Friday, April 25, 2008

Racism in America

Sean Bell's killer's were acquitted today.

Although I can't say that I'm really surprised, I have to admit that I actually hoped for something different this time. Now, understand, two the officers who were acquitted were black. But in the fight for justice, there always has been, and always will be blacks who play the role of the proverbial House Nigga.

These are the black folks who have obtained some measure of acceptance by dominant white culture and feel it's their duty and pleasure to protect these benevolent masters who have seen so much good/potential/intelligence in them, they have to treat them better than the rest of the oppressed.

It's as old as Denmark Vesey, who planned the largest slave revolt in American history, only to be ratted out a couple of weeks before it was realized by two slaves. And, it's as new as Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper--- the officers who are able to walk away with nothing more than a scarred conscience after killing an unarmed father and soon-to-be husband.

Police brutality is a very, very sore spot for me. I'm a woman and I've been repeatedly harassed by cops both in Denver and in Atlanta-- usually because of the kind of car that I drove (my '72 Polara, Big Dookie, was a "dope boy" car). But more than that, I have two brothers, one of which had a gun pulled on him by an overzealous cop at a routine traffic stop in Denver when he was only 16. .The cops later said that they pulled him over because he "looked too young to drive." My brother made the foolish mistake of reaching for his wallet, which had fell on the floor, when they asked him for his license. I just thank God that he didn't end up like Amadou Diallo, who met a much worse fate when he was shot 41 times for reaching for his wallet.

I'll tell ya'll one thing: It's time for action. Past time, really.

I've been thinking about racism in America for the past couple of months. My younger cousins, those under 18, will tell you that it doesn't really exist, that it's a thing of the past. They are the MTV generation, the group that grew up dating inter-racially, sharing pop culture, basking in the assimilation that even my generation (and I'm in my 20's) didn't enjoy. They claim to not understand this idea of systematic racism. They defend Lebron James when he poses on the cover of Vogue like a gorilla, saying that 1- racism wasn't part of his upbringing and 2- it's not that offensive.

Maybe I am too old, and thus removed from this new mix-mesh of races. I grew up in Denver, where Klan rallies took place in the dead of summer in public parks. I spent my childhood in rural Kansas, where white people routinely inched past my house, peering at me and my brothers while we played in our yard, as if we were monkeys in a zoo. I remember my brother, who was super excited to start school, being completely deflated after being called a nigger on his first day by some white kid. But hey, maybe a lot has changed in 10 years.

Or maybe, things are just being glossed over, and young black people are being fooled.

See, the keys to racism are superiority and ignorance. While white ignorance about black culture (and other non-white cultures) may not be as prevalent as it was, say 50, 40, even 10 years ago, the superiority-- that carefully bred righteousness that has defined American (and European whites) for centuries has not died. Look at the democratic race-- Clinton is a "liberal" yet the idea that she would lose to a black man, is simply unacceptable. Even in this case, do you really think these black officers would have walked if they had barraged an unarmed white man with 50 bullets?

This superiority doesn't even have to be consciously taught to young white kids any more. It's ingrained in them from the moment they first open their eyes and glance at the TV screen which is dominated by whites, watch children's programming where black kids and other minorities are still a minority, attend their first Sunday School service where they pray to a blue-eyed Jesus, step into their first classroom and read about an American history where blacks were nothing more than domicile slaves and later great athletes while whites and Europeans were scholars, conquerors and explorers... and the examples go on and on.

So, when I consider the reality, I don't think that I'm out of touch concerning racism in this country, or that I'm holding on to a negative past. We're still living its effects to this day economically, politically and ultimately socially-- no matter how integrated the younger generation seems to be.

My concern, is, with this ingrained, bred superiority that white folks have-- where does that leave us? Will these young black kids who don't think race is that big of a deal, or believe that injustices have moved beyond race (many of which will point to the Sean Bell case as an example) grimace at the idea that black history is important? Will they p0ur over the books by authors/scholars like Asa Hilliard, , bell hooks, etc. that they were not given in History 101 to find out more?

Or will they think that they know enough-- or worse, that the idea of seeking to know more about their culture is somehow enforcing separatism?

Guess we'll find out sooner rather than later.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It It Me (Part 8)

Is it me or... Does anyone else wish someone would pelt Hilary Clinton's ass with an ink pen the next time she's giving a speech?
Really white lady. Sit your conservative -in-disguise ass down, dude. Actually, she really isn't even hiding any more, is she? But like, seriously, is it really that hard for you to succumb to a black man? This is not 1808... or is it??

My prediction: Hilary "wins" the nomination circa Bush in '00, Obama supporters don't turn out to vote for her ass and McCain gets in. Let's hope I'm wrong.

Is it me or... Does anyone else realize that the hipster shit is dead? I've been saying it since it started really growing legs in Atlanta a couple years ago. Then, I said it again. But this S.O.U.L. Purpose diss, "Lesson A" which as far as I can tell is fairly random, pretty much confirms the sentiments of the masses. Shit is lame.

What really takes the cake is that it's wholly unoriginal. As many, many folks have already pointed out, 3 Stacks was on this back in 1998. That's 10 years ago. The other problem with it is, it's fake. If you ask me, it's all part of this Notice Me! at all costs mentality my generation and the generation behind me is plugged into. Everyone wants to be seen, and that includes the very people who claim to be so disillusioned with the mainstream exhibitionist. In their so-called attempts to go against the grain, they actually end up conforming...And conforming to ugly, dumb shit, I might add. Like dude, it would be one thing if the music that was coming out of this scene was just super dope. But by and large it sounds regurgitated, and, well, wack. Which leads me to my next point...

Is it me or... is anyone else STILL not feeling this 80s shit? Again, I've said this before, but ya'll ain't listen. And look what's happened. Think about it, the emergence of the 80s, with all of it's cocaine, crack and Reagonomics was the beginning of the decline in music. Musicianship died and folks started picking up Casios instead of actual instruments, making way for that generic ass synth sound that too many people are overusing again. People stopped talking about actual issues... and started making simplified music that purposely steered away from anything that might cause folks to turn away from the newfound, overindulgent tendecies America at large started adopting.

We went from real vocalists, to "singers" who could barely hold a note, but now had the technology to manipulate their vocals after they left the booth. Videos got popular and the artist's physical attributes started outweighing their actual talent.

Dude, we went from Curtis Mayfield to Al. B Sure. From Minnie Ripperton to Paul Abdoul. From Earth, Wind & Fire to Milli Vanilli. You do the math.

Is it me or... is anyone else as disappointed in the Western Conference playoffs as I am? I mean, there have been some good games. The Utah-Houston series has been quite entertaining, even though as Encyclopeezia Brown points out, T-Mac is cursed. Poor thing. But damn, what is up with the Suns? And can we please fire George Karl immediately? I got all happy and whipped out all my Nuggets gear, thinking, heck we were only like 5 games behind the Lakers-- we can beat these dudes, even with our sorry defense. Eh... I'll be back to watching Sex & the City.

Is it me or... Is anyone else down to riot over these $3.66 gas prices? When it takes over $40 to fill up my freakin' DODGE NEON (actually I'm just guessing since my tank hasn't come close to being full since around February) you know it's time to throw some rocks, light a match...make some magic marker signs and protest, something.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wake Up! (My Constant Battle)

I've said it before, and I will say it again and again, as long as it's relevant. What is up with female rappers?

Who told them that they either have to whores or lesbians to get on the mic? It's giving us all a bad name. I googled "female rappers" and this is the first image that popped up.

Now, I'm speaking generally here. I'm a female. I am not a whore. I am not a lesbian. I rap. But going to various shows, poking around online, and from my own knowledge of history-- I'm kinda an anomaly. And not the cool kind, like NeYo in the Matrix. Think about the female emcees that you know who were not using either sex as a weapon (or as validation) or who are not gay. Having a hard time, huh? The list, sadly, is very short.

If you look at female rappers as a microcosm of black women, the same way that often Hip Hop is looked at as a reflection of the young black experience, the implications are even worse. That's why I can't allow myself to do that. The alternative implication is just as depressing to me as a music lover, because it suggests that the average woman doesn't really involve herself in Hip Hop. And if Hip Hop is a culture and the tell-tale vehicle for the young black experience, or this agent of freedom and expression, and women are not really becomes warped, one-sided and eventually, untruthful.

Ask the average, thinking female who her favorite rapper is right now and I'll bet my red sport Neon that she says, Common and/or Lil Wayne (sometimes in reverse order). Common because after he appeared on Oprah he magically, instantly, moved out of the underground realm and into the forefront of what many critics and casual observers believe Hip Hop "should" be. This is all almost 15 years after he started his career, but who's counting?
Common is a safe bet. He's good looking, doesn't degrade women, but doesn't come off as overly soft of gay himself. Most guys think he's dope, so he's validated that way, and he's in movies now, so that doesn't hurt either. He's commercial but authentic. Kind of like Mos Def (which is why white people love him), but I digress.

Lil Wayne is a favorite because he's force fed to mainstream radio, tv and magazines--this of course, came after dudes gave him the final ok when the Carter dropped. Wayne expresses a certain vulnerability that women, no matter how silly it seems, are always attracted to. He's renegade sexy, but clearly still has some issues/problems, that most women are itching to "solve." Plus, he publicly dates women and then doesn't bash them when the relationship is finished like 50. He's always searching for a good woman-- and that directly goes against the "homies over hoes" motto that pervaded mainstream rap for years. Wayne makes women feel wanted by him for more than only sex (and yes, I'm aware of, and have seen, his lovely "P-ssy" song performed live). I'm just giving you what the perception is. He's the guy that you know is a good dude and has a "good heart," but just can't seem to meet the right woman to fully bring that side out of him... making him an ideal fantasy man. It's complicated, I know.

I said all that to say that, women for the past 12 years or so, have been excluded in many ways from Hip Hop and the two artists that I mentioned above have done a decent job of making them feel involved. Now, I got into a discussion with one of my boys who does marketing for a major. He suggested that women don't go out of their way to find rap music that speaks to them, and that it's therefore their fault that they say there isn't any good, non-degrading music to listen to. I disagree. As a woman, why would you go out of your way to find "good" Hip Hop, when the genre (meaning the folks who operate it) has done everything in it's power to isolate you from it? From the misogyny-- and that includes subtle misogyny-- to the utter male domination (including engineers, executives, rappers, writers, editors, producers, etc.), what incentive does the average woman have to go searching for this hidden treasure of "good" Hip Hop? Especially when she can turn her head a little to left and find soul/R&B artists like Raphael Saadiq, Van Hunt, Anthony Hamilton, Trey Songz, Mario, Usher, Maxwell and whoever else who have no problem making her a musical priority? She has none.

Which brings us back to the initial point- with the bulk of women completely shut out of, or disinterested in Hip Hop, what remains are an influx of female emcees who are either badly scarred and searching from a man's validation through their sexuality and women who feel connected to Hip Hop because in some ways, due to it's own against-the-grain nature, rap music embraces their non-conformist identity. So what happens to the few of us who either neither searching for a man's validation and don't love Hip Hop mostly because it soothes our dissent from mainstream? I'll tell you what-- We're told that no one "gets" us. Or, we're told that we don't exist.

And this is my constant battle.