Don’t hate players when you should hate the game

By George Ploss

“We’ve got to admit to ourselves, that it was not the first time that we heard the word ‘ho.’ Turn on the radio station. There are a whole lot of songs that use the same language & we’ve been permitting it in our homes, and in our schools and on iPods,” said Illinois Senator Barack Obama, about Don Imus’ racial and sexist slurs. And he’s right, these words aren’t good for us to use because they demean, degrade and perpetuate ignorance and hate.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons retorted, “My response to Sen. Obama is that you have to talk about the poverty and ignorance that creates such a climate that the poets can talk like that,” he told ABC News. “And all the politicians owe them an education and an opportunity for a better life and maybe they’ll say something better.”

Out of all the attacks and excuses people are using to defend Imus’ filth, Simmons’ comment was the best defense. The only problem is that he and Obama are talking about two different types of music. The ignorant garbage that you probably hear on the radio and watch on MTV and BET is mainstream rap that utterly transforms the worldview of what hip-hop really is. So then people put this under the umbrella of the whole genre and hip-hop gets a bad rap, pun intended.

For example, songs like “Do the Heizman on Dat Ho,” (which is a sexist and crude song to say the least) refers to what someone should do if you come across a woman with whom you would prefer not to speak in a club. “Da Heizman” is referring to the Heisman Memorial Trophy that is awarded each year to the most outstanding college football player.

Songs like these are formulated, constructed and marketed products. They are simply pop music with a bunch of ignorant people reciting profane lyrics in nursery rhyme format over heavily synthesized, simple, intoxicating bass beats. People make these songs to make money. People pay radio stations and television stations to keep songs like these in airplay.

Their initial shock value generates buzz and then is consumed mainly by white suburban American kids. Songs like these are not representative of a culture that stems from urban pain, realism and its poetic expression thereof, but more of the way that music and entertainment as a whole is force-fed to us on conglomerate airwaves.

Those of us who choose to hear “real” hip-hop, a genre with depth and musicianship, listen to artists like Lupe Fiasco, Common, Kanye West and the Roots. But artists who are really representative of hip-hop do not get proportionate airplay.

The problem with this crude adaptation that people call hip-hop is that it causes people to think that it represents young blacks as a whole when it does anything but. It also influences younger children both black and white, and becomes the standard of how young blacks are supposed to act.

This cycle of racist personification is also internalized by those who aren’t black, by those who don’t live in this country and, at times, younger blacks themselves. This becomes the view of blacks and then a “valid” argument and defense when racial epithets are thrown around the airwaves by bigots like Imus.

Who should take responsibility?

Bob Johnson, founder of BET, called Imus’ comments “deplorable” and called for his firing along with countless people from around the country. It was the pot calling the kettle hot. Bob Johnson has done way more damage to the black community, even on a global scale, than Don Imus. BET, day by day, demeans black women, glorifies violence, and continues to be counterproductive toward the image of black people.

The first black billionaire got paid on the racial exploitation of his own people. He’s one person the NAACP should sue. There is also the structure of the music industry as a whole but really, in a free-market society, it boils down to the consumer. Imus produced what we consume as a nation on a daily basis: racism and sexism. He should’ve gotten fired, but people shouldn’t blame what they think “hip-hop” is.

Firing him isn’t going to take back the insults he threw at those college-educated athletes, ladies who portrayed class, distinction and character, values that Imus sorely lacked, but it’s a start.

One Love.