Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fighting Hate Thought

Finally, finally, finally...

Professional hypocrites who are too eager to punish people like Don Imus for saying things like "nappy-headed hos" are starting to examine those who say far worse far more often, namely hip-hop artists. Al Sharpton is a prime example of someone who will leap down the throat of any white person who utters the N-word but remains mum when Beenie Man sings a song about how all fags should die. I'm not even gonna mention Tawana Brawley, though I'm fairly dying to.

The Pop Culture Institute is unequivocally opposed to censorship, even that imposed upon the very worst hate speech. Punishing someone for saying a terrible thing doesn't stop them from thinking it, only from saying it. Instead of releasing the hatred and aggression inherent in such speech - which may, it is true, encourage others to acts of violence - it festers inside them, which may indeed result in a much larger crime at a later date.

Hate speech is the result of disordered thinking. Inaccurate assumptions, left unchecked, easily become the truth. Peer groups - whether they call themselves a posse or a congregation - have a way of forming around this sort of affinity. Hate thinking, naturally, cannot help but express itself, which is where the vicious cycle is given release. Those on the receiving end of this hatred will inevitably react, rather than understand, and the cycle continues, without relief.

I've always liked hip-hop, despite the dismaying profusion of hatred in its lyrics, mainly because not everyone does it, and even those who do it don't do it all the time. For those who do, though, their hatred can be considered a road map to relieving itself. A rapper who has bad luck with women is likely to think badly of all women, when in fact he's just surrounded by the wrong kind of women, namely the kind who cast aside all morality when faced with a wealthy, popular recording artist who feels entitled to getting whatever he demands, including sleazy behaviour from scantily clad women.

Similarly, a muscular black rapper like 50 Cent seems to be displaying his ignorance when he demonstrates fear of a stereotypical gay man, a 150-pound mincing white guy. In every way, Fitty has the upper hand here. There are no gangs of hairdressers terrorizing Harlem, and there never have been, and there never will be. Oppressors have a funny way of believing that those whom they've oppressed, given the upper hand, will act in exactly the way they've been treated. It simply doesn't happen.

I think it was really Eminem who brought about the current scrutiny, for which he will one day be as lauded as he once was vilified. His were the first hip-hop lyrics really scrutinized by the mainstream media (with the possible exception of 2 Live Crew), a fact which he frequently bemoaned in his music. It's a tad disingenuous, but it's also entirely ingenious.

Eminem knows exactly what he's doing, and hides behind that trailer park persona of his because it's a well-known fact that young men, when they're smart, usually get called fags, and as everyone knows, a fag is the worst thing you can be called. He will win a GLAAD award yet, you mark my words.

If you meet someone who, for whatever reason, you don't like, you can simply ignore them. Or you can choose to use the opportunity to examine your own prejudices. Does that person express something in their person which you dislike about yourself? Lashing out, whether using words or fists, does nothing. It may alter their behaviour, which is common result of terrorism, but it doesn't make you feel any better, nor does it make the "problem" go away; there'll always be another and another who produces the same reaction, since the real problem isn't them it's you.

The real irony is, if you hate fags so much that you're willing to assault or kill one, rest assured you will be caught and sent to jail and that will be eye-opening, to say the least. If that's what you're really after, there are places to go for that which have the added benefit of not having to deal with the police. At least not the on-duty ones.

It's high time for this debate. Oprah Winfrey, who has recently been criticized for turning her back on the black community, has simply turned her back on the more negative aspects of her communtiy in favour of the more positive ones, and to take her role in the larger community of humans, especially those who refuse to define themselves in terms as narrow as skin colour. She's to be commended for enjoining the debate now. Similarly, Bill Cosby has drawn fire made for comments critical of black men - comments that might have been better directed at himself first, given the bumpy few years of scandal he's endured - but at least he's gotten people talking.

So thank you, Michael Richards and Don Imus, for providing the tipping point. I have a feeling that by the time everybody's put their two cents into this one our society will be a much richer one.
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