So in an unexpected twist - especially if you watched Oprah’s two-day town hall meeting episodes last week - hip hop mogul Russell Simmons called for the removal of the words “bitch,” “ho” and “nigger” from the recording industry Monday.
I’m curious about how this will transpire, but I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction for music.
However, I’m not exactly pleased with the timing. I hate that this comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Don Imus because I feel that the two issues are completely unrelated.
I also hate it because my thing is this, I've said this before and I’ll scream this until I’m blue in the face – the ONLY reason CBS, NBC, ABC or any major media outlets, publications and talking heads even bothered to cover this issue is because members of the black community and womens’ group decided to take aim at Imus, a white man, for his racist, sexist, plain ol’ stupid comments.
And, as one friend pointed out, instead of getting mad with the action, in a crazy twist, it seems like most folks got mad with the reaction. Particularly the reaction of the black community. Said it was their fault for accepting hip hop lyrics that use similar words.
First of all, I didn’t know the black community was the keeper of all things hip hop. Last time I checked, it was way more than black folks buying hip hop music. Last time I checked, it was also way more than black folks running the music industry that OKs derogatory music lyrics.
Where were all those major media outlets and talking heads and self righteous, finger-pointing folks during the past seven annual State of the Black Union addresses in which thousands of blacks, and several panels of black philosophers, health professionals, religious leaders, financial analysts and pop cult figures gather annually to discuss many topics concerning issues in the black community, including ways to promote more positive images in music and society?
Where were all those major media outlets and talking heads and self-righteous, finger-pointing folks in 2004 when Spelman College students led a protest against the appearance of rapper Nelly for his controversially misogynistic “Tip Drill” music video?
Where were all of those major media outlets and talking heads and self-righteous, finger-pointing folks when Essence magazine held rappers and label heads to the fire in 2005 for their overload of degrading, negative messages and images toward black women?
Where were these folks when Al Sharpton called for a ban on violence in hip hop music in 2005?
And I honestly could go on and on and on with more examples.
Yet these same folks couldn’t move fast enough to take attention away from the stupidity of Imus’ racist, sexist comment and instead put the content of hip hop music in the national spotlight.
I’ve long been against derogatory rap lyrics, or any music lyrics for that matter, and from that perspective, in spite of the late notice, I’m glad that it at least appears that the music industry is FINALLY taking action.
But what are we going to do as an American society to ensure that everyday civil rights are upheld and not violated or taken away?
What are we going to do as an American society to ensure that more children have the right to proper health care and quality education?
What are we going to do as an American society to ensure that the inherent, but subtle attitudes of racism, sexism and class discrimination have no place in the workplace?
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that spouting racist, sexist comments, especially the kind that degrade women in any way - particularly from members of the media - is wrong, unacceptable and should be dealt with promptly and responsibly (see "Say What?!" from April 10.)
But now that we've gotten your attention, what about the other remaining issues that plague our communities?
After all, these aren’t just black issues. These are American issues.