities and the first amendment issues surrounding the song

This is part one of Two.

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