When All Else Fails, Blame Black People

I could not give two shits about the Imus thing, even on a bean and bran filled day, but sweet Jesus, the idiocy floating around our fair internet about this is staggering.

Over at Blue Coller Republican, Austin Farley says:

How many millions have the “Urban” Rappers made while using the same terms and far worse? Why is it when an old, white dude says one silly thing the Sharptons of the world blow it out and then the fellow gets suspended? We do not have the freedom of speech in this country. We are free to speak what others like to hear, but nothing more. How is it that blacks can talk about whitey enslaving them, beating them down and much more, but nothing is said?

(Yes, I know, I KNOW.  But let me take it: Mr. Farley, black people can talk about whitey enslaving them and beating them down because white people did those things. White folks enslaved black people and, for fun, regularly knock the shit out of them and kill them.  Less frequently now than in the past, but the past was not that long ago.)

Jay Bush sounds a similar theme:

However, what’s most interesting about the Imus incident is that the allegedly racist terminology he used (“nappy-headed hos”) doesn’t have it’s roots in white culture. Terms like pimpin, hos, ghetto and nappy-heads are regularly heard in hip-hop music and black comedy. Hip-hop especially is heavily marketed to a white audience, in fact it’s been written that as much as 80% of rap music is purchased by whites. Given this reality, is anyone surprised that some white people have adopted the language and mirror the image of popular rappers?

(Yep, again, I KNOW!  Bush, please, Imus is not a rap fan and you and I both know it.)

I mean, when fucking Kleinheider has the most reasoned post on the whole thing (‘reasoned’ being in the context of what folks on the right are saying), we’ve clearly entered the Land that Brains Forgot.

So, let me spell it out for you.  First, rap artists don’t use those terms in an uncontested fashion.  Black women are not running around cheering about how every time they turn on the radio or television there’s someone’s brother or cousin or friend or lover or husband–a person they ought to be able to count on to really understand them and what they’re going through–calling women ‘bitches’ and ‘hos.’

Pam Spaulding, a black woman at a prominent blog, talks about that today.  Shoot, the women at Spelman were pissed off about this very thing back in ’04.

The problem is not that black folks are just sitting back quietly accepting whatever vomits forth from the record industry; the problem is that most white people don’t have the thoughts and opinions of their black peers even on their radar.  I doubt they even know how to find out what regular black people are thinking and saying about things.

And why would they?  Because as much as they grouch about Sharpton and Jackson, Sharpton and Jackson are on their TV screens spouting out opinions.  Most white people don’t have to do any work to discover what’s on the minds of Sharpton or Jackson, whereas hearing from actual black people who can’t get on cable takes a little more effort.  Far better to triangulate from the appearances of black folks on the news, ESPN, and BET what’s going on in the black community.

Never mind that that’s a little like watching CMT in order to figure out what white Nashvillians think about life.

So, yes, point one–blaming black people for not speaking out against the misogyny in rap when you don’t actually know if black people are speaking out against the misogyny in rap is a bullshit move and you should be embarrassed.

Point two: it is wrong to call someone a “nappy-headed ho.”  Period.  It’s wrong to use trait closely associated with someone’s race in a disparaging manner.  It’s wrong to say that a woman sells herself in a degrading fashion as an insult.

Both of those things are wrong.  They don’t become less wrong just because you can find examples of other people using those words.

Really.  You really want to argue that it’s okay for Imus to hate black women because some black men hate black women?  That’s your big moral stand?  If some black men can hate and degrade black women, it’s not fair that some white man can’t hate and degrade black women?

Need I remind you that no one should be hating or degrading black women?

Again, Sweet Jesus.  I can’t believe that has to actually be articulated.  It’s wrong to hate and degrade black women.  Period.  Regardless of who else is doing it.  It doesn’t matter if every man in the country and most of the women were to degrade and hate on black women.

It would still be wrong.

It is seriously gross to hear grown ass folks who seem to be able to think and write coherent thoughts excusing the hatred and degradation of anyone.

And, just to top it all off, there’s a level of white-loathing in this whole discussion that I find disturbing.  “Boo hoo, a lot of white people buy rap music and we’re too idiotic, even though we’re grown-ups, to not repeat what we hear.  Boo hoo.  Poor us. If only those black men with their seductive music would stop brainwashing me into opening my wallet and buying it and listening to it, then I wouldn’t have to use those words that I know, if I said them to my mom, would cause her to cry or slap me.  Woe is me!”

Nevermind that this whole “but rappers say it!” is bullshit and we all know it, because Imus is not some huge rap fan.

Even if it were possible for, say, the Three 6 Mafia to brainwash him (“Inside peanut butter, outside jelly”–who does not want a car like that?), Imus would actually have to listen to them for that to happen.

And he doesn’t.


52 thoughts on “When All Else Fails, Blame Black People

  1. huh? I’m not following you…or at least I don’t think I am. I posted on this today, and my viewpoint on it is that what Imus said is wrong. I don’t think he deserves to be fired, but that’s not really even relevant to your post here. However, the harm that the misogyny and self-racism that is being spewed in rap and hip-hop is much more harmful (imo) to “society” as a whole than anything some dried up, old, shock jock with 1/10 of the audience. I don’t hear an outcry from the media IN GENERAL on this–not like I’ve heard for the last two days.

    Do you not agree with this?

  2. Re. Imus: I Do Not Give One Asscheek from an underfed rat. The guy irritates me. Always has. I had one drunk asshole of a redneck uncle and have no desire to hear his schtick on the radio for fun.

    Re. The White Outcry about the racism of rap: Jesse Jackson started this line of thinking back in November when he and Maxine Waters went on their questlet to ban the word “N—-r” in all forms of entertainment.

    I think a bit of that has stuck in the public’s subconscious and is fueling their fire on this, because they see it as a hewing to the previous archetype:

    Semi-famous semi-funny White Guy makes racist remark in public venue. Black Leader calls for punishment and restitution of and from SFSFWG. SfSFWG apologises, takes career hit. [Black Leader calls for sweeping change from within all communities with regard race attitude and language.]

    It’s that last part that everyone’s jumping forward to. Will Sharpton follow Jackson’s lead with regard to internal cultural pressure?

    I doubt he will because it was not well-received when Jackson and Waters tried it in November. I’m betting Sharpton learned from their PR gaffe. But the drumbeats are calling for it anyway, pro forma.

  3. Ginger, I’m convinced that this story has as much traction as it does because of the one story the media seems unable to resist, which is, of course, the story of how much the media sucks. Seriously, the only thing they seem to love more than dead white girls is navel-gazing at how terrible the media is.

    That’s why this has gotten as much hand-wringing traction as it has–as well as what Coble says about there being a pattern for these stories now, when Imus’s earlier comments passed by with little notice–because the media loves to talk about how much they suck.

    That’s why I’m not really interested in talking about Imus.

    I’m more interested in talking about how quick to pass judgment some folks on the right are when it comes to rap music and its reception in our communities.

  4. ah! I gotcha.

    Ok, to take a comedic pause, it CRACKS me up that you are all down with knowing who Three 6 Mafia is (I have no idea), and that you know these lyrics: “Inside peanut butter, outside jelly”–who does not want a car like that?

    I am so not with it.

  5. I could not give two shits about the Imus thing, even on a bean and bran filled day, but sweet Jesus, the idiocy floating around our fair internet about this is staggering.

    You make me laugh, lady.

  6. oh! They are the ones who beat Dolly Parton out of an Oscar for “Travelin’ Through” from TransAmerica. Yeah, I’m with it! lol

  7. Well, if you’re gonna be brainwashed by rap, at least have the common decency to be brainwashed by Tupac. Damn.

    “My only friend is my misery/wantin revenge for the agony they did to me/see my life ain’t promised but it’ll sure get better/hope you understand my love letter/to my unborn child”

    Some of my fave lines to any song, ever.

  8. and…
    Dolly Parton: No Oscar
    Bee Gees: No Oscar (for Saturday Night Fever…a movie soundtrack that defined an entire era)

    Not that I’m biased or anything. :)

  9. I love your take on it, Aunt B…. and tried to articulate it fuzzily to my mom earlier tonight.

    My sister is one of those Spelman women. She called home to say that she was at a lecture of some sort, and that they talked about the incident and handed out lyrics of some songs with specific reference to “Spelman hos.” The thrust of it was rather closely aligned with the media kerfluffle (“how can you be offended by this when you listen to this all the time?”), but different in that important, latter bit. It’s not a call for people to drop their offense just because someone else got to say something offensive once; I my toe doesn’t hurt any less after you stepped on it just because you point out that other people occasionally step on my toes too. It is, instead, a call for introspection, and perhaps an examining of where things stand within the relevant community.

    That is not to say that out-groups shouldn’t have a say. Of course it’s important to talk about how much the media sucks, or what the relationship between things white shock jocks say and the famewhoring ways of certain members of the black media elite. Those things are important to examine. But the people who listen to rap and who also find themselves offended would do well to examine why this is so, and possibly to make different/better/more informed choices about their consumption. And the people who think things like this are okay to say should be called on it and given reason to understand why other people think this is not okay.

    I can’t help but notice, however, just how much the outrage at the outrage rests on some sort of assumption that black people are a monolithic group. “But rappers say it” is, as you point out Aunt B., only relevant if we lay full claim to all rappers (is that a tribe of black people? Is there a long-standing family The Rappers, and they’re just breeding like mad?), and if they are not being challenged for their use of words and concepts. Even if you say “but black people say it,” it’s the same issue; that only works if you assume we’re a hive mind of some sort, and incapable of self-reflection. I’d call a black man on it if he said it in my presence.

    Grrr. Tired. Must.. try… to sleep…

  10. In Atlanta’s paper and radio, there have been several black folks, who have echoed the statements NOT on Sharpton’s side:

    1. The black community is not a monolithic group and Sharpton does not speak for ‘us’.
    2. Rap says that and much worse.
    3. Who cares what some unknown old white guy says. Lets focus on real race issues.

    As I pointed out at NIT, Al Sharpton should be the LAST person to go to for apologies. His record includes:
    Falsely accusing someone of RAPE and KIDNAPPING, for which he has never apologized.
    Fueling a riot that resulted in a young man being killed.
    Inciting a riot that resulted in arson and murder.

  11. I watch Imus most mornings. What he said was stupid and appalling. To somehow excuse his statement because black kids use bad words in rap is nonsensical. To criticize black folks for talking about slavery is only appropriate in bizarro world.

    I can say this though. Imus IS a big rap fan. He’s pretty good friends with Sugh (sp?) Knight and had him on the show several times before his ‘unfortunate prison sentence).

    Imus gets to suffer the consequences, which may be more than just a two-week hiatus.

    I do understand that black culture is largely ignored in the media beyond sports and entertainment, and obviously Sharpton has figured out that the media is too lazy to actually attempt to understand black culture. The result: Sharpton: spokesperson for the black man, and the go-to guy when a white person slips up with some stupid racial slur. I find that fact rather depressing.

  12. John, I agree. And bless Imus’s heart, but you can see that even in his approach to this whole thing. He insults the Rutgers basketball team and his first instinct is to apologize to Sharpton? What the fuck?

    If I insulted you and went and apologized to some white minister before you, people would rightly see that as weird.

    I hate to say it, but Kleinheider has this little part right. Imus owes an apology to those women and to the people at his work and possibly his friends for embarrassing them. Taking time from that to apologize to Sharpton makes him look like he really doesn’t understand that he was talking about actual people who could actually get hurt feelings and to whom he owed an actual apology.

    And seriously, Sharpton should have said, “Don’t be apologizing to me, go apologize to the women at Rutgers,” if Sharpton really was about justice.

    But I think he and Jackson are, at this point, just stock news characters, the same way the angry pundit is or the shrill blonde seeking justice for other dead blondes.

  13. Pingback: The myth of the American Black monolith, or, even though it doesn't exist, Al Sharpton gets anointed anyway.. « Salem’s Lots

  14. Aunt B, I agree with you…he should (and I think he will) be apologizing to the team, his employer, and his listeners…I think he has. (I have only heard a few soundbites.) Not to Sharpton.

    I still don’t understand what the negative is of comparing what he said to how black women are completely trashed by the Rap and Hip-Hop community? Isn’t it a good thing that some are actually talking about this, because it not only points to the racism of Imus, but also the problem with the overt message of that genre of music?

    I’m trying to understand. I really am.

    I guess I just don’t “get it”.

  15. There’s a difference between black women saying “we have been complaining about black men calling black women whores for years but no one pays any attention until a prominent white man also does so on national television” and saying “Imus isn’t saying anything that black men haven’t been saying for years, so what’s the big deal?” that I think is pretty clear.

  16. Indeed…but I’m not saying that it’s right that black women are only now, because of this event, being heard.

    Not what I’m saying at all.

    I’m saying there should have been an outcry all along. One that is getting this much media attention.

    Aren’t we on the same page?

  17. Ginger, no, that’s okay. Sometimes when points (like this one) seem completely obvious to the pointer-outer (me, in this case), the pointer-outer can skip over a few steps, assuming everyone else also sees those steps. And, if you don’t, it can make it very confusing to see how I ended up here.

    So, here are the givens that I didn’t articulate:

    1. There is still a way that, in our society, something is not really a problem until white people notice it.

    2. Because we don’t consider problems really real or really well-dealt with until white people notice them, we often overlook the hard work that black people do to fix their own problems.

    3. This really sucks for black people because it means that huge corporations can afford to ignore their concerns, because those concerns don’t matter until white people notice. (Take rap, for instance. If the numbers we saw tossed around yesterday are true, 80% of the audience for rap is white. That means that every single African American person could stop buying rap music tomorrow in protest of the treatment of black women and it wouldn’t matter that much. The vast majority of the rap audience would still be there.)

    Which leads me aside to 3a. just for a second, because what’s being overlooked here in all these arguments about how “well, black men call black women hos in rap music” is that black men call black women bitches and hos in order to sell music to white folks. Do you see what I’m getting at? Rap music, as it is now, is controlled by enormous record companies and is shaped to present a message that sells to its audience–the message its audience, who are primarily white folks, want to hear, the message they’re buying is about how much black women suck. For white folks to act as if they’ve had no role in shaping the message of popular rap music–as if the problem is just how black men disrespect black women–and then act as if it’s those black men’s fault for saying those words…

    Well, it’s not so easy. Black men are saying things that they know white people are the audience for and the fact that those things are vile tells us something about the kinds of messages white audiences will accept about black women.

    So, in summary, it seems to me that a lot of white people want to blame all black people for what’s in rap music, as if black people haven’t been doing anything to try to clean up rap. When, really, black people have been doing a lot to try to solve this problem, but they’ve been met with limited success because they a.) don’t have access to the mainstream media and cannot access the general public consciousness the way that some black “leaders” can and 2.) they aren’t the primary audience for rap music and so record conglomerates have little incentive to appease them.

    Again, popular rap music is deliberately targeted to a white audience, presenting a version of black life that white people are apparently eager to hear songs about (and it’s important to note that an important facet is that the artist can never reveal that he knows his audience is white. White people want to feel like they’re getting some unmitigated view of black life and so the artist, in order to further that illusion, must act like he believes his audience is entirely black).

    So, obviously, I’m not black, so I can’t speak for black folks, but it seems to me that why black people are so irritated about this is that they have been complaining all along–they just can’t get heard–and that, in order to get heard, they have to get white people to take up their cause, when it’s white people in the first place who are creating a demand for this kind of music and yet white people don’t want to take responsibility for creating that demand.

    That’s what makes me so mad about the whole “well, black people use that kind of language in their music” argument, because it leaves off the important second part “so that their largely white audience will continue to buy their records.” And I think it looks like we want to help solve a problem in the black community (rap music), when, really, it’s a problem the white community has–that we love it when black people degrade themselves for our entertainment.

    That’s why, I think, our outrage over rap music is always going to seem disingenuous. The problem wasn’t really what Imus said so much as that he accidentally let on that those kinds of ideas about black women are not just a problem in the black community, but in the American community in general.

    We could “fix” rap music, but that’s really not a solution. Somehow you have to change the minds of rap’s audience, 80% of whom are white, about what’s an acceptable message about black women to put in your mind. “Fixing” rap music would just change the message (briefly, I imagine); it wouldn’t change the audience for that message.

  18. I loved Bamboozled! I also knew who 3 Six Mafia were before it was cool. Local Memphis group. Of course, I have my cousins to thank for that.

  19. Not to bring up the point I brought up earlier, but back in November two black people (Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters) DID try to “fix” the message in rap music. They were basically shouted down by comers from all sides–each with legitimate points about free speech, culture and totalitarianism. So it’s clearly not as if some in the black community haven’t been already having this dialogue.

  20. Should anyone defend what Imus said? Of course not. Should anyone defend his right to say it? Absolutely. It was a stupid thing to say, but who among us would be safe if stupidity were prohibited? Turn your radio off if you don’t like what’s on it. If it’s something you feel especially stongly about, use the market: complain to his sponsors and threaten to boycott their products. But if today we get away with demanding that Don Imus be silenced simply because we don’t like what he says, what happens tomorrow when someone doesn’t like what we say? As I said on Sarcastro’s site, the only legitimate question here is: should he be allowed to say something offensive on the public airwaves? As someone who works in radio I can tell you from experience that whatever you say on the air, however benign and controversy-free you may think it is, somebody somewhere will be pissed off and will probably call to complain. Any opinion you offer (oftentimes even a simple statement of fact) will generate outrage from somebody. Shut one person up and you have to shut everyone up. Personally I find Pat Robertson’s statements far more offensive that anything Don Imus will ever say, but I don’t scream for him to be pulled off the air. Prohibiting hate speech does nothing to eliminate hate. Banning racial epithets will not make racism go away.

    I for one love turning on the radio or TV and hearing people I disagree with. It’s hard to argue with people if you haven’t heard what they’re saying. Rave on, nutjobs, rave on!

  21. I was going to respond to Ginger, but I got completely derailed by this:

    Prohibiting hate speech does nothing to eliminate hate. Banning racial epithets will not make racism go away.

    No, it won’t make it go away, but it damn sure helps. If we have a system that says outright: “this isn’t cool,” then even if the hardcore bigots aren’t going to get it, some people will change their behavior just because they’re afraid of getting in trouble. Some people will get it, if for no other reason then “hey, if people are upset enough about it to make this much of a fuss, maybe I’m missing something.” And the kids that grow up with fewer examples of this hateful stuff will be less likely to perpetuate it. It’s not an immediate solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    An inability to control all aspects of the situation is no excuse not to work on the ones you do have access to. If you’ve got a wedgie in your shorts and a rock in your shoe, but you can’t take off your shoes right now, you can damn sure go to a corner and fix your pants. If you’ve got a deep wound and you’re bleeding to death, but you aren’t near a hospital, you can still bandage up the wound and do your best to keep the bleeding under control.

    There will always be things that you can’t get to, and it’s important to realize the limits of whatever you’re advocating. So yes, believing that this measure or that is going to magically make people not be hateful is dumb. But believing that because we can’t change the crazies means we should just sit back is equally dumb. Some things are Not Okay, and we need to affirm their Not Okay nature.

    This isn’t just disagreement. And while I agree that it’s also prevalent and not as bad as other things people have said, that doesn’t make it suddenly okay. If he wanted to start a conversation about rap, he could have gone and done that. But he didn’t; he said something racist and mysoginistic, and thought he could get away with it, then floundered about making it worse. There was nothing okay about what started it. Nothing. That it has created conversations about racial epithets, or allowed criticism of rap to move to the mainstream, or that he isn’t as bad as some other guys… all of that is just silver lining. That doesn’t change the fact that what he said was not okay.

    That’s more than disagreement. Disagreement would have been any of the resulting conversations. Disagreement would have been if he’d said that the Rutgers team was the best team in all America, or if he’d said that he thought that women shouldn’t play basketball. Just insulting people is not disagreement, and it does not deserve to be accorded that respect. Insults and slurs do not further conversation; if anything, they stifle it in direct use. This was not okay, and it was not (directly) useful.

    Yes, there’s all sorts of criticism to be leveled about the way people reacted and what happened after that and ‘well why can’t he do it?” But none of that changes the fact that the initial thing was Not Okay, and that neither he nor any other person should get away with that shit.

  22. B., thanks for giving more insight on your viewpoint here. It is amazing that the white audience for rap would be 80%. Further, that black producers and artists would put aside their standards just to appease their record label executives. Isn’t that saying that they have bowed to the Almight Dollar at the expense of dogging black women?

    Just sayin’…

  23. The scariest thing about this whole topic is that its the mainstream media that is allowing this kind of behavior in the first place. According to them, the market rules. Imus, Rush, Coulter, Beck and a host of others are being paid to spout this sort of hateful rhetoric because it sells. There is a segment of our population that buys it because it reaffirms their own bigoted attitudes. Thats pandering to the lowest denominator in our society and its the going trend. Its the ultimate backlash to the Political Correctness of the past. Maglinoquence is right in that there should be an uproar about it, IT SHOULD NEVER BE CONSIDERED OK. And it should never be excused (or the offense be subverted in some way) because someone else did it first.

  24. Hoo, deep breath. It’s funny… I wasn’t all that offended by the initial thing, because, well… what everyone said. Other people have done it before and it wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before and why this guy. And, you know, my whole history with hair has taught me that people are nothing if not ignorant on that front.

    But it bugs the hell out of me when people suddenly start saying it’s okay for those reasons, or that we shouldn’t examine it. It’s the same tactic people use to avoid discussions of sexual harassment (“So what? Other women get raped. He was just trying to be nice! Besides, it’s nothing new. That happens all the time. You should just get over it.”), transphobia (“So what? People get beat up all the time. Nobody knew he was really a woman! Besides, it’s nothing new. That happens all the time. You should just get over it.”), and just about anything you can think of under the sun. If the person in question isn’t raping and murdering you Right This Second, and spitting on your corpse while pissing on the religious iconography of your choice, it’s not so bad. Other people have it worse. People have been doing awful things to each other forever. They probably weren’t trying to hurt you. It’s nothing anyone hasn’t seen before.

    And that ties into my thoughts on your question, Ginger.

    Aunt B, I agree with you…he should (and I think he will) be apologizing to the team, his employer, and his listeners…I think he has. (I have only heard a few soundbites.) Not to Sharpton.

    I still don’t understand what the negative is of comparing what he said to how black women are completely trashed by the Rap and Hip-Hop community? Isn’t it a good thing that some are actually talking about this, because it not only points to the racism of Imus, but also the problem with the overt message of that genre of music?

    I’m trying to understand. I really am.

    I guess I just don’t “get it”.

    The negative there is manifold. First, Imus isn’t a rapper. Comparing what a pundit/shock jock/talking head says in their official capacity as whoever to what a rapper/artist/singer/performer says in a song is pretty different. Art doesn’t get a pass just because it’s art, but it’s qualitatively different than ordinary commentary or politics or what have you.

    Second, and probably most importantly… it’s diverting the issue. It’s like if someone went into our Pretty Pretty Princess thread and started making that all about men. Or how the dynamic we’re talking about oppresses men too. Or how women’s oppression is really all our fault, and that men had nothing to do with any of it. It’s a smokescreen for avoiding the fact that the guy said something unacceptable.

    Sure, it’s a useful smokescreen. It’s a conversation that should be happening on a wider stage. But it’s a smokescreen nonetheless. It draws attention and responsibility away from the person who perpetrated the specific bad act in question, and onto people who have, under different circumstances, perpetuated similar bad acts. It’s like trying to excuse a criminal because other people have committed similar (or worse) crimes, and he saw it on TV. Without serious mental illness or extenuating circumstances in place, Aunt B’s assertion that he’s an adult and in control of what he does still stands.

    Third, it’s problematic because it draws a weird connection between insulting black women and rap. Black women are insulted all the time in rap, it’s true. But the jump from “white man saying bad things about black women” to “rap insults black women too” is being made really awkwardly. In the quotes Aunt B. uses, and a lot of the commentary going on, it’s painted as “well, it’s black culture, what do you expect?” Not “that’s a trope common to rap” or “there are misogynist themes in certain strains of popular music, which have led to the prevalence of certain types of words in colloquial speech,” but “black women get insulted all the time in black culture, so why should they be upset when a white man does it?” That’s not cool. It’s not right, either… as has been pointed out many times in the thread, black people aren’t a monolith, and a lot of people have been criticizing this particular issue for ages. That it isn’t highly publicized is unfortunate, but doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

    Fourth, as I pointed out in my earlier comment, the fact that these conversations are not otherwise happening, and as Aunt B. points out at least now some of these issues are being aired… those things are useful, but their usefulness is tangential to the point. The negative of talking about how good it is that we’re finally talking about it is that it ignores the framework that’s in place that made the conversation happen when and how it did. People are going from “he said something wrong but at least we got something good out of it” to “hooray! it’s so nice someone finally said something about this. I’m grateful to Imus for starting this conversation.”

    (None of these things are specific to you, of course, Ginger. I don’t think you’re cheering him on at the least. I’m just trying to explain why it’s still such a problem for some of us. It’s great that some of this came to the surface, and yeah, it’s kind of annoying that it’s happened the way it did… but we need to be really careful about how we contextualize the conversations we’re having.)

  25. … black men
    call black women bitches and hos in order to sell music to white
    folks. Do you see what I’m getting at?



    I owe you a steak dinner for that comment. It’s black people degrading one another and themselves for white people’s entertainment. Holy SHIT. Sorry to be a dipshit whitey here for a second, but I’m REALLY glad you made that comment, cuz I needed to read it. Wow.

  26. What was that bit about alter ego you said those many months ago?

    I guess I gotta come back to this when I’m not working . . .

  27. The whole culture that vindicates and romanticizes the “Hustle and Flow” lifestyle is an America I don’t want to be a part of. I know that was a throw-away line in this post, but I am just so sickened be the degradation that that movie made mainstreamly (wow, ok, so not a word, but I am v sick) acceptable. I have been ranting about this for a while now, but basically, how I see it is that the whole “pimp” culture devalues women (of every color) to the point where there can’t even be any debate about the devaluation because the conversation is so removed from the place most people are (whatever their color or sex).

    Anyway, time for more tea and maybe bed for me.

  28. I’m just randomly tossing in responses as I recall the ones that set off bells:

    I don’t agree that rap artists consciously create music for consumption by White people. I’m sure there are a few who realize where there support comes from and may well cater their content to that audience, however most don’t. MCs are given a set of beats to choose from and most come into the studio and scribble out some lyrics on the spot. I don’t think Jeezy expects that most White listeners will understand when he gives a shout out to one of the most notorious crack dealing families in the US, or know to whom he refers. A lot of these guys are just “coming off the head” and the language they choose and the subjects they choose come from a place they’re familiar with or at least fantasies in their head they’re familiar with.

    I do think that if Black people stopped listening to rap music, then so would about 60% of the White fans, most of whom use Black youth culture as a reference group. Would rap lose its sheen as the Voice of the Disaffected, it would lose it’s cachet. In that thought, and in some of the responses to this thread, there’s the old saw of the overestimation of rap music’s stature as being the voice of “the streets.” Rap began and has endured as mostly background music for parties. Gladly artists have expanded the boundaries of the music and have used it as a protest music, but mostly it’s for fun. All during the “golden age” when PE and Tribe etc were making records, the best sellers were Hammer and LL Cool J.

    I’m talking about this @ dorknation, I’ll be repetetive here. There has been conflict within the African American community over the lyrics in rap for years, predating whatever it was that Jesse Jackson said weeks ago. Y’all can google the late C. Delores Tucker (Tupac fans will know who she was immediately) to see. There’s been conflict between me and my mom since she first figured out there was foul language on a Prince record. The elders in the community have nearly always had a problem with rap music even when it was relatively tame. The more its popularity grew, the more consternation we witnessed over the content.

    Sharpton Sharpton Sharpton. Imus went to him because of the audience he reaches. Though his apology was made on his show, it wasn’t really made “to” Sharpton. It’s why Trent Lott went to BET. Imus could have gone elsewhere, like on the Tom Joyner show, however going to Sharpton carries a different kind of weight.

    maybe more maybe later.

  29. Wow. Do you really credit rap artists with less self awareness than the American Idol contestants? Sure, the underground or relatively low-level artists may compose without thought to their audiences, or with a very small audience in mind, but do you really think P.Diddy doesn’t know who buys his records? Anyone who’s ever gotten a recording deal, gotten played on the radio, looked at their sales data, or been on TV knows exactly who and what they’re playing for.

    What’s the difference between a “naughty” song with the words bleeped out on the radio and one that doesn’t get played at all? How it matches up with the sensibilities of the listening audience.

    Art is art, and a composer can compose for themselves alone, but what you’re leaving out of this is the fact that these people are also businesspeople. They, or their managers, craft their images, target their sales, advertise their work, get gigs, and otherwise interface with the public. In order to survive, in order to continue putting out music that will get heard, pimped on iTunes, played on the radio, talked about on TRL, in order to do any of that, they need to know who is listening. To do otherwise would not be good business.

    Do you think they never perform in public? Do you think they’re all blind? If you find yourself performing at Wango Tango, you are sure as hell going to notice that your audience is highly white. I went in 2000, and it was just like going back to junior high; a sea of white faces with the occasional Brown or Black one thrown in for good measure. The station that hosts it is the poppiest of pop channels, and tittilated by the idea of these big broody rappers coming to play. I know not every rapper performs at that venue, or ones like it… but they’d have to be fools not to be able to look down from the stage and see it themselves.

  30. I’ll see what I can do, Kat. It’ll probably be tomorrow, asit’s aout time for me to be doing the leaving-the-office dance.

    The main thing about it is the articulation. Colorblindness, as it is best formulated, is actually pretty admirable. I have no doubt that’s how you’re using it. The desire not to judge people on qualities that aren’t relevant to the discussion and all that.

    But in practice, it often means “I pretend everybody is white like me.” And while that’s an admirable (or at least moderately comforting) sentiment from an armed Skinhead/neo-Nazi, (I have some church camp stories to relate, at some point), it bugs the shit out of me because that’s not the point. The point isn’t erasing all the ways I’m different just so the other person doesn’t have to think. The point is reading those differences right, as things irrelevant to the question of whether or not to hire me or give me a loan.

    Would you like it if someone said “I pretend everyone is a man like me,” and then proceeded to hold you to masculine gender presentation, mock you for wearing a skirt or talking softly, desegregate all the bathrooms, and use “he” as the pronoun for you?

    Again, I know there are more charitable ways of constructing it, but I have never met any of those people. The people I have met (by and large everyone not in the humanities at my old school…), and the things I have read online have all been very much in this vein. They draw heavily on the unquestioned acceptance of white, middle class America as unmarked (and therefore absent color, as if white isn’t a race), and the default to which we should all be held.

    It lends itself scarily well to the logic that talking about race at all, especially in context with power or oppression or the behavior of the colorblind peron themselves, is racist in and of itself. After all, they never mentioned race, so you must be making it all about race, you racist. It lends itself to reductionism, stating that only color is involved in race. Like I didn’t have a history. Like I don’t have a culture. “I don’t see race” makes what you can see the only thing that’s important. And when someone tries to point out, say, that people of a certain race are being disenfranchised, the retort is that we are reading it wrong; if the college doesn’t take stats on its admissions, but then the mix drops from solid numbers to less than 100 black students in a class of hundreds, then it can’t possibly be race, because race wasn’t a factor. It lends itself to the argument that gathering data on racism is racist.

    I’ll find the links and whatnot for ya later, but that’s the short version.

  31. “Really. You really want to argue that it’s okay for Imus to hate black women because some black men hate black women? That’s your big moral stand? If some black men can hate and degrade black women, it’s not fair that some white man can’t hate and degrade black women?

    Need I remind you that no one should be hating or degrading black women?”


    Scott, what would happen to us if someone didn’t like what we were saying…um. nothing. Hey, we could get fired from our radio shows, except there aren’t any radio shows with our voices and our messages. The “public airwaves” only extend to a small slice of the public. And yes, I like to hear what the other side is up to, but here in America I get a few other chances besides their 99% monopoly over all forms of media. Anybody in any other job who made comments like these at work would get bounced, and indeed most of us have little job security and can be bouned for anything or nothing. the world isn’t going to end if one old white guy is forced to find a new studio (which he will) to spread racism over the public airwaves. There is no free speech issue here. Nobody’s suggesting her be jailed, and that’s what the First Amendment covers. He can say whatever he wants, but there’s no “Unlimited Lifetime Guarantee of Employment For Racist Men But no One Else in America.”

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  33. Amen to your post. Well, as far as his job, the gig’s up. CBS caved. Otherwise, he’s never going to change. Lively discussion. Not much more I can say.


  34. Pingback: Say what? Colorblind, Part II. « Feline Formal Shorts

  35. Mark & Mag, I really wanted to figure out how to bring this around to what Bertrand says about black masculinities, too, the skill it takes to make something positive (or at least something you can live with) out of the negative expectations society has for you. If you can’t get a straight job, then you brag about the sketchy things you do to get by. If you can’t support a family, because you can’t get a straight job, then you brag about all the women whose beds you climb into.

    Because, I think, there’s an incredibly strong sense of that in rap–to put a shine on shit, so to speak.

    I don’t know, exactly, how that fits in, but I just wanted to mention it, that there’s a tendency to glorify what you otherwise could not live with.

  36. Ooh, that is a good point, Aunt B. I think that can be both consciously and unconsciously constructed – that you can be aware that things suck and want to make light of it, or be unaware of just how much things suck and bragging about the only things you know to brag about.

    I guess I should have included that in my comment, too. That while I don’t believe that rappers don’t know where their money is coming from, I can certainly believe that the world as it is now is such that many-if-not-most of them feel like their “real” audience is the black audience, or that “real” rap is thuggish, gangsta stuff. It can be consciously constructed – this is what I can do and this is what sells, so I’ll do that – and it can be unconsciously constructed – this is what the thing I can do is supposed to sound/look/feel like, so I’ll do that – as well as being both a mirror and a paintbrush for one’s actual life and circumstances.

    And, more generally for the entire thread: read this.

  37. I’d like to add that apparently the team has been receiving a shitstorm of hate mail because they didn’t like being called names on national radio.

  38. Aunt B wrote: “So, here are the givens that I didn’t articulate”

    Excellent words! I think you’ve spelled out one of the major disconnects in this discussion.

    I want to add one other thing: Imus is our problem if we are white people living in America. He is a part of white culture as am I and we need to deal with this issue now, not later.

    Diverting that discussion about what we white people can do about racism and sexism in our community into a critique of a tiny portion of sexist black culture is first, not our job, and second, a diversionary tactic to avoid what we must do to make life better for all of us.

    Scott Smith wrote: ” the only legitimate question here is: should he be allowed to say something offensive on the public airwaves?”

    You seem to have missed something major here. Imus is allowed to say any offensive thing he wants on the public airwaves. He was not hauled off to prison. He wasn’t even fined by the FCC. The First Amendment is about government powers and no government agency has censored him, nor will they.

    Imus suffered because a whole lot of people who hated his words chose to fight through the marketplace and they won. Imus lost.

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  40. Here’s the thing about this “we rap about reality” thing; some rappers who use this aren’t really from “the hood.” Ice Cube and Lil John come from middle class homes in bourgesoise neighborhoods, for example. I think what they mean is they’re telling stories based on things they’ve seen or been told. Oh, I think Cube got into some shenanigans as a kid and might have been pinched a time or two, still he’s not from the same place Biggie came from.

    When I was writing about the Souls of Mischief show I was listening to that record (the band put out a classic “backpacker” record in 93) and reflected about how often they tossed about the b-word, etc. They were considered, and still are, one of the more positive groups.

    Put these two observations together. There’s a great deal of the mysogyny in rap music that’s just posturing. Swagger, as the kids say, is something that people point to as what makes a rap artist good (be it hipster critics or fans). If you’re more discerning, or started listening to the music before Tupac and Biggie, you may see a more complex view of what makes “swagger,” though it seems the generally accepted definition is “hyper masculine” or “larger than life.” I suppose one way of appearing to be larger than something else is to make sure you speak of that other thing as being very small.



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