Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Hang Imus from the tallest tree, but first you must answer these questions three:
Why am I supposed to feel any respect for the reactions to Don Imus, when the very people calling for his figurative head have been basically silent about black rappers?
What is the difference between ruining Imus' career and trying to beat or kill him?
Show me the evidence that any woman on the Rutgers team has been or will ever be harmed by Imus' words?
Your post raises interesting concerns I think many people have been curious about since the Imus goof-up. I feel compelled to reply.
In terms of gangsta rap, this genre of music has generated billions for corporate execs. Those of us within the black community who hate this form of music are left somewhat powerless, as we take stands, but money seems to win out over integrity. I do wish Sharpton and Jackson would take a more proactive approach in addressing this rap-crap, since the media seems to have crowned them the gatekeepers of the community. Their actual benefit to our community is questionable; both of these men have a LOT to explain in terms of their personal integrity. Many of us do not like being associated with them, especially Sharpton.
And finally. Pardon the sentimentality, but words are possibly the most potent force in the world. Words incite wars and inspire peace. To be a bit more personal, I remember every word said to me during a break-up, I remember lines from stupid comedies (Raising Arizona especially), I remember my niece's first words. I have explained the power of language to gangsta rappers I have confronted, but I doubt it will change anything. Quite frankly, I think many other people in our society should meditate on the importance of words, language, and speech.
Back to Imus. Did his words hurt the team from Rutgers? They said the words did indeed hurt deeply. I believe them. I know they hurt me.
1) Words are indeed powerful. I just want to respectfully point out that the power derives directly from the reaction to the words, not from the words themselves. Our freedom of speech is a direct consequence of that power. It is, by far, the biggest force balancing against the tyranny of the majority and of bureaucracy.
2) Money also talks, as you so rightly point out. Thus, am I reasonable in pointing the finger of hypocrisy at the coach, Jackson and Sharpton, for going after the "easy" target with Imus? He cannot be the main symptom of the problem, not by a long shot.
3) I have no doubt at least some of those young women were hurt by Imus. But, I must ask further questions:
Isn't their hurt just piling on to the hurt they've felt all their lives from rap lyrics?
And, in the end, shouldn't the coach and the rest of us be encouraging them to have shields against such hurt, instead of teaching them to be victims?
Your first and third points mirror the main reasons I have been studying Buddhism. You can't control the world's big mouths and bad decision-makers, but you can indeed control your reaction. This ability to control your own reaction is perhaps the truest power, greater even than words or that right that respects words and ideas, Freedom of Speech. I have found Buddhist teachings to be helpful.
Maybe it is my respect for free speech that keeps me from using the term as a reactionary device. There are countries in this world where citizens are routinely locked up indefinitely for standing up to oppressive governments. These people dream of the freedoms we have here. So though it is within my right to say all sorts of crude nonsense of no redeeming social value (as people like shock-jocks and gangsta rappers have a propensity to do), I think I'll save my "Free Speech" card for when I am using my speech for something of value, like protesting the war.
It's interesting that you say these women are being taught to be victims (though the term "victim" seems to be subjective). IMO, these women refused to be victims, and took a stand. (A pagan I know here at work follows a "warrior-path" and says he doesn't see victimization at all. He believes these women were hurt, then angry, then confronted who they saw as an attacker. He's a father of three daughters, and encourages them to be confrontational when they feel it is necessary.)
It wasn't just the words, though, it was the intent behind them. The perpetrators were trying to marginalize me, to separate me from society, to genuinely turn me into a non-person, and I am not exaggerating by saying that.
Freedom of speech is a good thing, so is trying to teach people to not be deeply angered by every little word... but it is important to address attitudes that cause people to do things like labeling young woman as prostitutes due to their skin color.
(I despise gangsta rap. I like European heavy metal.)
So are the most ardent opponents of the music/culture/style. :)
(I am drawn to people from other cultures and races and love talking to them and finding out differences. I have more in common in beliefs, culture, and upbringing with the average 65-year-old black woman than with my average "peer" half her age and white.)