The race-deprecation and misogyny saturating the hip-hop lyrics that American distributors unfortunately deem to make hip-hop most profitable, is obviously disturbing to most of us -- as recent outcries would attest. But calling for hip-hop artists to be fired will not work. Their music is considered to be protected artistic expression. Some of us may not like it, but neither the artists nor their distributors are likely to incur Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fines. They make “clean” versions available for radio and, although there are some videos that skirt the line of decency, they are still probably within the realm of FCC regulations. Thus, rather than dwelling on unfruitful strategies for purging hip-hop music, we need to concentrate on strategies that are likely to work.
The most effective stratagem for the eradication of race-deprecation and misogyny in hip-hop is education. The first concession we must make is that the expressions emanating from hip-hop -- just like country and western, rock and roll, comedy, and cinema -- are reflections of the society we live in. Granted, they don’t reflect the entire picture of society, but no artistic endeavor strives to or is capable of doing that.
Knowing why American society in general and black society in particular exhibits such race-deprecation and misogyny allows us to attack these ills within the black community and, residually, within the reflections of our community -- in music, comedy, and cinema. Thus, black folks in general -- and hip-hop artists, comedians, and the performing arts industry in particular -- must be educated on the underpinnings that drive this phenomenon. First I will address race-deprecation and then misogyny in the black community. In both instances I will -- as Isaiah Washington’s character in the movie “Love Jones” intimated -- “break it down so that it will forever be broke[n] down”.
[Note: Although I removed the “n” word from my vocabulary years ago, it is impossible for me to effectively advocate for its removal from yours without using it here to provide context. Otherwise, you wouldn’t truly feel the effects of its proliferation and be prompted to stop using it.]
Last year BET aired a program in which black youth correctly declared that their use of the “n” word originated from typical conversations they heard from older blacks of my generation where the word “n*gg*r” was used openly and often. Obviously, as they traversed to adulthood, these youth noticed that -- though we called each other “n*gg*rs” outside of the presence of white folks -- we refrained from doing so when white folks were around. So their take on this phenomenon was simply that older blacks were afraid of being themselves around white people.
This determination by black youth that blacks of my generation were “soft” resulted in the insurgent attitudes and actions of these youth toward long-established civil rights organizations and leaders -- and ultimately toward elder blacks and society in general. They resolved that they would make everyone -- elder blacks and American society per se -- accept them and their culture straight up with no chaser. Through hip-hop especially, they enticed the dominant Anglo-Saxon American culture to embrace a black sub-culture of sagging pants, "bling", rap, and rebellion -- just as we, in the 60s and 70s, enticed them to embrace afros, dashikis, soul/rhythm and blues music, and revolutionary change.
So we must first and foremost recognize that the rebellious and revolutionary stance prevalent among our black youth is nothing more than an evolution, annexation, or supplementation of the same need for self-expression and validation within the same disenfranchising and psychologically debilitating society that influenced our own generation. Then we must acknowledge that, even in the 70s, black folks often used the “n” word in the entertainment industry -- a milieu where “cutting edge” is seemingly perennial. The Last Poets and Richard Pryor immediately come to mind. But outside of the entertainment industry, blacks of that era still mostly refrained from using the “n” word around white folks. And it wasn’t because we were soft. It was because we knew the genesis of its use among blacks AND the likely long-term negative consequences of its proliferation. We, unfortunately, didn’t adequately share this knowledge with our youth -- but now we will.
Every reputable dictionary I have encountered that dares to define the word “n*gg*r” defines it as “a disparaging word for black [or Negroid, or colored] people”. I have yet to find one dictionary that defines the word “n*gg*r” as “an ignorant person” -- and yet that is the definition that scores of black folks cling to. But, why do they? I’m sure that on some level this phenomenon represents an attempt to redefine the word and make it more innocuous. But I am equally sure that some white man apprised some black man that “n*gg*r” meant “an ignorant person” to mollify the effect of the slur -- and possibly to keep the black man from bashing the head of the white man after the white man called the black man a n*gg*r.
In any event, the new definition was probably believed simply because it came from “de white man”. I make this assertion because prior to the turbulent 60s black folks believed nothing until they heard it from “de white man”. That’s why Tom Joyner gets many a laugh from his skit “Ask De White Man”. But the irony is that some black folks cling to the assertion that anyone can be a “n*gg*r” because a “n*gg*r” is “an ignorant person” without realizing that this very assertion exposes their own true ignorance on the subject. “N*gg*r” is a racial slur indigenous to black folks just as the other racial slurs are each indigenous to the particular races they seek to denigrate.
The bogus definition of “n*gg*r” as “an ignorant person” served to make the word more palatable -- since ignorance can be overcome. Thus, white folks could be deemed to have “n*gg*r status” in areas they were un-knowledgeable about and black folks could rise above “n*gg*r status” simply by becoming more knowledgeable. Although, this misinformation made it easier for black folks to refer to each other as “n*gg*rs”, it wasn’t the reason for its imprudent genesis.
My recollection of black folks calling each other “n*gg*rs” in the late 60s is that the motivation was one of remembrance/chastisement and confirmation. “I don’t know who you think you are” we said to those of us who seemingly thought our intellect, athletic prowess, musicianship, big house, post office job, or other status/status symbol might insulate us from the overt racism plaguing “common” black people. “Yoose a n*gg* just like me -- to them [white folks]”. But after we reminded/chastised the lofty among us concerning their true status in America -- and received their affirmation -- we consoled them: “That’s aight, you MY n*gg*. You my n*gg*, if you don’t get no bigga”.
Now understand the dynamic at work here. Every time we called each other “n*gg*r” we were reminding each other that -- regardless of our individual or collective achievements -- in America, we were still members of the despised group. And then we persuaded each other to affirm this despised status: “Yeah, you’re right. To them we’re ALL n*gg*s, my n*gg*”. So the process was that we: 1) reminded each other of our despised status, 2) affirmed/confirmed with each other that we were despised, 3) and gave each other consolation amid the effects of this disdain. Thus, our “self-n*gg*rization” evolved from the need for a coping mechanism. This is why Paul Mooney has pitifully referred to the “N” word as a “lover” that he can’t let go of.
But this “coping mechanism” had negative effects as well as positive ones. On the positive side it served to strengthen the camaraderie, resolve, and revolutionary synergy among blacks. This synergy was sorely needed before, during, and after segregation. It was still needed after segregation ended because that advent failed to squash segregationist attitudes and actions. Thus, the fact that we were “equally n*gg*rized” made us, on some level, more cohesive and resolute in the face of the common impediment of racism. And since the “enemy combatants” in this racist war utilized veiled faces and guerrilla warfare, we didn’t call each other “n*gg*rs” around any white folks regardless of how “cool” we felt that some of them were. We simply didn’t want potential enemies to know about our strategic coping mechanism.
Additionally, we were aware of the double-edged sword that the word “n*gg*r” proved to be -- and still proves to be -- in our communities. We were cognizant of the fact that our “equal n*gg*rization” tended to unite the strong-willed among us who were activists, dreamers, and forward thinkers of varied social status, educational matriculation, and intellectual capacities. But, we also knew that for those of weaker wills, the effect was just the opposite. These battle-fatigued soldiers, weary from fighting a seemingly non-winnable war, were afraid to dream, and dared not think progressively. For them “equal niggerization” encouraged, instilled, and reinforced a “doom and gloom” mentality that prompted them to capitulate to every negative stereotype that white folks had assigned to them.
It is clear to me that the use of the “n” word among blacks in America has a very long history. One only has to listen to the characters in the mini-series “Roots” (which I am convinced was thoroughly researched) to see that black folks during America’s period of slavery called each other “n*gg*rs”. So I am certain that even the black leaders of the very early civil rights movement -- Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, etc. -- had to contend then with the same “self-n*gg*rization” that blacks still today heap upon themselves.
I’m equally certain that they were appalled at this circumstance because -- at that time -- black folks calling each other “n*gg*rs” was clearly a reminder that their status in America was a subservient one. The house slave admonished the field slave to remember his place in American society thusly, “You know n*gg*rs ain’t ‘posed to be talkin’ back to white folks, n*gg*r. Did you forget yoose a n*gg*r, boy?” For these soldiers for justice, it had to be frustrating to know that the masses of black folks they fought for were embracing a submissive social stance. It’s very reminiscent of the old adage that “if you make a man feel inferior, you won’t have to make him go to the back door. He’ll look for a back door”.
So how do we stop this phenomenon? Well, after sharing information in this article and its ilk with black entertainers, we will have no choice but to boycott them if conversation fails to bring about conversion. This was exactly the stand I took a few years ago with Professor/Doctor/Reverend Michael Eric Dyson -- a man I have very deep admiration for to this very day -- over his very public use of the “n” word. I emailed him and threatened to start a boycott of his books and attempt to have him removed from his then professorship at Penn University. But ultimately, I believe it was reason -- and not threats -- that persuaded him to relent.
I explained to him that the “n” word couldn’t be co-opted into anything remotely positive any more than any other expletive could. I challenged him to go home to his wife and say, “hello by b**ch, my c*nt, my sl*t, or my wh*re” but to tell her that he meant it in a good way. I believe the analogy had a chilling effect. [Many will cringe at the candid use of the above-mentioned words, but there truly is no effective way to make the impact felt without such candor.]
I also reminded him that the use of the “n” word among blacks isn’t always positive. There is: “What the f*ck you want, n*gg*?”, “N*gg*, get the h*ll out of my face”, and the infamous; “N*gg*, I’ll kill your a** and be out in five years”. The latter statement is one I heard countless times in the streets during my youth. It was a blatant acknowledgment that the life of a black man meant comparatively little versus his white counterpart and that there would, thus, be comparatively little incarceration time given for the taking of such a life. Since we are viewed as a violent people living among violent people (ourselves), the courts deem this “fact” to be a mitigating circumstance, justifying a lesser sentence. This is depicted as their “understanding” of a hostile reaction to a hostile environment.
Further, I reminded Mr. Dyson that the so-called “sanitation” of the ”n” word gives legal fodder to those seeking to avoid hate crime prosecution. I argued that if the word is socially viewed by blacks as a “term of endearment”, it can’t conversely be deemed by the courts to be a part of hate speech. One only has to look at the courts’ recent treatment of racially motivated crimes to see how foretelling that stance was. Thus, attorneys are now arguing -- some successfully -- that their clients accused of hate crimes were using the word “n*igg*” (the proclaimed “term of endearment”) while beating their black victims and not “n*gg*r” (the acknowledged racial slur); and that the crimes are therefore not racially motivated. Black may tell whites that they can’t use the “n” word for fear of street justice, but courts will administer their justice with black folks’ “sanitized” proclamation of the “N” word in mind.
But again, if none of these arguments suffice, boycotts and picketing will likely be the only avenues left. We would have to boycott CD sales, comedy venues, TV shows, movies, and the sponsors of them. This would have to include black moguls like Russell Simmons and Martin Lawrence whose shows “Def Comedy Jam” and “Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Standup” respectively, probably do more to perpetuate the use of the “n” word than other comedy venues (because they are on the airwaves, and not merely in comedy clubs). If they refuse to monitor “n” word usage on their shows, we’ll have to boycott Phat Pharm products and all other ventures through which either of these gentlemen -- or their kind -- make their money.
We must make all black people understand that the public proliferation of the “n” word by “gangsta” rappers, coupled with the posturing prominent in their songs and videos, gives credence to the assertion that black are animals. Thus, we saw the difference in treatment for the Jena Six versus the white juveniles in Florida who kidnapped and videotaped the beating of another juvenile. Partly because of the inundation of negative and violent black imagery, society views black youth as animals in need of taming, while it views white youth as “troubled teens” in need of help. Even with adult blacks, excessive force is condoned and perpetrators are excused as evidenced by the acquittal of New York police for killing an unarmed groom-to-be.
Years ago one of my mentors poignantly illustrated the difference between character and reputation. He offered that character denotes who you are and reputation denotes others’ assessment of you. He opined that in many cases -- definitely in many court cases -- one’s reputation is more determinative than his or her character. After all, judges would have to know you to be apprised of your character. They, thus, rely on the assessment of others -- your reputation. More importantly, the imagery from violent, “n” word-laced videos carry even more weight for judges because they show black people telling their own story -- making them (in the judges’ minds) more indicative of the character of black folks than indicative of their reputation.
The irony is that comedian D. L. Hughley, whose son not long ago found a gun in his face wielded by a security guard in a jewelry store, doesn’t realize how complicit he is in helping to foster the atmosphere and sentiment that led to said tragedy. It is his very decision to make money by contributing to the assertion that blacks are sub-human animals via his constant use of the ”n” word that fuels the fire that could have taken his own son’s life. Sure, he could argue (and probably would) that whites in America have historically thought of us as animals -- as evidenced by our enslavement, etc. -- and thus, assert that he may as well “get paid” by “making it do what it do”. But to that stance I offer a principle taught in medical school and to emergency medical personnel -- that if you can’t [or, in this case, are unwilling to] help [to change the imagery of black Americans, thereby changing the assessments of black Americans, thereby changing the treatment of black Americans -- especially in the courts], AT LEAST DO NO HARM!
Although many black entertainers may just have to be boycotted, I propose something different for black comedians using the “n” word. I propose that we help them to have a “Petey Green moment” -- where large white audiences laugh at them and not with them. I propose that we picket all venues where they perform and persuade black folks not to attend. Simultaneously, we would launch a campaign encouraging white folks to “come see the buffoon coon”.
If I’m right, these sell-out comedians will have difficulty continuing their race-deprecation in front of a sea of white faces. And let’s face it -- white folks may have difficulty laughing at black buffoonery when their numbers merely dot the landscape of largely black audiences. But they would easily laugh at “the buffoon coons” in their own, largely white milieu -- once we create the country club atmosphere. This strategy could work with the assistance of black media voices like Al Sharpton, Warren Ballentine, Joe Madison, Michael Baisden, etc. spreading the word.
Just to illustrate how the insanity of the “inoculation” the “n” word has progressed, I recently encountered members of an online social group that perpetuates the notion that “n*gg*r” is a derivative of the Egyptian words N-g-r (pronounced “en-ger”) and N-t-y-r (pronounced “net-jer), both meaning “God”. And some quack named Bobby Hemmit teaches that when black folks say naga (pronounced nã´ ga) or “nigger”, we unleash our kundalini serpent. He teaches that “naga” or “n*gg*r” is a mantra that unleashes our kundalini energy, or our kundalini serpent, and that this kundalini serpent is the real cause of global warming -- and not greenhouse gases. He says that the word that white folks used to degrade us is now being used -- through our kundalini energy -- as a weapon.
Now, aside from the fact that we live in the same world as white folks -- and thus ought not to be reciting a “mantra” to destroy it, if we could -- this whole line of thinking is just too silly for words. And to assert that “n*gg*r” came from N-g-r, N-t-y-r, or naga because of a similar grouping of letters is like asserting that the words “cake”, “coke” and “cock” all derived from the same word. Damn! Talk about a slippery slope.
So, most importantly, ALL OF US must remove the ”n” word from our collective lexicons. Its usage in the black community is not linear, but cyclical and circular. Therefore, all factions using it contribute to its usage in each of the other factions. Black comedians use it because elements of truth in comedy are genuinely what make the comedic skits funny. And the truth is that WE use it. Art imitates life. Black youth get their usage from older blacks, so my generation (I’m 53) must lead by example. Hip-hop artists speak to much of the disenfranchisement of the black community, using the phraseology and bravado prominently displayed by those "disenfranchis-EES".
Now, since each hand washes the other, it is paramount that we -- the listening audience -- understand our own duplicity in perpetrating the buffoonery of these artists. They hone their crafts in our presence. Young rappers spit their rhymes, and upstart comedians tell their jokes, in small nightclubs where we vote either thumbs up or thumbs down. As with all live performers, our approval -- via our applause, shout-outs, and increased audience size -- says that their rhymes are hot and that their jokes are funny. Accordingly, they retreat to their corners of the world to create more of the same.
After months of trying -- maybe years -- they have finally found the formula that works. They become the “house entertainment” because the audience has registered its approval. And since this means steady work and pay, they dare not stray from the formula. By this time, most performers have already reinvented themselves countless times, seeking a niche. Their final evolution may or may not be comfortable for them, but it has definitely proved to be the one that brings the most accolades. So it’s a no-brainer that they won’t change the presentation that has finally worked -- especially when they are just establishing themselves.
So, when they are “discovered” by the talent scouts with the clout to get them in front of larger and more diverse audiences, their routines are set. To change at that time becomes tantamount to reinventing themselves all over again. Just as they had to endure many experimentations to arrive at the niche that evoked the praise of their black audiences, the same process would be necessary to “tone down” their presentations and still get equal praise from a more diverse one. And, since any transition could conceivably cause them to lose their big break, it’s no wonder that change is the furthest thing from their minds.
Thus, they end up with no real choice but to “dance with the one who brought them”, so to speak -- to “make it do what it do”. Still the irony is that if we -- the black audience -- had voiced our discontent at the outset, they never would have “blown up” via the use of a race-deprecating performance. Instead, they would have reinvented themselves to fit a more positive representation and “blown up” via performances that depict our race with pride. Performers always give the audience what they want -- at least while establishing themselves. Thus, when our notions of the acceptable change, their performances change. White folks may have been the culprits that started the race-deprecation of blacks in America, but we are the ones who now perpetuate it.
Now just like race-deprecation, the misogyny prevalent in the performing arts that’s aimed at black women is also cyclical and circular. And although white folks may have initiated the notion of them as “loose h*ssies”, black folks -- male and female -- perpetuate it. But why do black women accept it? Why do they play the part of the video vixen, dance to misogynistic lyrics, and even recite them? Why do black men -- most of whom were born of black mothers -- defame their Nubian queens? Are they so consumed with the love of money that they are willing to throw their women under the bus to obtain it?
There was a time in the late sixties and early seventies when -- as poet laureate Nikki Giovanni intimated in one of her poems -- “black love [was] black wealth“. Having little else to cling to romantic relationships between black men and women were based -- by and large -- on love and commonality of purpose or thought. Yet many blacks feel that, over the years, that basis has changed from love to finances. But if the basis for romance is now a black man’s financial status, aren’t black women justified in taking that stance? Aren’t there many more economic opportunities available for black men today than there existed 30 to 40 years ago? And if so, shouldn’t black men as a whole have more money, and thus, be able to meet the new criterion imposed by black women? Maybe, maybe not.
First of all the phenomenon of black women’s insistence that their significant other have a certain financial status is not merely the precept of black professional “financially stable” women. It has become the guiding principle for low-income black women as well. “No Romance Without Finance”, “What Have You Done For Me Lately”, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”, and “I Can Do Bad By Myself” have become much more than song titles for today’s black women. They’ve become rallying cries -- adages and axioms from which they pattern their lives -- whether they seek a mate to compliment their substantial portfolios or someone to lift them out of poverty. In turn this code is taught to black female teens and pre-teens that recite the songs like mantras, in preparation for their looming adulthood.
Now consider the recently released statistics exposing the disproportionately smaller number of black males graduating from high school versus the number of black females. Does this sad state of affairs indicate that black females are smarter, more studious, more civilized than black males? Or are there other factors at play?
An educator I conversed with recently blames the phenomenon on the abundance of white female teachers whom instruct black students. She opined that these teachers are more likely to view natural male aggression emanating from black male children (as opposed to white male children) to be indicative of a disorder -- typically ADHD, or Attention Deficit Behavior Disorder. Therefore these children are more likely to end up in special education courses, be labeled as troublemakers, and to drop out of school from frustration. I agree with her wholeheartedly.
But when you combine the frustration from the school system’s failure to properly educate these young black males with their pubescent desires for the opposite sex, the drop-out and “kick-out” rates increase. Since the corresponding black pubescent females have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the ideology of “finance first, romance second”, many male black teens -- already with poor academic records -- turn to drug sales for the needed money for dating. They either get caught and thrown out of school or quit -- believing that drug sales is the road to financial freedom. This frustrated group rarely attends college and -- if they do -- rarely do they stay. Usually they’re academically challenged -- not because they lack the aptitude, but because they are unprepared and, thus, barely got in. Plus, they usually find that even collegiate black women seemingly adhere to the same materialistic standards that they encountered in their high school classes.
Now is probably a good time to point out that the materialism of black women only mirrors the materialism of women per se. Throughout history, women have looked to men as providers and protectors. Thus, black women are understandably disappointed when the bulk of their men can’t seem to measure up to the same expectations that women in general expect from men in general. The irony is that these same expectations make many men in general think of most -- and I emphasize most -- women as prostitutes.
The rationale goes like this. First of all most men know, and most women agree -- that with most women -- any man that she is romantically involved with, she will eventually have sex with. The only point of contention is when this will occur, and whether or not the man will do or say something to avert that eventuality. Secondly, most men know, and most women agree -- that with most women -- the decision as to whom she will be romantically involved with is made along financial lines. Thus they conclude that most women make the decision as to whom they sleep along financial lines -- and that this makes them prostitutes by definition.
Now they don’t call these women prostitutes to their face and they still marry them. They will even joke amongst themselves that when a man get married, “he just married the most expensive prostitute that he will ever have”. So, although there is acknowledgment amongst men that finances play a large role in their landing the woman of their choice, most are obviously okay with this. Yet the question remains: “Why do so many black men debase black women for adhering to the same dating rules that other women adhere to?” Is it a matter of sour grapes? I believe that the answer is yes. I believe that they really want to measure up to the generalized standard and be the protectors and providers for their women, but are disappointed with their inability to do so. But let’s look a little closer.
Though the racial climate has improved significantly, white men in America have historically been just as much sexist as they have been racist. Thus they have always deemed black women to be a lesser threat to them than black men -- a lesser threat in their homes during slavery, and a lesser threat in the workplace after slavery. Granted, the increasingly larger number of black female college graduates compared to black male college graduates is the overriding factor in the larger number of black female professionals versus black male professionals.
But, we’ve already discussed factors affecting this disparity. Black females -- whether in high school or college -- don’t need money to date. Black males do. Thus, although delayed gratification for both consists of a delay in obtaining all the things that money can buy, many black male coeds face the added burden of having to forgo female companionship. Some can’t handle it. They make bad choices to obtain money and end up out of high school, out of college, and often incarcerated -- while comparatively larger numbers of black females matriculate through college, remaining upwardly mobile.
But the preference for a black woman in the workplace started long before the affirmative action notion of a “two-fer”, the idea that hiring a black woman represented the uplifting of two historically disenfranchised classes -- blacks and women. Even during slavery, black women were more likely to be in the house with “Massa” than black men were. Again, white men simply didn’t deem black women to be as threatening to them as black men. They felt that a black woman in close proximity to them -- stressed because of their enslavement -- was more likely to have a “Harriet Tubman moment” and run away. Conversely, black men were deemed more likely to have a “Nat Turner moment” and kill them.
Yet that sentiment is understandable when you consider that, seemingly for most of history, one expansionist group conquering another group typically killed the men and then took their women. So keeping the men around was atypical. The bible is replete with accounts of the Jewish/Hebrew people conquering lands, killing the men, and taking the women “to wife”. Of course, these accounts make the resultant marriages seem consensual. And I’m sure that -- over time -- the women grew to actually love their captors. Maybe their last mate had even captured them from a previous mate. This seems to have been the unfortunate lot of many women in ancient times.
To illustrate this, consider the PBS specials on “African American Lives” presented by historian and Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Therein, Professor Gates chronicled instances where noted blacks -- including himself -- had white blood in their lineage. I’m certain that in virtually every instance the mixed bloodline started with a white man and a black woman -- and not with a black man and a white woman. If “Missy” got impregnated by a black man -- and if the resultant child couldn’t pass for white -- she would have had to run a plantation devoid of white men for her baby to survive. Otherwise, any white man present would have killed the child. Conversely, many white men not only protected their mixed offspring -- some married their black mothers.
Yet the understated line in these sagas is the fact that these women were brutally raped. Even amongst those who -- like the captives of the Jews, above -- grew to love their mates, the incipient sexual contact was likely to have been a brutal one. Since this act continued -- and neither they nor their black men could stop it -- they determined that they would try to relax during the encounter, just so that it wouldn’t hurt as badly. Maybe, they lubricated themselves when they could anticipate the encounter. Maybe they eventually had an orgasm.
I recall a telephone conversation I had twenty years ago with a black woman I was dating at the time. She revealed to me that her stepfather had molested her repeatedly from the age of thirteen up until she was eighteen. I wondered aloud just how traumatic the ordeal must have been for her. Then I empathized how tragic it must have been knowing this was going to happen, but feeling powerless to stop it. I further imagined her resolution to just relax and let it happen. Still further, I imagined -- aloud -- how psychologically damaging it might have been if, during one of those times of relaxation, she actually reached an orgasm. The silence on the other end of the line informed me that I had struck a chord and we never spoke of such things again.
The point of all this is to cogently illustrate that, one, the historic desire white men have had for black women -- coupled with the relative threat they deem black men to be in the workplace (intellectually or physically) -- converge to make them prefer the presence of the black female. Two, white men in America have always lived by the precept that money and power gets them the woman (or women) of their choice. And, three, they believe that even if black women feel forced to choose them -- literally or figuratively, emotionally or financially -- they will eventually learn to truly love them. Granted, this love may be based on misplaced gratitude for the things they’re able to provide -- but it’s love nonetheless.
So into this milieu marches the young Hip-Hop artist, lyrically portraying his world with all the underlying frustration attenuate to it. And he’s mad. He’s mad at the teacher who mislabeled his as having ADHD. He’s mad about his choice to sell drugs for money. He’s mad because he felt compelled to do so -- to make money for dating and survival purposes. He’s mad about his incarceration(s). He may even be mad about his unrealized academic potential. And yes, though staunchly heterosexual, he’s mad at black women. He’s mad at them because, as rapper Mike Jones bluntly put it, “back then they didn’t want [him]. Now, [he’s] hot, they all on [him]”.
You see these rappers may be young, but they know the game. They are acutely aware that the same females that are drooling all over them today, wouldn’t have given them the time of day yesterday. Yesterday these same rappers tried approaching these same women -- while riding public transportation together -- and got nowhere. But today their CD has dropped, they are now famous, and the same women are remarkably flirtatious.
But these young black men are different from the men who only speak disparagingly about women amongst themselves. These are hard-core “tell it like it is” men. They are blunt about their lives, their neighborhoods, the robbing crews attempting to steal their drug money, the lack of unity in the ghetto, and yes the women who treat them as meal tickets. Rarely have they dated or even tried to date professional black women -- though their new-found wealth now opens up that possibility. No they have usually dealt with black women from the same impoverished circumstances they arose from; and they are bitter because these same women who had nothing expected them to have something as a dating prerequisite. They’re angry and they wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Now I truly believe that most men really want what rapper Heavy D. rapped about. The refrain in the song was: “I want somebody to love me for me”. And realizing the odds against a woman actually “loving them for them” seems to affect even many black professional men. Many of them -- secure in the knowledge that they have “made it” and are now “in demand” -- treat black women like “sk**zers”, “wh*r*s”, and gold-diggers. Now since they are professionals they don’t call black women these names -- they merely treat them as such. Men in this group tend to move from woman to woman seeking sexual conquests only, because they tacitly agree with the scattered angry voices emanating from some Hip-Hop artists. This group is usually bitter because they had to forgo female companionship while in college. They were possibly deemed to be low-level candidates on the college dating chain because they had no car, lived in the dorm, and couldn’t afford to take a sister to dinner.
And yet most black men acquiesce to the realities of life. We understand that society usually deems women to be the best parents of children when the family unit is not intact. We understand that they therefore need finances from the men that they date. We understand the complexities of societal gender roles. Therefore we don’t debase black women who refuse to date us simply because they are financially independent while we may be financially struggling. We may lament the fact, but understanding the psychological impact of societal rules upon their psyches, we merely move on to the next woman.
Okay, so now it’s resolution time. How do we bring black sisters and brothers lovingly back into each others' lives? As with all romantic relationships, it’s going to require some give and take. Black women must understand the complexities of being a black man in America and try to encourage them and to stand by them. Black men must do the same -- understanding the fact that most black women they desire are either mothers or potential mothers; and that they are thus in need financial assistance from their men. And just like the “n” word issue we -- the audience -- must register our discontent by refusing to buy or listen to offerings that depict us in less than positive lights. This means that -- just as black folks have to stop calling each other “n*gg*rs” and answering to the same -- black women have to stop calling each other b*tch*s and wh*r*s, and answering to the same.
I had a conversation with a lady recently who revealed a conversation she’d had with a black woman in her twenties. This twenty-something woman admitted that her boyfriend referred to her as “his bitch”. She said that it was okay because he would fight anyone else who called her a bitch. She said candidly, “I am his b*tch!” Then she further added, “That’s my n*gg*, and I’m his b*tch!” Come on black people. We’re better than that!
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