[Cripes! How did I miss that my second blogiversary is coming up of Sept. 13. To commemorate and celebrate, I'll be periodically pulling my favorite old posts "from the vault." The following first appeared on Sept. 20, 2007.]
I studied closely last week as America debated the merits of hip hop. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce hosted a day-long, three-panel hearing entitled “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images.” Black Entertainment Television aired a three-part discussion dubbed “Hip Hop vs. America.” Then Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, self-proclaimed “hip hop intellectual” and a key figure in both the Congressional hearing and the BET program, appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and once again held forth on the issue. For those of you who missed the debate, here is what I learned:
- Black male rappers are suffering from the psychic scars of racism and can’t possibly be asked to self-censor sexist, violent and materialistic messages in their music and videos, or to consider how those messages impact women and youth in their communities.
- Sliding a credit card down the crack of a woman’s ass is nothing to be ashamed of.
- America is sexist, racist and materialistic. Therefore hip hop cannot be blamed for adopting these anti-values, turning them up to 11, and projecting them back to the masses. Personal responsibility? What!?
- Don’t be offended by all those “bitches” and “hos” heard in hip hop, unless you are one of the aforementioned “bitches” and “hos.”
- The end justifies the means in hip hop—the end being the fame and fortune of certain hip hop artists. There is no shame in doing anything if you’re getting paid.
- That many black women are not supportive of sexist and misogynistic portrayals in hip hop is just another example of “what is wrong with black women.”
- Portraying Booty Dancer #2 is a valuable career opportunity.
Okay, in all seriousness, here is what the week really confirmed for me: It’s time for a revolution led by black women. We have historically been the victims of both racism and sexism, and though we have participated in and benefited from both the civil rights and feminist movements, neither completely addressed the unique challenges black women face at the bottom of America’s caste system. Maybe it’s time we did it for ourselves, because no one is riding to our rescue. We face virulent sexism in our own communities and our own black men are complicit with major record labels and broadcasting companies in distributing degrading, dehumanizing stereotypes of black women all over the world. It’s got to stop.
Now, as Tracy Chapman once said, “talkin’ about a revolution sounds like a whisper.” So I, and you, need to do more than just talk. But what?
First, we need to communicate to the masses what we want. If you were writing The Black Woman’s Manifesto, what would is say? Let me hear from you and look for a draft manifesto in a future blog post.
In the meantime, listen to Bridget Gray’s “Letter to Hip Hop.” I discovered Gray on What About Our Daughters and since have bought both of her recordings from CD Baby. This is a true poet.