A week ago, I had the pleasure of not knowing this little man's name. Oh what a wonderful world that was.
Much more than racist, to me, the statement of these basketball players being "nappy headed-hoes" was sexist (underneath all that racist garnish). That is really at the heart of this matter. I think there is truth to those that have responded, Coach Stringer included, that we must stop denegrating women in this country. Snoop Dogg didn't account for that shit on MTV. Rap music is big about putting women in their place--whatever place the dick-grabbing alpha deems appropriate in the situation. But the power of the black male ego has always been dependent on a reversal of his powerlesssness in some other area. His power is always dependent on taking that power (back or away) from someone else.
It may be argued that when speaking of power in broad terms, this is a conceptual truth about power. It must be held over someone else in order to exist as power. But there is a power that exists on one's own. Though no power is necessary in a vacuum, there is an integral power, one that exists defined only by oneself. That is the power of your integrity--knowing and being what you are. Maybe it's strength, rather than power. But it is definitely related, and it is this important bit that is missing (or somehow undercut, damaged, deficient) in most rap stars... and black men... and black people on a larger scale in this country. Yes, it is class and all of those other things so aptly pointed out by social scientists too. But it is, underneath all of that, the long-running self-loathing passed down from generation to generation by and through black me. A self-loathing that is always offered up for replenishment whenever a sense of history, of ancenstry, receeds.
This is what was taken away. And all that was left to fill it were images of depravity, propigated by white people and their fear, both of which wanted black people in their place. So of course it follows that like any man, a black man needs to feel proud of himself, like a "man," and will take on his loathed position much like Richard III, and build an empire on his self-loathing. He will take on, as a race, the joy and misrery that comes from having no home in the world. Black men who don't feel threatened don't need to call their women hoes. But white men can only be the "Man" if his brown counterpart is somehow the "Woman" getting fucked by it all. And it has always been the black woman who has played the role of the "Mule" in these situations, bearing the baggage in subjugation. All the hate that society has for black people, all the hate black men have for themselves, she gets when clearing the table.
As a sidenote, it is amazing that the women's movement in this country historically aligned itself with abolitionism and civil rights in this country, as it was understood that any laws that would help men of different creeds and colors would logically extend themselves to women. However these movements have not allied themselves, or at least supported rights for women, preferring to believe that the advancement of a race of people would be heavily dependent on the deferrment of rights to its women. In order to be considered man enough to be at the man's table talking about man things, these man of different races would have to be dominant over some other group.
Black women are some of the first to use the word "niggah" about someone as soon as we feel the doors are closed. We as black people feel we have the right to it. We have an unalienable human right to hate ourselves. But a Jewish person would note hate themselves so much to use a slur like that interchangeably for a noun. As famously self-depricating a culture as they may be, they wouldn't think of preaching that kind of loathing to and amongst themselves. They know they are more than that. They have a vast history that they are connected to which tells them so, despite any potential historical short-sightedness to the contrary. Conversely, our history is not something that we teach to ourselves or others. History would have us believe that Africans haven't achieved much since the last pyramid was built. So there is as much connection to that than there is to the Ming Dynasty. We feel that our people have done nothing, and since much of it is popularized and co-opted, there is often little evidence to the contrary. So in order to finally assimilate and be a part of this society, we have learned to hate ourselves too, much like we fear everyone else does. We blame ourselves for being forced onto this society, and take great pains to separate ourselves... to distance ourselves from some of our more negatively percieved social traits.
I think this discussion is linked to, but ultimately a digression from the main issue in this Imus situation, which is sexism. These women were targetted in the comment because they are women. There is no way Don Imus would have siad that about some black male basketball players (especially since he would then have to be talking about ALL the male basketball players) because they have already won respect in the sporting world. If this were a team of white female players, I am sure he would have had to have worked a bit harder to come up with just the perfect humiliating twist of words, but it would have been done in a way that probably could have passed for cute, men being men kind of sportsmanship. But it was because Imus could go for the lowest sqipe with these women that made the call to use the phrase so succulent to him, while simultaneously outing the comment as being truly dispicable. So blatantly offensive and denegrating: wanting to knock the wind out of the sails fo these women, and being able to do it because the extra handle of race gavie him a firm, planted grip.
That is where Imus and Snoop Dogg are brothers. Keeping women in their place of shadowed accomplishment. The strongholds of sexism lie in cultures outside of the popular white american one--but white american men still, as they always have, want a piece. Black people have always been at the forefront of history, and our performance ethic is impeccable, so there are always going to be white kids looking up to black performers. Constantly begging for one more dance from us and clapping along to do their part. And then there is that laughter and shame bestowed upon the ones who perform that dance honestly so that we don't mind when they take it from us. In fact, we are made to feel acceptable because of it. What is what white/dominant culture has always done with the cultural accomplishments that they have imbibed. It's why people think that country music is a white institution, even though it came from Negro slave songs, the blackest stuff this country is made of.
And to be fair, not all of this is the result of Machievellian machination. There is a lot to be said for the cult of cool and the way it has worked throughout history. Specifically American history. As the suburban baby darling of the modern world, we have always been susceptable to the newest trend. And cool has always been based upon subculture and subversion. Social contrarianism is always fetishized. Those who live outside of social and moral rule are looked up to by most at some point, as we all at some point in our growth fall short of the ideals we set up for ourselves. Self-loathing and self-destruction as a philosophy of social protest have always garnered societies romantic, bedroom eyes. And black culture in this country has typically spawned itselfas the definition of counterculture. Naturally if we find ourselves in a loathed position in society, our creations will naturally extend themselves as what is outside and undesiarable. And naturally, everyone will desire it... even for a taste. Gangster rappers are goth kids without the pallor. Wearing our chips on our shoulders like military epaulettes.
The majority of popular rap music today propagates sexism. That is something that black people don't have claim to just by virtue of their outsider stance in society. We yuse those isms as a defense--shrouding ourselves in a demonstrative despair that protects us from reproach. Black people can be racist toward everyone, and sexist toward every woman because we have always felt the fullest measure of the blow has been laid on us; and that kind of full-fledged hatred is our only dignity and power. That does not have to be so. And in fact, as long as it is so, it will prevent us from really being a part of this present society that we ache for in its nearness. Once again, black people are going to have to make the first move and let white America watch, follow, and feel like they are taking the lead. And we can probably talk to the women on how best to do that.