12 April 2007

Jason Whitlock = Superman?

I had no idea who Jason Whitlock before today, but he may turn out to be one of my heroes:

Imus isn't the real bad guy

It's rare that you hear black commentators saying things like this. And if they are allowed to speak, they're quickly hushed in order to keep "our" dirty laundry unaired.

Whitlock really hits the point home when he says:
In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?

I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

However, I'm afraid that messages like this are often lost on the general Black populace in this country. Instead, the words of Snoop Dogg are likely more palatable:

It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit, that's trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthafuckas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever.

It's the same, repackaged self-victimization argument that people like Mr. Whitlock are trying to extinguish, but the media starlets (or should I say, hoodlums) won't let die.

Here's my opinion. The problem with fatalism and victimization is that the wrong incentives are devised in order to create an equilibrium. The myth is that if it's okay to be less valuable human beings in society, then the devaluation of other human beings may be similarly carried out with impunity. And it's a positive feedback cycle: the more that one is allowed denigrate others, the more he is allowed to self-victimize.

This is a two pronged problem though. The options are to a) rebuke the racism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-intellectualism spun from the mouths of "our" most visible representatives or b) disrupt the specter of self-defeatism and underdog-ism that pervade this community. Aphoristically, you can't help anyone else until you help yourself; the basis of the problem lies in prong b, but people only know how to deal with prong a.

The challenge thus is to create an atmosphere where positive Black images overshadow the negative ones. Yet, in this BET/MTV culture, where the intellectual castration of the Black man/woman is so economically puissant, that burden is a daunting one. Very few commentators--e.g. John Whorter, Bill Cosby and now Mr. Whitlock--are willing to make such assertions because the Black community as a whole has become inured to, and thereby complicit in, its secondary classification in this country.

1 comment:

will said...

I read your post with great interest, but I think the problem with Whitlock, Cosby et al. is that they take a very complex class and social issue and reduce it to a very simple answer. "The boot straps mentality” and "we need to end self victimization" talk leaves out the very real institutional social and political dynamics that effect poor and working class blacks and shapes their psyche. Institutional oppression is real; it warps the mind and saps the spirit. All the self talk in the world is not going to change that. I just read some Michael Eric Dyson..."Is Bill Cosby Right"... his thoughtful analysis of the class and generational divide in the black community, I feel is a really thoughtful analysis of the “intra-racial" strife Whitlock is stroking. Check it out