Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Must Use Hip Hop as a Means of Liberation, Not Degradation!

“If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” Carter G. Woodson

As reported in the Grio, rapper Too Short created a storm of controversy when he offered the following advice to boys:
"When you get to late middle school, early high school and you start feeling a certain way about the girls... I'm gonna tell you a couple tricks," Too Short said in the video. "A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls... We're going way past that. I'm taking you to the hole."

Then, the 45-year-old rapper, whose real name is Todd Anthony Shaw, asks women off camera to "cover their ears" to avoid being offended. Short then describes a scenario in graphic detail. "You push her up against the wall," he continued. "You take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens."
In response to the controversy, XXL and Too Short issued some lame apologies. Unfortunately, apologies are not good enough. 

This situation is emblematic of a larger problem. During Too Short's hay day, his brand of hip hop was at the fringes of the culture. It was one of many voices in the hip hop community. Around that time there were plenty of positive alternative mainstream artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, etc.

Today, that is not true. Now, Too Short's brand of rap music is more acceptable.  Misogyny, crack dealing and murder are constantly glamorized in today's so-called hip hop.  The art can be summed up in four words: money, drugs, sex and violence.  Mainstream popular hip hop degrades and objectifies black women. Instead of respecting women as equals, women are reduced to scantily stage props to be used and abused. Instead being respected black women as sisters, mothers and wives, many black male rap artists routinely call them bitches, hoes, chicken heads, etc. Common hip hop expressions and slogans include misogynistic phrases such as "Gs up hoes down, bros before hoes, we don't love them hoes, money over bitches and treat her like a dog." By disrespecting our women, we are disrespecting ourselves and destroying our family structure. The destruction of the family structure perpetuates the destruction of the black community.

Although we do not control the corporations that project these negative images, no one is forcing these black male artists to degrade black women.  No one is forcing us to buy this crap.  In the words of Carter G. Woodson, the oppressor no longer has to be concerned about our behavior because our thinking has been controlled. Many of us have internalized and accepted an inferior status. Today, the white man is not disrespecting our women. We gladly do that ourselves. The white man is not the one calling us niggers. We gladly call ourselves that. We are the only group of people who proudly use our enemy's racial slur to describe ourselves. In the words of MF Doom, "what type of chitlins is that?"

Mr. Woodson is right. By purchasing and supporting such misogynistic and self destructive music and magazines, we are creating that proverbial back door for ourselves. At some point, we must take responsibility for the images that we allow to be projected. Just as we protest against bigots like Don Imus and Pat Buchanan, we should organize sustained protests against corporations and artists who humiliate our community.

I commend the efforts of ColorofChange. People who degrade black women should be fired. However, I don't believe that firing people is the solution to the problem. We need a social revolution, a revolution in values. The music industry, like most businesses, is driven by greed and money. As long as we demand and accept garbage, they will keep feeding it to us. If we stopped buying negative music and started supporting more positive artists like Mos Def, Common, The Roots and Talib Kweli, radio stations would be compelled by market forces to play such artists on the radio. Record labels would be compelled to sign and promote more positive artists.

Ultimately, we must own and control our music and our culture. We must use hip hop as a means of liberation. We must stop allowing corporations and their negro overseers to use our culture to destroy us.

This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.

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