Monday, April 16, 2007

Preview Issue Polemic: Alison Ross

Pouffy-Headed Hick is Right

Don Imus has a point.

Now before you spew your libation all over the computer screen, of course I don’t think Imus was correct to insult the race, coiffures and sexual proclivities of the Rutgeur’s women’s basketball team.

But to his credit, Imus made a salient point about gangsta rappers and their disgusting denigration of women in their songs. A lot of gangsta rappers also promote violence and crassly materialistic values, and just generally represent their race in a shameful light.

Imus has been justly raked over the coals and subsequently fired for his remarks about “nappy headed hos.” For too long, the hardcore fascist right has been getting away with verbal murder, spreading thick slabs of dangerously divisive rhetoric across the airwaves, nihilistically impacting impressionable minds. It’s time that this trend is reversed, and the tenets of peaceful preaching predominate in broadcasting.

But while progressives are quick to point an outraged finger at the likes of Don Imus, they conveniently cower from the fact that gangsta rappers are just as pernicious, if not moreso, than right-wing hate-mongers.

For it’s rappers that speak directly to our teenagers. Teenagers don’t litsen to Don Imus, but they do listen to music - and many teens of all races listen to hardcore gangsta rap, and internalize its malevolent messages.

To be fair, there is nothing innately wrong with rap and hip-hop as musical genres. There are some decent socially conscious rap and hip-hop acts today (Common is one who comes to mind). And aggressive rap acts like Public Enemy, while not perfect, and misguidedly sexist in its own way, was at least a mostly positive political force in rap once upon a time. The group rapped about white racism and its insidious effects on black society, and also sang about self-generated problems in the black community. Public Enemy provided a mostly positive forum for black disenchantment. Ice-T did as well, to a lesser degree, although he too was plagued with some misguided notions.

Unfortunately, many of today’s current rappers, like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, took their cues from Public Enemy. But instead of converting the problems of the ghetto into affirmative messages for teens, like Public Enemy did, 50 Cent and Snoop choose the low road and glorify the problems of black community, caricaturing them in the most cynical way. Furthermore, such artists take disconcerting demonic glee in the misogynistic tirades that pepper their songs.

Gangsta rappers do nothing to advance the causes of black pride and progress, and everything to play into white racists’ hands. They essentially confirm for white racists what they think is true about black society, and in turn MAKE it true - whereas without such cynical posturing on the part of gangsta rappers, a truer, more unambiguous image of black culture could shine through.

Naturally, progressives of all races realize that the wicked stereotypes of black culture are untrue - and yet, gangsta rappers seem to take perverted pleasure in such stereotypes, and end up giving them their stamp of approval. It’s likely an unconcious approval, but that doesn’t make it less egregious.

Read these lyrics from Snoop Dogg’s to nail home Imus’ point:

When I met you last night baby
Before you opened up your gap
I had respect for ya lady
But now I take it all back
Cause you gave me all your pussy
And ya even licked my balls
Leave your number on the cabinet
And I promise baby, I'll give ya a call
Next time I'm feelin kinda horny
You can come on over, and I'll break you off
And if you can't fuck, that day, baby
Just lay back, and open your mouth
Cause I have never
met a girl
That I love
in the whole wide world

(“Ain’t No Fun (If Homies Can’t Have None)” )

Black teens, and teens in general, need uplifting role models. Why won’t Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, potential uplifting role models for black teens, call out rappers for representing their race in such a negaive light, just like they called out Don Imus for his hate speech? Is it because they are too entrenched with the gangsta rappers, who are merely puppets of Corporate America anyway? And if that's the case, then don’t they realize such sexist, opportunistic musicians bring shame to the black race, and mentally and morally maim black AND white youth, just like Don Imus brings shame to the white race, and morally and mentally maims impressionable listeners?

(Of course, we’re all the same HUMAN race - but since there are so many problems plaguing each individual race, sometimes it’s necessary to speak in starkly “black and white” terms.)

Now it’s true that gangsta rap does not exist in a vacuum - what started out as an incisive musical weapon against white racist rhetoric and actions and black apathy in the face of such racism has simply spun out of control. Record companies got hungry for the next big gangsta act - never mind the moral correctness of the messages. And ill-advised gangsta artists filled the void by twisting Public Enemy’s mostly good intentions into patently bad ones.

And, of course, the whole sorry mess can also be blamed on the continuing soci-economic crisis of black society, originally nurtured and sustained by white culture, and now sustained by a confluence of factors, not the least of which is persistent white racism.

The disproportionate numbers of black people who exist in poverty and homelessness, and the maltreatment of blacks by the government, as symbolized by the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, embody the continuing tragic struggles of black society.

Still, this does not exonerate the black community - or, rather, the community at large - from taking responsibility for the type of music that is allowed to flourish and be peddled to our teens. True, it wouldn’t help matters to outright ban gangsta rap or any other form of offensive music or art. But a national dialogue on such music and its harmful effects on young minds, plus a vociferous call to action, is imperative if we are to thrive as a community devoid of the corrosive racism and sexism that is only fomented by gangsta rap.

The Don Imuses of the broadscasting world should be cleaned from the airwaves, as media should represent an energized exchange of progressive ideas and values, not Segregation-style epithets.

But gangsta rappers should similarly be excoriated for pushing their form of hate speech - that against women - onto impressionable teens, and for helping to further the causes of white racism and black apathy.

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