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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Embracing shame

Memo to young black men: Please grow up

Last week, I was in a studio in midtown where a popular program for black youths was being filmed. I found myself surrounded by black men, ages 18 to 35, and I was appalled.

As a father with a daughter nearly 30 years old who has never been close to marrying anyone, I was once more struck by what my offspring describes as "a lack of suitable men." She has complained often about the adolescent tendencies of young black men, as will just about any young black woman when the subject comes up.

Those who believe that America is perpetually adolescent will point at the dominance of frat-boy attitudes among successful white men and will say of the black hip-hop generation, "So what? How could they not be adolescent? They are not surrounded by examples of celebrated maturity. The society worships movie stars, wealthy athletes and talk show hosts. These are not the wisest and most mature of people."

There is more than a little bit right about that. Our culture has been overwhelmed by the adolescent cult of rebellion that emerges in a particularly stunted way from the world of rock 'n' roll. That simpleminded sense of rebelling against authority descended even further when hip hop fell upon us from the bottom of the cultural slop bucket in which punk rock curdled.

Hip hop began as some sort of Afro protest doggerel and was very quickly taken over by the gangster rappers, who emphasized the crudest materialism in which the ultimate goal was money and it did not matter how one got it. The street thug, the gang member, the drug dealer and the pimp became icons of sensibility and success. Then the attitudes of pimps took a high position and the pornographic version of hip hop in which women become indistinguishable bitches and hos made a full-court press on the rap "aesthetic."
The way she understood it was that these young black men do not see growing up as having any advantages to it. One is either current or old-fashioned and outdated. The only success they think they can believe in is had by either athletes or rappers. Young black men. So they hold on to adolescence and adolescent ways as long as they can.

I'm sorry, but this is a crock of shit.

Crouch has no respect for anything but jazz, and as a result has no ability to actually be respected by anyone who does anything else.

Hip hop and punk had different roots and come from very different cultural impulses. Punk was the reaction to art rock and it's bloat, while hip hop was the democratization of music. Anyone could take part. Which I think he finds offensive.

He has made a living depicting black men as idol worshiping ignorants, ignoring the vast majority who actually work for a living and care for their kids and pay their bills. There is a temeptation by the black elite to blame all our collective problems on the poor, the young and black men. Bill Cosby made fun of people's names without even looking across the room.

If he thinks blacks are the only people who lionize criminals, I suggest he watch the Sopranos or see the Departed. It took people in Boston two decades to admit Whitey Bulger was a scumbag crook.

Many of the same problems seen in black America are seen in all American ethnic groups.

He thinks black men are immature, he should come with me to watch football on a Sunday. Please. Trust me, white people drinking act just as silly.

One of the things he misses in his myopia is how hip hop has changed. Most of the rappers want to be empire builders, own companies and run them. Not just do music.

But even more than that, the idea that black people see success in sports and music is not untrue, but it isn't the only signpost for success. I mean, Barack Obama isn't an ex-football star, is he? Al Sharpton hasn't thrown any passes, has he? So this idea that all our heroes are entertainers is silly.

Look at American culture. There is a half hour of national news and an hour and a half of celebrity news. It is easier to find out about the Cruise "wedding" than Iraq.

But the reason such self-hatred gets published, is because too many upper middle class blacks look down at their poorer cousins and feel shame and fear being lumped in with them, so they make these half-baked attacks and pray that people will see "we're not like them, we can fix them".

Are the messages objectionable? Sure. But you can't have a discussion when someone won't respect you. Which is why many rappers have a problem with Oprah. Instead of actually engaging them, she simply won't deal with them. She once had the Klan on her show. She's had child molesters and adulterers on her show. But black men don't even merit an audience.

She lionized James Frye for being a junkie criminal, yet Ludacris is unfit for her audience. Now, you can object to his sexism, but what message does that send to black men, that they are devalued.

It would make more sense to make him defend what he does than to treat him as a pariah, while granting criminals an audience.

Ok, about 10 years ago, Calvin Butts decided to wage a war against rap music. Butts is the head of Abyssinian Baptist Church, the most prominent black church in New York City. He took a bunch of CD's and smashed them in the street. Al Sharpton was nowhere to be seen. Yet.

Now, he agreed with Butts, but not his methods.

So, when Butts got on TV, rappers ran to Sharpton and said "why did he have to disrespect us like that. We work, we raise our families, what did we do to deserve such treatment".

Now, even though Sharpton didn't like the lyrics any more than Butts, he had their respect. So when he made the same points, but without the grandstanding, they listened.

What this is really about is the discomfort with working class black life. As anyone can tell you, rap is not the most popular music among black teens, it's R&B, the vast majority of the rap audience is white. But instead of talking to these young men as human beings, asking about their attitudes, instead, they act as if they are shameful and need to be fixed, without even knowing what is in their heads.

posted by Steve @ 12:29:00 AM

12:29:00 AM

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