Dear Mainstream American Media,
What I have to say is important.
This is not a rant about rants, but a mere clarification of terms.
As a young, black male, I have endured the constant belittlement and disregard for men that look like myself on your television screens and websites. Every time I see a male public figure of color speak about education, race, politics and society, they are labeled as giving a "rant."
A "rant" is defined in terms of being a noun as "a spell of ranting; a tirade" and as a verb as "speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way." So, in other words, when notable black men such as Spike Lee, Bill Cosby, Richard Sherman and Don Lemon speak about anything pertaining to social issues outside of their field, their messages are treated as if they were unruly or uncivilized.
You might think this may not be that big of a deal, but it really is. When someone casts something off as a rant, it is deemed unimportant. It is looked as insignificant. And as a result, one is encouraged not to receive it as a point of reference or perspective.
So when mainstream American media sources, such as CNN, put headlines that state, "Spike Lee explains expletive-filled gentrification rant," we are automatically positioned to prejudge his message as unintelligent or immature. Yet, if you would have listened to his message, a lot could have been learned. But once again, a "rant" tells us as the reader that it isn't and more often than not, we reject the sentiments.
It now has become a pattern that I recently think has been associated with Kanye West. Sure, he has taken the banter surrounding what has now become the infamous "Kanye Rant." However, what our media has disgustingly carried out in the press is the association between one black man's expressions as a representation of the rest.
With all due respect to Mr. West, but please do not let his inventive way of expression define how myself, or other black men communicate.
For such a misrepresentation is unfair and ignorant. Just as much as people of color do not allow Rush Limbaugh's rants define how all white men communicate in the media, please respect and acknowledge that all black men do not express themselves in the same light and stop using diction that show such.
What Spike Lee said wasn't a rant. It was a critique. It was a credible and personal complaint of the gentrification of a community he has spent decades curating and enhancing. Sure, he did not say the most politically correct things at certain moments, but that does not call for the complete dismissal of his message.
If Alec Baldwin were to get on television and complain about the paparazzi would headlines be quick to call it a rant?
Is Bill O' Reilly's constant critiques about the Obama administration be considered a rant or a complaint?
When Don Lemon challenges issues in the black community on his show, is he ranting about it?
Race should not discourage readers from taking what one says as insignificant. When we use words like "rant," we are trivializing and being inconsiderate to those many men of color who have for decades been invisible on the broadcast stations and networks we are now just reaching the surface of.
I am not a child babbling and should be excused. I am a man, educated and informed. And such men as Spike Lee, Don Lemon, and Bill Cosby deserve that same respect. Richard Sherman deserves the right to be excited about a win just as much as any white male athlete who hoots and hollers when they get a victory.
All black men do not rant, and neither should we continue to act as if they do. It says something about our media when everyone can jump on the bandwagon and use words that are charged with such disrespect without looking them up.
On a social perspective, saying that such profound figures of color "ranting" only fuels the nasty stereotype associated with being a "angry black man." The idea that black men are angry, threatening, and should be feared has been perpetuated in our media consistently. If our dark exteriors are already looked at as a cautionary sign, then what comes from our interior souls and out our lips should also not be considered "wild" or "impassionate."
This animalization of the black man is unacceptable and needs to stop now. We are not some ferocious, threatening, loud-mouthed and undignified pack of buffoons. As a nation and as a progressive society, if much respect is to be given to those on the lighter spectrum of color, the same should be given back to the darker right.
So, in other words, stop saying, "rant" when referring to the expressions of black men, mainstream America.
Or if that seems like I am about to go into a very aggressive tirade: Then please, pretty please, do not refer to men in my community as loud and unruly when they are just simply saying something that is important and impactful.
For all I am asking is to exchange the "rants" for respect.
That is something we can all agree on.
A black man who is saying important things in a civilized manner... just like many others that look like him.
P.S. This was not a rant.
Follow Ernest Owens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MrErnestOwens