This was a big moment. Prior to this announcement, Simmons was clearly uneasy and sounded almost schizophrenic, vigorously defending the rappers' right to use the insulting words while simultaneously protesting them, calling them "misogynistic" and "racist." When he appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show last month, he argued the problem was larger than the music world, "Whether it's our sexism, our racism, our homophobia or our violence, the hip-hop community sometimes can be a good mirror of our dirt and sometimes the dirt that we try to cover up." Still, by the end of the show, Simmons agreed that rappers had a problem with obscene lyrics.
Defenders of nasty rap songs often make the argument that the nastiness merely reflects on society. The excuse-makers at the rap magazine Vibe now are arguing that the new sensitivity to language is some sort of a conspiracy to silence political speech. "The desire to police hip hop at the level of language does little to address the sexism, misogyny and homophobia that informs the treatment of black women in black communities and the larger society."
That's bunk. Black women are being devalued and denigrated not primarily by "society," but by destructive elements within the black community itself. That segment of the black community must learn to shower more love on its own mothers, its own sisters and its own daughters before it has the audacity to cast the first stone at any other segment of the larger society. If other races can be charged with never being able to understand the historic pain of the black experience, then rappers should be the first to bring the healing, not the first to inflict the pain.
People trying to raise their children to have more respect for women than the "ho" culture provides are not buying the "mirror of our dirt" analogy. When a person gets up in the morning, the mirror reflects that they look groggy and unkempt. No one hails or blames the mirror for this image. It is high time the rap community clean up its act.
Russell Simmons should be hailed for daring to suggest rappers (and their moguls) groom their language, and leave their linguistic bad breath at home.
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