Thursday, April 12, 2007

Whitlock The Enabler

Time to wake up, Jason.

Jason Whitlock is wrong. Again.

In an article published Wednesday, April 11, Jason Whitlock, columnist for the Kansas City Star and former talking head for ESPN, uses the recent Don Imus uproar as an excuse to launch a scorched Earth attack against hip hop, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and gangsterism run amock. Whitlock offers his thanks to Don Imus who, unwittingly, "..extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred."

Where to begin?

First, Whitlock erroniously dismisses Don Imus as "irrelevant". This is a man who has been in radio (and more recently, television) for over 30 years, has been named one of the 25 greatest talk radio hosts of all time, regularly invites nationally recognized politicians to his show, and has a daily listening audience of tens of millions of Americans. If Imus is irrelevant what is Whitlock?

Second, he cynically accuses Vivian Stringer and Rutgers of holding a press conference in order to recruit players. Never mind the fact that every major news provider in the country has been requesting comments/responses/interviews from and with the Rutgers team since Imus' comments became a national story. Never mind that ANY organization in the country would have scheduled a news conference to deal with the furor (e.g. Duke rape case). Also, never mind the fact that if Rutgers wants to reverse this situation and use it to their advantage it's their prerogative. They didn't bring this attention to themselves.

Third, what does hip hop have to do with Don Imus? Tell me something. Did hip hop precede the slave trade, chattel slavery in the US, the purposeful, systemic destruction of the black family, the complete obliteration of our former culture, the three-fifths of a man decision, lynching, race wars, Jim Crow, Plessy v. Ferguson, economic lockout, poll taxes, literacy tests, The Little Rock Nine, the KKK, Emmit Till, Medgar Evers, the assassinations of King and X, white flight, the myth of the "welfare queen", underfunded public schools, predatory lending, land rent schemes, rent-to-own stores, etc., etc., etc.? As usual, Whitlock latches on to anything having to do with race and uses it to bludgeon hip hop. Hip hop is and has always been a genre fueled by poverty and inequality. Does Whitlock know how hip hop began? Hip hop (think beatboxing, mcing, djing, etc.) started during the late '70s and exploded during the Reagan era (not coincidentally when Reagan began to cypher money from inner city school music programs). Prior to that, young black kids were learning to play i-n-s-t-r-u-m-e-n-t-s in school. If you can recall, Jazz used to be our rebel music - and the blues prior to that. Black kids rap because that's the only form of musical expression we were left with. And guess what? Many (NOT MOST, NOT ALL!) people who grew up in poverty tend to act ignorantly and to say ignorant things. The same is true of poor whites, Latinos, etc. Believe me, there are tons of black folks, including myself, who have a problem with the direction mainstream hip hop has taken over the course of the last decade or so. Nas, the MCs MC, even went so far as to title his latest album, "Hip Hop Is Dead". But to me, to loathe hip hop as much as Whitlock does is to loathe poor blacks. Or, as Whitlock's ideological twin, Bill Cosby, put it, "the lower economic people."

Fourth, Whitlock is wrong about Dave Chappelle. Dave Chappelle TURNED DOWN fifty million dollars because of misgivings he had about the racial direction his show was taking. I've favorably compared Chappelle's change of heart to Richard Pryor's, when Pryor visited Africa and decided to jettison the term 'nigger' from his public vocabulary. For Whitlock to actually compare politically insignificant black comedians to an influential white pundit with a history of prominent, public race-baiting is just misguided and regrettable.

Fifth, Imus only offered a public apology because of the uproar and his fear of losing corporate sponsorship - not out of any sense of genuine remorse. Imus has a track record of ugly racialized comments. This is the same guy who admitted to hiring staff specifically to make "nigger jokes." Plus, his apology was hollow. It was basically one of those, "I'm sorry for what happened" apologies. Not, "I'm sorry for the ignorant shit that I said." Who can be blamed for not accepting that?

Don't get me wrong. I agree that we have bigger fish to fry than Don Imus. Certainly drug usage, pre-marital pregnancy, single motherhood, lack of education, AIDS and other STDs, self-hatred, glorification of gansterism, misogyny, coonery, et cetera are greater issues. But these things are - like it or not - problems that have arisen and grown worse as a result of lack (or perceived lack) of economic opportunity and the brain drain that was created when our "talented tenth" integrated into the dominant culture and left the black working and lower classes behind. The black upper to middle class certainly has a lot more responsibility for this than the likes of Tupac Shakur.

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At 8:31 AM , Blogger Clifton said...

First of all I am glad to see you back. This is a topic we are just going to have to disagree on.

I wanted to read his article before commenting and I agree with him to a point. I'm a die hard hip hop fan and I would never destroy the culture as a whole but I don't think it's unfair to say that we have validated a mindstate that allows us to destroy ourselves. I can't put that much energy in totally destroying this man for a bad joke when I hear worse for hours on the hip hop station. It just comes off at hypocritical to me. It can't be bad for him to say and ok for anyone else just because they happen to look like the people they are talking about.

At 9:45 AM , Anonymous Viece said...

Ok. I just read his article, and that guy is an a point. I grew up on hip hop, but had to leave it once "smoking" became the thing to do in lyrics-- and those were the early days. There were still some innocent lyrics, educational lyrics in hip hop. Even now, I have given up on the genre as a listening past time. For every one song that is positive and creative, there are 7 or 8 more that make me really embarrassed to be associated with the genre. I do agree with him that Imus is a joke. Even Matt Lauer said that the apology was after the fact, and that it took him too long to "realize" what he did wrong. What I want to know is, do the people who write the filth understand the impact now? Do you get it? This is why so many of us have been disappointed with where hip hop has been going the last decade or so. When you put this stuff in the air waves, it creates a mindset for people inside the culture as well as out. I believe this is what Jason's problem is. He forgot how hip hop started. He forgot why hip hop started. Let's bring it back to the root. Make it safe to listen to again.....
And shame on him for accusing the Rutgers women of shamelessly recruiting. That is absolutely rediculous.


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