Sunday, April 15, 2007

the one that should've been a post: don imus & snoop

so what's a woman who thinks, well i do remember hearing

You can't turn a Ho into a house wife
Hos don't act right
There's Ho's on a mission and there's Ho's on a crack pipe
Hey Ho, How you doin' Where you been?

-luda, "youz a hoooooo"

and my favorite:

Look here bitch, don't ask me shit
Did I interupt you while [*slurping noises*] you was sucking my ----, beyotch?
I don't need the stress, besides talkin' back to a pimp would get yo ass slapped.
I learned a whole lot from these bitches of my past
A bitch with no class is worse than a bitch with no ass
And you wonder why I'm from The Pound?
Shiiiit, if a bitch can't swim, nigga, she bound to drown, nigga.

-snoop, "it's all on a hoe"

there's also snoop dog's interesting response to being compared to don imus, which is problematic in its own right, but an interesting comment nonetheless:

"These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC [the cable network home to Imus] going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha-----as say we in the same league as him." http://newsbusters.org/node/11981

interesting. several questions which i'd like to debate:
if one ought to take care and consider the nature of media representations when discussing internal injustice, how does one proceed to create interior justice if not in the public sphere, if not in bringing to light these cultural internalizations of systemic oppression? where is this so-called private, black-only sphere where black identity can heal itself from colonial assumptions of heteronormativity?
and do we not paternalistically presume that our community is too weak to acknowledge internal discrepancies and then to proceed with an equally public movement away from misogyny, an example of progress?

it's a testament of our capacity to represent blackness not as a stringent category of identification, to demonstrate its capacity for morphing, for evolution. perhaps the question is not whether specificity of viewpoints in the black community contribute to division, but rather how do we develop a rhetoric that uncategorically demonstrates us as unified against white supremacy and at the same time, incontestably human in our capacity to express viewpoints that alternate from brother to brother, sister to sister. we are not a political party with one ideology to which we march (though perhaps some might argue we ought to be), we are a people, in the multivarious forms that the word "people" takes.

is it also not possible to reject don imus and his like while also stating, 'we categorically reject hip hop's perpetuation of misogyny which sustains heteronormativity, a system of power upon which white supremacy often rests?'

it would be a shame to shy from this discussion and alienate our women from our identity on grounds that race as it relates to our relationship to the white public takes precedence over gender discourse within the community.

what's more, i am accutely sensitive to the historical legacy of white colonialism (in its wondrous, multivarious forms) use of women's positions in other cultures to attack these communities as primitive, backwards etc., a reason to mutilate cultures. i think the discourse of feminism in the Middle East currently testifies directly to this.

but i am concerned that this awareness of how these cultural critiques from the "enlightened" eurocentric lead us to great susceptibility to 1. perpetually imbue female bodies with the role of cultural representatives such that these discussions about race necessarily occur through our bodies, once more encouraging the silencing of women as mere bodily representors of idealism - does she or doesn't she wear a veil, does she or doesn't she wear her culture's garb, does she or doesn't she cook X food, doesn't she or doesn’t she use birth control, is she or isn't she raising our children in this way, etc (has any one heard black female view points? maybe i've missed this but it appears as though men are once more speaking in the place of women) 2. accentuate one form of injustice over another.

so perhaps someone can answer for me where this private sphere for black judgment occurs? and why we can't reclaim justice as a heterogenous community rather than one that presents a monolithic front; in short, why in at once condemning don imus' racist comments, there can't be a more nuanced and yes, public critique that acknowledges hip hop's perpetuation of gender injustice and equally problematic, race inequality by so vividly and so often reflecting the rhetoric of white heteronormativity (though perhaps in a more verbose manner than white sexism's great capacity to be insidious)? why when we critique hip hop's gender injustice we cannot also publicly denounce the *continued* unequal pay of women across the US, the many unjust applications of rape laws, the eroding access a woman has to birth control let alone abortion, the absence of day care to ensure women's actual capacity to enter the work force, the appalling number of women tenured as professors despite the steadfast, growing number of females graduating university compared to their male peers.

it's not right, i concede, that the black community both bears the brunt of racism as well as be the solutions to these inequitudes. but i am deeply concerned when one form of injustice and its resolution take precedence over another because we find ourselves in the public and often oppositionary eye of the other. i am beginning to understand the dangerous cost of this double consciousness, this perpetual acknowledgment of the white perspective on blackness.

it’s our difficult task to take hold of rhetoric and call internal critique of blackness (which will always be in the public) not an instance of division but a representation of another assault on whiteness, where we refuse to perpetuate power structures which have and will continue to uphold racial, gender oppression so long as we choose to not tear down the both simultaneously.

we are fortunate enough to historically know how women have been sidelined in and for race politics (http://www.buffalostate.edu/orgs/rspms/combahee.html) – let’s not make the same mistake twice.

so be equally insulted that black women were referred not only in racially derogatory terms, but at the absurdity of reducing our amorphous and profound sexuality to an apparatus for lust.

i won’t choose to be more upset as a woman or a black person in these comments. i’ll thunder that i’m made to choose, as though sexism and racism weren't cut from the same cloth. so snoop can talk from his soul as much as he wants and don imus can reveal his true colors, but neither’s masculinity or blackness is enough a shield to protect him.

**and may i just add that these moments of internal critique should be buffered with the role of the media which gives gratuitous press coverage to misogynistic rap while giving little to no play to rappers like lupe, dead prez, talib, roots, and so many others who have returned to rap's original *revolutionary* role as a voice of dissent and uplift. there's a reason why hip hop has taken root around the world, from senegal with the amazing didier awadi rapping against neocolonialism to the banlieus of paris countering france's hypocritical reputation as race-heaven to palestinians against the israeli occupation to female middle eastern MCs rapping about american cultural hegemony:

"The New Cowboys"

Tche tche Tche tche
Sometimes life is like a stray bullet
in the modern system where
the individual drowns.
To stay clear headed
he used to drink Brandy
From now on we bring forward TVs
and white lines.
Where white is the
magnificent ride.
But always against the light,
it's far less heroic.
In the world of dreams,
we end it with a happy-ending.
Is this the case in what
we call "The New Western" ?
-MC Solaar, Prose Combat

so i say: rap is beautiful.
let's bring it back home.




ps black law feminist kimberle crenshaw has written on this not-so-new issue. y'all should check out her article: http://bostonreview.net/BR16.6/crenshaw.html

pps tns doing loving internal critique…

6 comments:

Josh said...

"i won’t choose to be more upset as a woman or a black person in these comments. i’ll thunder that i’m made to choose, as though sexism and racism weren't cut from the same cloth. so snoop can talk from his soul as much as he wants and don imus can reveal his true colors, but neither’s masculinity or blackness is enough a shield to protect him."

Truth. Great post Elizabeth.

Naima said...

evoking our audre, eh, e st v?

"your silence will not protect you."
- audre lorde

trying said...

"several questions which i'd like to debate:
if one ought to take care and consider the nature of media representations when discussing internal injustice, how does one proceed to create interior justice if not in the public sphere, if not in bringing to light these cultural internalizations of systemic oppression? where is this so-called private, black-only sphere where black identity can heal itself from colonial assumptions of heteronormativity?"

Ok, I'm going to be completely honest here: this is language that I find very difficult to understand, and because of that the point of this post was mostly lost on me, despite the fact that I read through it twice.

I have taken classes in gender studies and African American studies at Yale, so I am familiar with the jargon of these fields. But there is so much jargon in this post that it is really, really difficult to get my head around. I am trying to be a Black Justice Blog reader, because I find the ideas really interesting, but I'm finding it beyond hard. It's really inaccessible to people who aren't comfortable using academic jargon to discuss these issues.

I think that the best gender and racial justice blogs are those that are accessible to everyone, not just people holding PhDs, or whatever it takes to get to the core ideas in some very jargon-filled, stylized writing. Otherwise I just don't think you're reaching far outside your own circle of writers.

Josh said...

Hey Trying,

Sorry that the discourse can get jargon heavy sometimes. Def challenge us to write pieces on terms or phrases because I think that would be extremely helpful for everyone. For instance, I think we need to examine 'essentialism.' We're not really using it in the wrong way, but I think we might not understand the gravity of our points regarding it and how essentializing a body might be different than an object or an ideal.

Also, ask us on the comment threads to write about something you want to hear (unless you want to write it yourself!). That might make a difference too.

Lastly, I think Elizabeth's main question in this piece is asking how long can we be silent before we realize this black underground of ideal accountability does not exist in today's world. Therefore, we need to develop a strategy to address all problems even if a white audience is watching our every move. Inaction due to white fear will cost us more than negative press by the media. If I butchered that EstV, let me know.

Elizabeth said...

thanks, trying.

consider my experience when i say, "this __ ish is racist" and many of my white peers say..."no it isn't it, you're paranoid. you're using the race card". well, maybe if i break it down in intellectual terms, these peers can say 1. hey, there goes an articulate negro! 2. there's a historical/intellectual point of origin for what they're speaking about which makes it hard for me to refute black consciousness as just reactionary.
thanks for your thoughts though - they're mad helpful. and holla at your taking afam/gender classes. keep on.

tierra said...

That was beautifully put. I totally agree. I am glad you started with that amazing Snoop quote and then went on to mention the origins of hip hop and its being reclaimed by the likes of DP, Roots, and so forth. I don't justify misogyny in commericalized rap but I see Snoop's quote as a necessary defense against mainstream white media trying to distract, because of their own discomfort, from the issue - divide and conquer style. Anyhow, you're analogy about the media latching onto Arab feminist issues is fucking dead on.
Hip hop is a global phenomenon - I think most Americans are ignorant of that. And if bourgeois white America knew that, they might get scared.