Tuesday, April 24, 2007
With the recent Don Imus controversey continuing to make angry splashes in the media, an unlikely spokesperson has arisen: Cam'ron. Former radio shockjock Imus has placed the blame for his "nappy headed hoes" comment on hip-hop, and everybody from Oparah to Hillary to Timberland has been caught up in the fray. (Oprah devoted two shows to discussing "What's Wrong With Hip-Hop?" [[I'd say -- Oprah]], while Hilary has recently taken heat for teaming up with rapper Timberland at a fundraising benefit). But lurking just along the fringes has been Cam'ron, who's made some high profile appearances on the Bill O'Reily show and with Anderson Cooper.
Cam'ron is that dude who bluntly and unapologetically shares the secrets of Black America to folks who underestimate the intelligence of high profile Black rappers. In a recent instance with Anderson Cooper, he said he didn't trust the police. When asked what he would do if he lived next door to a serial killer, homeboy calmly replied "I'd move." In my opinion, this shit is hilarious, 'cause I know if I'd probably do the same thing. Cooper and the rest of the uppity liberal racists of America have put their own anti-Black spin on it, accusing rap music of creating a distrust of the police and letting criminals escape unpuninished. Sorry Anderson, but you're wrong. Blame white supremacy.
It's a well established fact in the Black community that the police are not to be trusted. Their very job description--to protect and serve the people and wealth of the nation -- is at odds with the working class Black experience, expressed most vehemently by rappers from the 'hood. For hundreds of years Black communities have been overlty terrorized and subtley held at the whim of racist and sexual (to name just two) domination.
What bothers me most about this entire discussion is that no one -- Imus, Cooper or mainstream media (hell, even Oprah..) is willing to put this into historical context. It's almost as if all racist and sexist commentary was born in the South Bronx, 'round 1974, between a bboy battle and block party. Black rappers didn't invent derogatory language aimed at Black women. They use it primarily because it sells, part and parcel with the hypermasculine and overtly sexual Black rapper. Black women have been the targets of racist and sexist domination by white men for as long as this country has existed. Yes, criticism does need to go toward these rappers (even though in Imus' case, there is no specific rapper or song, just a phantom album and vague definition of "culture"). But blame needs to be placed in the hands of --well, everyone. We all live in this racist and sexist society, and as long as this culture of domination exists, we all need to take blame for it. Some are obviously more guilty than others, just by mere fact of their refusing to 1) acknowledge the ills of our society, and 2) become proactive in dismantling them. Yet it's problematic to me that the Black community and the hip-hop community are the only ones being challenged to take a deep moment of introspection and critical evaluation. Black and other disenfranchised communities are well aware that this society is fucked up, and yes, we're fucked up as a result. Black women don't need to be told that hip-hop is sexist. America is sexist. Don Imus didn't suddenly learn to call Black women "nappy headed hoes" because his old, white goofy lookin' ass picked up a "Hot Boyz" album from his local record shop. He learned from his father, and his father's father, and a society that has defined his success and priviedlge in direct opposition to the historical racist and sexist domination of Black women. Homie needs to get it together. And get a haircut. And pick up some tweezers to get at them eyebrows.
Anyway, I've digressed. Sort of. Here's a clip of Cam'ron and Damon Dash on the O'Reily Factor. When I first heard about this, I cringed, but I've got to admit that Cam'Ron and Dame Dash held down the fort mightly well. It's worth the watch:
* And the hip-hop community has responded in other ways, including responses from Davey D, Bakari Kitwana, Jeff Chang and Dave Zirin and a story published in today's New York Times.
...but what about notable Black women's voices? Maybe I'm not reading closely enough, does anyone have any references to Black women who've responded critically to the Imus situation?