Thursday, April 12, 2007

Two Cents: Imus

I haven't written about Imus yet because I see that everyone else is writing about him. Frankly, I'm also tired of the time everyone is spending on it. However, I am seeing the same ideas expressed so much that I feel it's my duty to express my, as usual, queer opinion on the situation. After all, that's what this blog is for, and my purpose is to be here and queer. I'm going to quote from portions of a couple e-mails I've received from people at my school, as well as others, expressing their opinions and then debate them.

E-mail #1:

This is about an entire society, both blacks and whites, who think it's ok to portray black women as hos and bitches. This portrayal has become so prevelant throughout our nation's history that some people like Immus believe it to be true.

...the problem won't go away until the same black leaders who are now asking for Immus to be fired can go to the root of this problem and end the negative images of black women on MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and other radio shows everyday. If you read many of the comments on the blogs you see a majority of whites use the same excuse as Immus. They ask why there is a double standard, why blacks can call their women hos but whites can't, and you also see a number of blacks blaming the rap industry.

E-mail #2:

We call Black women freaks, hizzoes, hoes (yes even nappy head hoes), tramps, pigeons, dykes, jiggas and skanks. We call each other niggers (oh I forgot we graduated, now we call each other niggas), fags, and other dreadful names. We never demand Wendy Williams from being fired or other Black personalities who call other races disrespectful names. I have heard Black personalities and Black liberal leadership call Whites "crackers" and "redneck hillbillies" but if a White person call us "hoes" we demand the removal of that person from the station.

What about Black radio promoting sex, soft porn and violence on the air? I did not see anyone protesting Black radio but you are protesting someone who gave a stupid comment. The images that are shown on Black TV can be compared to a minstrel show. We show brothers and sisters straight screwing on TV (not making love), calling each other bitches on popular Black situation comedies, and showing the most un-Christian images on TV. Will you ever see Al Sharpton demanding positive images on TV? Hell no unless it has a liberal twist.

E-mail #3:

Here we have a crotchety old white disc jockey trying to justify his racist and sexist comments by essentially saying, "Hey! Black men call their women these things-- and much worse-- all the time!" What's more tragic, the fact he had the audacity to flip the script and put the onus for his ignorance on our people? ... or the fact that he's right? As the Imus fall-out and "A Girl Like Me" make clear, we're suffering from a real identity crisis. And as the news article implies, we can't credibly stand against the Don Imus's of this world until we learn to reaffirm and cherish our purpose and worth as a people. This is especially so for black men, who need to stop blindly reinforcing and perpetuating the misogynistic social and sexual subordination of black women that has been afflicting our sistas since their first interactions with white slave masters. Yeah, I'm calling us to task. Someone has to; Al Sharpton ain't doin it.

I almost can't believe I'm about to write what I'm about to write, and some of these things I seriously can't believe I'm writing...

First of all...this is just typical bourgie black bullsh!t. And I'm an upper-middle class black, so I'm not necessarily putting the upper-middle class blacks down. But well-off blacks are always making the problem solely, or nearly so, about what's wrong with black people...which actually just turns around and supports white people's racism. And every single black person I've seen express the kind of views as those above could be considered bourgie, i.e. college students, college grads, grad students, law students, black Republicans, black media, etc. Absolutely, blacks need to take responsibility for our role in our problems. However, for every black problem, whites play a part. So, I don't understand how an issue about white racism gets turned into an issue about black accountability by black people.

What's even more amazing to me is how so many black people fail to see or completely ignore how just about everything they have to say about the Imus situation did not start with black people; they started with white people! The idea of degrading black people started over 300 years ago with white people! This is not something that arrived with rap music and videos! I view nearly everything about "black culture" today as coming from white supremacist ideals. To me, blacks calling blacks names and black men tearing black women down is not only the result of the social hierarchy invented by white people which makes all groups of people lower on the hierarchy fight each other for a higher rung--including black men and black women--but it's also the result of blacks internalizing all the negative images and stereotypes fed to us for decades and decades by white supremacists.

Furthermore, who exactly do you think owns and runs MTV, Comedy Central, radio stations and now even BET? Wasn't there a point in time when BET actually used to be a good TV station with good shows such as "Teen Summit" where black teens discussed important issues and "Midnight Love" where romantic black songs and videos were opposed to late-night shows where black music's most incredibly explicit videos are shown? When exactly did BET start going down hill? Here's when I think it did: when white people bought it!

And just who do you think runs the music industry? Sure, black men are responsible for the ridiculous, derogatory rhymes and lyrics. Yes, black women dance and behave in a sexual fashion with very little clothes on in not only black men's videos but their own videos. But who keeps asking this of them? Who is pulling the strings and signing the checks? Who is making the final decision to put out this kind of music and produce these kinds of artists and sign these kinds of artists? In fact, who is telling us that this is what people want to hear, that this kind of music is actually a success and are telling black artists who send decent demos and photos in to the record company that they are "too soft" and refuse to sign them? White people.

Blacks who are looking for movie and TV roles and record deals and who don't conform to the ways in which white executives love to exploit and depict black people don't have a chance. And you know this. You've heard these stories about blacks struggling, especially in the TV and movie industries, to get roles that didn't make blacks look stereotypical, fighting directors and writers about offensive scripts, phrases, dialects, etc. In my opinion, most black roles are still stereotypical. And it's generally not black people behind the cameras or writing the scripts for these roles.

My point in all this is dig deeper! On the surface, today's rap music and derogatory terms such as "bitch," "ho" and "nigga" originated with blacks. Instead, blacks are really the brainwashed puppets in this whole ordeal. Our real problem all our lives has been not digging deeper, not thinking beyond who people--both black and white--tell us we are. Some of us are so stunted in our thinking that we can't even recognize the effects of a long and continuing history of white supremacy when we see it.

Black people don't just turn against black people for no reason. Black women have always been sexual objects to men--this did not start with rap music and videos. The words "ho" and "bitch" might not have been hurled at us back when white men were raping us and getting away with it on a regular basis, back when it wasn't even considered rape, but the meaning associated with those words were attached to us anyway. Black women and black men are just spitting back out, for the white man's monetary profit as well as their own, what we've been told all our lives.

Black men have always been depicted as bad and dangerous by white people--this did not start with rap music and videos. Check out the movie "Birth of a Nation," which is considered the most racist movie ever made and is almost never shown on TV as a consequence, if you don't believe me. The media depictions of black males as primarily sexual, aggressive, violent beings (and even as beings who lust after white women) started back during World War I and have been alive and well ever since. Black women and black men are just spitting back out, for the white man's monetary profit as well as their own, what we've been told all our lives.

And the white man is right there encouraging--no, demanding--that these black men and black women display these images because, allegedly, that's the only thing the public--black, white and otherwise--wants to see from us. Today, for most black artists, if he or she wants to realize a passion for performing as an artist in the entertainment industry for a living, he or she has little say in the matter, short of walking away from it all.

Now, we do have a part to play in informing the media that they are wrong. And most of us are not doing that. Black women are too afraid of making blacks look bad, of making black men look bad and making themselves look bad by looking as if they are not supporting black men. So, instead, black women talk amongst themselves about how they like the music of the song but don't like the lyrics and the video images. Black men continue to look at their best chance in life as either playing a sport or learning how to rap while education remains a white thing. Chances are most black little boys you ask will tell you they want to do one of those two things when they grow up.

So the cycle continues--white people have convinced us we are dumb and can't perform well enough on a standardized test, and for the many of us who are not convinced of that we are convinced that going through college and beyond won't matter because of the glass ceilings we'll encounter due to racism. In fact, I readily admit that one of the reasons why I question my decision to attend law school is because I feel as if I will never have the same opportunities for success in the legal profession as any white person will. So, many black men don't even try anything like law school. They would rather do what a white record label says is necessary for their image--degrade black women. (And even "black" record labels tend to be subsidiaries of white-owned labels and would be nowhere without those white umbrella labels).

I also want to ask what is with all this "we" stuff? I mean, I don't buy rap music. I almost never listen to rap music. And I have no problem sticking up for black women over black men when it comes to rap music or anything else. I will tell a rapper to his face that I don't like what he does, and I will tell a video girl to her face that she needs to go put some clothes on and get a real job. Frankly, this "we" talk pisses me off--if you want to feel guilty for jammin' that nonsense on the radio nowadays and for not doing your part in being angry with how black women are portrayed, feel free. But don't include me in your off-the-mark rants that support white people's over-generalizations about black people.

To me, it's the same as what I wrote about white gays justifying "nigger." Not only is it true that not all black people engage in the derogation that has been written about and discussed ad nauseam over the last week, but it's also true that, hey, other races of men are responsible for derogatory images of other races of women in the media and that not enough people are speaking out about this! In fact, why are we always discussing these things when they involve black people in racial terms and talking about how much they reflect on black people, as if black people are the only ones who do these things, but we never point out the behavior of other people in racial terms? I mean, because I think women (and I use that term loosely) such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, as well as the overwhelmingly white Playboy playmates and girls who participate in "Girls Gone Wild" and other pornographic videos reflect on white women, as well as white men.

This is another way in which we let white people get off the hook for their ignorance by focusing on ours. Frankly, white women behave way worse than black women ever do in the media, and yet only black women's behavior and image seem to cause a racial war and racial reprimands. Much of how white women act is also due to white men pulling the strings and internalization of a negative self-image, this time based on sex and sexism. We watch news story after news story about these famous white women and endure ad after ad of predominantly white pornography while we watch TV at night, and yet these are merely examples of crazy individuals doing crazy things that we find entertaining. We let white people get away with this--we let them get away with talking about what we do without ever talking about what they do; we let white women get away with degrading themselves; and we let white men get away with degrading white women.

And what about the fetishization of Latinas and Asians by white men? Look, I'm going to disclaim the following by telling you that I had never seen a real porno movie until I was about 23 years old, nor did I really have an interest in that kind of thing. But everyone else I knew had seen these kinds of movies and thought I was lying when I said I hadn't. So I decided to remedy that.

There was this one porno I saw that was offensive as hell. It was white men and Asian women having sex. To me, the Asian women were clearly Americanized, i.e. they were not born in Asian nations and had no reason to have Asian accents that signal someone's an immigrant who barely knows English. The language and the accents used by these women were over the top. Everything was just "me" this and "me" that, i.e. the song by 2 Live Crew called "Me So Horny," as well as some other ways in which Americans mimick the way Asians allegedly speak. By having them talk like that and act very submissive with these white men was just the hugest stereotype of Asian women I've ever seen, and I just looked at that film like, "I know some racist-ass white men are behind this!"

My point is that it's not just black women who are portrayed a certain way--all women are. I have long thought that white women look worse than black, Asian and Latina women in the media but nobody ever really points that one out. In fact, most of my racist ideas about white women have come from the media, i.e. they are manipulative, are always using men for money (Paul McCartney/Heather Mills, Anna Nicole Smith, Nicole Brown Simpson or just about any white woman who marries a famous black man, etc), are promiscuous, wild, get where they are based on sexuality more so than talent (particularly in the entertainment industry), attend college looking for a husband rather than to get an education, and are shallow and anorexic as hell, etc. And I love that shampoo commercial where it's blondes vs brunettes, but it falls in line with the idea that white blondes are snobby dumb sluts.

When we put down blacks in the media, publicly admonish blacks for behavior that is not solely attributable to or even solely displayed in blacks while using an erroneous "we" mentality, and call for black leaders to do the same...and never say anything about whites in the media, we only hurt ourselves more and fuel the stereotypes that were basically invented by white people in the first place. It incorrectly makes whites look more angelic while we look as bad as everyone already thinks we are. This is the double standard we need to question, and this is the double standard that needs to be brought to the public's attention.

So, to help those of you out who act completely handicapped about how to respond to these white people justifying their ignorance by saying black people do it...the correct response is..."And white men not only degrade black women and black men--just as they have been doing for centuries now--but they make and/or spend millions each year degrading white, Asian and Latina women, as well. But...that doesn't result in us calling your women names!"