Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who Can Say What, When, and Why

The latest bad joke going around deals with the recent death of Hawaiian entertainer Don Ho - it seems most broadcasters are afraid to mention his death on the air because of what happened to Don Imus.

As one of my co-workers is fond of saying, that joke is like a clown on fire: it's kinda funny, but kinda sad. Let's talk for a minute about why it's sad.

If the Don Imus imbroglio has clearly demonstrated anything, it's that what you are allowed to say depends upon who you are. If you are not black, you are absolutely forbidden from using language of any kind that can be - however remotely - described as "racist." On the other hand, if you are black - and particularly if you are a rap "artist" - you have carte blanche to use the most foul and insulting language to refer to women and Caucasians while you hide behind the protective wall of artistic license and revenge for real and imagined past oppression.

But that may change.

Even an irresponsible and self-promoting racist like Al Sharpton is finally turning his righteous indignation against the entertainment industry (although he doesn't seem quite ready to specifically single out the thug and gangsta rap subculture): "We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women," he fulminates. "We must deal with the fact that ho and the b-word are words that are wrong from anybody's lips."

You will note that he spoke of the denigration of women, and not of the denigration of people, of whatever color, on the basis of race.

There are those who defend the rap and hip-hop culture, describing rap lyrics as "reflections of the violent, drug-plagued, hopeless environments that many rappers come from." These people claim, according to a recent CNN report, that critics of the rap culture "should improve their reality."

Indeed.

Consider this scholarly, erudite comment by rapper Calvin Broadus (who goes by "Snoop Dogg") to MTV.com: "(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing --- that's trying to get a n***** for his money."

It's very clear that some people are allowed to say things that others are not.

We won't get anywhere until we start working on an atmosphere of mutual respect. Respect, of course, can't be demanded - it has to be earned. And I have yet to hear any rap "artist" I think is worthy of the respect he's unwilling to give.

When the message is that it's more important to rub everyone's faces in past injustice than to work hard to improve the present, you can be sure that you are listening to either a rap "artist" or a radical Muslim cleric.

And the world would be much better off without both.

Have a good day. Earn respect by giving it. You may find it enjoyable.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Or at least no living rap artist...
I think in its early days rap did reflect one version of reality and now reality reflects rap. Crazy. I can't agree enough on your thoughts about respect.