My main issue is that hip hop is exported all over the world as a representation of Black Americans. A friend of mine who is in Yale Law School, was student body president at Stanford, all around doing big things - so as you can imagine he carries himself a certain way and presents himself in a way that doesn't really scream "rapper" - walked into a music store in China and the clerk greeted him with a "Yo Whats up my n-word!!"
A story that has this beat, and straight from Oprah's mouth (said during an interview with Ed Lover on Power 105.1 NY last week):
Oprah decided to film a show interviewing Nelson Mandela at his house. She went with her entire staff and television crew all the way to South Africa to visit him. They get all the way down there, and when they arrive at the house, Nelson Mandela's guards greet Oprah's staff with "What's up my n-word?" At first, they thought that they had misheard the guards, but when it was repeated they were shocked even further. Finally, Oprah had one of her representatives pull the guard aside and inform him that referring to her staff using that term was unacceptable in her eyes.
Yet, who is to blame? Are we simply to resort to criticizing the artists themselves for the music they put out there, or are we to also criticize the industry executives that determine which kind of images of black people will be broadcast? And what can be done about it?
And also, I think we need to put videos in perspective. I think it's all too easy to criticize videos as simply an extreme, denigrating depiction of black people; it must be remembered that, throughout American history, blacks in popular culture have been granted the (perhaps undesirable) space to express in a more unbridled, unrestrained form the behavior of mainstream white America. In other words, videos are extreme, but also are representative of the desires and preoccupations of America. And, as such, if parents are truly concerned with instilling their children with values counter to that of the American mainstream, they will make sure their children refrain from watching a whole lot of stuff on television, not just music videos.
PS. For NYers, Oprah also
got Ed Lover to stop saying, "It's a celebration, b@#$#@" He now says, "It's a celebration!"