Hip Hop Lyrics Needs To Be Checked or How Tupac Is Banning Abortion

The Imus slur situation and the resulting uproar gave the country an opportunity to examine racism, sexism and the violence they both underwrite. The verbal assault suffered by the Rutgers women’s basketball team served as a metaphor for the examination of these systemic social ills. This was, and remains, a time to ask some serious questions about the way our system treats people of color and women, and particularly women of color. As pressure mounted in an uncompromising campaign demanding that Imus be tossed, some curious questions began to bounce around in the chamber of tv and radio talk show studios.

What about rap and hip hop?

Almost as fast as sponsors fled the Imus camp, was the call for hip hop to also be brought to task by our liberal media that was seemingly excoriating a white man while letting black rappers off the hook. Affirmative action strikes again!

Not much surprises me anymore about what goes down in ‘American’ public discourse but I must admit to have been caught off guard by the speed in which the conversation shifted from the racist and misogynist power prerogative taken by white men and specifically, a 67 year old white man pulling down in excess of 10 million bucks a year for the privilege, to young black men on MTV sportin $100,000 chains on 50% interest loan for the video shoot. And from there, the punditocracy and the blogosphere took off in echoing the call. Now that Imus has fallen, let’s talk about rap music. It must be mentioned that both of them, the punditocracy and the blogosphere, are disproportionately white and disproportionately male. I mean since the discourse is race and gender, right? Wrong. Just as quickly as we lost the opportunity to interrogate white patriarchy in Imus’ immortalized ‘nappy-headed hos’ quip, was the nappy-headed dropped and the conversation then all about the word ‘ho’. This is not insignificant, as it neatly excises race from the discussion allowing us to fully focus our national attention on sexist, misogynist black males.

Perhaps we should question the calculus of equating the racism and misogyn of a 67 year old white multimillionaire with the lyrical content of music produced by black youth, screened, approved and wholly owned by other 67 year old white multimillionaires. The irony of this arrangement is not lost on me and should itself become part of the examination. Extending the irony even further into territory most revealing, this national discussion of black males and our misogynistic lyrics is happening with an interesting background beat of its own–the almost all white Supreme Court’s advances towards an abortion ban. Not that we can’t discuss two or three or ten things at once but we need to work on our prioritizing skills. If the use of the word ‘ho’ is bad, and it is, is not the push to, by legal instrument, control the bodies of over a hundred million women worse? Are those two things, like our measured criticism of white millionaires vs the serfs owned by the music industry, the same? Are Tupac and gangsta rap to blame for the push for men to control reproductive rights?

Who’s agenda is that and in which room is that discussion happening? I got somethin to say.

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