"Can U Control Yo 'H'." The video commercial high priest of gangster rap Snoop Doggy Dogg demands that on his CD "R&G: (Rhythm and Gangsta)." Then Dr. Dre in the cut "Housewife" on his 2001 CD "Dr Dre 2001," says, "Naw 'h' is short for honey." Next rappers Beanie Sigel says, "Watch Your "Bs' on his def Jam release, and 50 Cent commands, "'B' choose with me" on his 2003 top ten track P.I.M.P.
That's just a light sampling of how gangster rappers, some black filmmakers, and comedians routinely reduce young black women to "stuff," "Bs," "H's" and "MFs." Their contempt reinforces the slut image of black women and sends the message that violence, mistreatment, and verbal abuse of black women are socially acceptable. Despite lawsuits, protests and boycotts by women's groups, gangster-themed films and rap music continue to soar in popularity. Hollywood and the record companies rake in small fortunes off of them, and so do the rappers.
Now enter shock jock Don Imus. He's the latest white guy to be transformed into a racially and gender incorrect punching bag for his Michael Richardsesque racial and gender tirade against a group of young black women. He, of course, has been verbally mugged, battered, abused, and momentarily dumped from his radio and TV show. Imus has genuflected, no groveled, to the Reverend Al Sharpton, civil rights leaders, the Rutgers women's basketball team, begging forgiveness. Imus certainly deserves the kick in the shins that he's getting. In his very public self-flagellation, even he admitted that he rocketed way past the line of what even by the raunchy and low road standards of shock jockism is considered acceptable.
But again, Imus, as a white man that spewed racial bile, is the softest of soft targets. The same can't be said for the black rap shock jocks. They made Imus possible. They gave him the rappers bad housekeeping seal of approval to bash and trash black women. In many ways, their artistic degradation has had even more damaging consequences for young black women. Homicide now ranks as one of the leading causes of deaths of young black females. A black woman is far more likely to be raped than a white woman and slightly more likely to be the victim of domestic violence than a white woman. Their assailants are not white racist cops or Klan nightriders but other black males. The media often magnifies and sensationalizes crimes by black men against white women, but ignores or downplays crimes against black women. The verbal demeaning of black women has made them the scapegoats for many of the crisis social problems in American society.
What's even more galling is that some blacks cite a litany of excuses, such as poverty, broken homes, and abuse, to excuse the sexual abuse and violence of top black male artists. These explanations for the misdeeds of rappers and singers are phony and self-serving. The ones who have landed hard in a court docket are anything but hard-core, dysfunctional, poverty types. P. Diddy, who predated R. Kelly as the poster boy for music malevolence is college educated and hails from a middle-class home, typified the fraud that these artists are up-from-the-ghetto, self-made men.
The daunting puzzle then remains why so many blacks storm the barricades in fury against a Richards or an Imus but are stone silent, or utter only the feeblest of protests when blacks bash and trash? Or even worse, tacitly condone their verbal abuse? There are two reasons for that. Blacks have been the ancient target of racial stereotypes, negative typecasting, and mockery. This has made them hypersensitive to any real or perceived racial slight from whites. That's totally understandable, and civil rights leaders are right to call the legion of other white celebrities, politicians and public figures that get caught with their racial pants hanging down on the carpet for their racial gaffes, slips, or outright verbal broadsides.
The second reason is that blacks fear that if they publicly air their dirty racial laundry it will be gleefully twisted, mangled, and distorted into a fresh round of black bashing by whites. But that's a lame reason for not speaking out, and speaking out loudly against those blacks who either out of ignorance or for profit, or both, routinely commercialize racial and gender trash talk. That failure fuels the suspicion that blacks, and especially black leaders, are more than willing to play the race card, and call a white a bigot, when it serves their interest, but will circle the wagons and defend any black who comes under fire for bigotry, or for any other malfeasance.
The same standard of racial accountability must apply whether the racial and gender offender is an Imus or a 50 Cent. When it doesn't that's a double standard and that always translates into hypocrisy. Imus got his trash talk pass yanked. Now let's yank it from those blacks that do the same, or worse.
New America Media Associate Editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York) in English and Spanish will be out in October. 323-296-6331; firstname.lastname@example.org