Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What Did I Just Tell You?

My friend S called, her in-laws are visiting from France, so I have to dust off my sparkling French conversation. Je sais que ça va être dificile d'abord, mais ça fait rien. Je sais bien que je fait des betises quand je parle, et ça va jamais changer. Je suis étranger, quand même comment est-ce que vous croyez que je dois parlez, alors?
An epistle to my non-brown friends:

How many times have I had this conversation before? A lot.

I don't really want to talk about Don Imus, because he is trash. He has a First Amendment right to be trash on the radio, to lose popularity, to alienate his sponsors, and lose his job. The First Amendment is a describes a right, not a safety net.

So now the media monkeys are screaming all over the place, talking about double standards, why Black people (i.e., rappers) are allowed to call black women "nappy headed hos" but white men are called racist when they do. Poor, rich white Imus, a victim of discrimination.

Bullshit. Nobody in any community calls the Rutgers Womens Basketball team "nappy-headed hos." They are neither nappy headed, nor hos. They all seem to have made hair choices that are not nappy; there is nothing to suggest that a single one of them are hos. Find me one person who has referred to them as "nappy headed hos" before Imus, and I will stand corrected. Well? No? That's what I thought.

Rappers tend to use degrading language because their music tends to be about (some would say glorify) a certain lifestyle in which calling someone a 'nappy headed ho' makes sense (however degrading). Was Don Imus rapping?

But JP, why should Snoop get to say words that Imus can't say?

Because it's not about words. It's about racism and misogyny. When Snoop is talking about someone being 'nappy headed,' no one suspects him of being racist.

So why can't us white people say these words without being suspected of being racist?

Because you don't have the credibility.

I get away with talking about cultural and ethnic differences all the time; yes, all the time, and sometimes I say things that my white friends would not dare to say for fear of being labeled racist. I get away with it because I tend to talk about cultural and ethnic differences with affection. There is no danger in anybody's mind that I will use the differences I notice to oppress somebody or discriminate against them. Zero.

White people, not so much. First, white people, especially white Americans, when describing cultural and ethnic differences, tend to sound like they're criticizing. You tend to make differences sound negative. I have yet to anyone make the argument that Imus was referring to 'nappy headdedness' as an endearing quality. Second, it doesn't take any stretch of the imagination to assume that white people will discriminate or oppress.

Is it fair? Probably not. So either you can just live with it, with this curse of perpetually being a potential oppressor... or you can work to gain credibility; that is, learn about brown people, listen to us, be comfortable around us, help us. Be one of us. Don't worry, in our club, you get to keep your heritage.

What about when Snoop calls them 'hos', how is that less misogynistic than when Imus says it?

It's not. It's always misogynistic to call a woman a ho.

Is it misogynistic to call a prostitute a ho?

What did I just tell you?

By the way, Snoop wants you to stop comparing him to Imus.


Orange said...

Ah, JP, I see why they call you a superhero. Well said!

sbalb said...

Similarly, though, I think you can use potentially inflammatory racial terms, if you have that credibility and yet are white.

Nobody satisfying that description springs to mind, though. Um, William Wilberforce? Do I have to come up with someone not dead?

(All we whities would love to jiggle in our seats calling "me, me!" but I think anyone who actually says that is automatically disqualified....)

Tita said...

I agree with the orange, this post is superheroic in nature.

ding said...

this was my favorite part:
"Second, it doesn't take any stretch of the imagination to assume that white people will discriminate or oppress."


seriously, totally brilliant and an excellent characterization of context and privilege.

ding said...

or maybe this was my favorite part:
"Be one of us. Don't worry, in our club, you get to keep your heritage." yeah, this was my favorite part.