Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Truth About Hip-Hop and Black Males

I had the recent pleasure of viewing an excellent documentary called Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes by documentarian (and Omega man) Byron Hurt. Hurt, an avid hip-hop fan, took a real, hard look at the rap industry and how it affects and reflects Black masculinity. This is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen (and I'm a buff) - it was thorough, insightful, and honest. The 2006 documentary was originally aired on PBS on the indie film show, Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard.

Surprisingly enough, the entire documentary is on Google Video! However, be a good sport and support this brother by purchasing a copy (for about $20) at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Taco Bell and Black America Have In Common

As I was wrestling with my children and my piling mountain of writing work yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a new Taco Bell commercial that resonated with me. The theme of this advertisement was actually a play on words, where viewers were encouraged to 'change their view of change'. Taco Bell is simply communicating that you should gather your spare change to buy their inexpensive tacos, but it meant something different to me. It was the first day of Black History Month, and some stranger on the television told me to change my view of change.

And THAT made me think of you.

There are lots of Americans who are voting and taking political action all on the premise of "change". People are talking about how ready they are for a "change" in government. Obama got elected on this principle. Black America in particular wants to see "change" in this country.

But what the heck does THAT mean?

Has anyone ever stopped to consider that change is not automatically positive? Is it possible that changes, even when well intended, can cause unexpected problems? Then there are issues concerning the agents of change; who can realistically change what? Whose responsibility is it, really, to change what I want changed in my life and my community? Just because a pied piper comes to town talking about change, does it mean that they will or even can make the changes that they cause me to dream about?

Is it possible that the idea of "change" is a manipulation?

Understand that I am overgeneralizing to make a particular point. We are now experiencing Black History Month 2009, which will prove to be one of the most dynamic celebrations of Black American history ever in this country. People have been comparing Obama to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (ugh), and Black Americans really do have a reason to celebrate. However, when does "change" cease to be the buzz word for Black Americans looking to be satisfied and become the charge for Black Americans/ looking to actually progress themselves and not just celebrate the success of others? What sense does it make to spend an entire month celebrating a President who has not yet served any particular Black interests, and in fact is NOT a Black American (he is African-American at best) and the success of other high achievers.

What about YOUR Black history? Are you making any? Are YOU personally changing anything? Do you even have a balanced view of change in the Black community?

I submit to you that the answer is probably "no".

Case in point, Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee in the same month that Obama was inaugurated. Not a peep out of Black America. No "Atta boy" for Michael Steele, although he is the first Black man to be elected to that office. Being the first Black chairman of the RNC is a HUGE deal! It's actually, according to the logic retained by most Black Americans, a harder feat to accomplish than even what Obama did! Think about it: the most liberal U.S. senator in history gets elected by a bunch of liberals, including Black Americans who unilaterally vote Democrat anyway. Okay. However, Michael Steele was elected chairman of a national political organization representing a party that YOU would probably consider to be racist! There are very few Black Republicans in this country, and yet a Black man was elected to be chairman over the entire RNC.

That's tough!

But there was no parade, Jessee Jackson didn't come and cry, nothing. Since Michael Steele isn't promising you free health care and a check, his achievements toward "change" don't matter to you. Many of you reading this don't even know who Michael Steele is. Yet, if given the opportunity, I'm sure you would take the opportunity to talk about how the Republican Party doesn't appeal to, accommodate, or serve Black Americans.

You can see that's a lie. The change has come; where are you? Where was your Black pride concerning THAT change?

As I digress, I submit to you that Black Americans have a very self-serving and warped idea of change, and it is based in victimhood. If change doesn't involve us getting served, we don't want it. Instead of cleaning up our own communities, we vote for crooked politicians who promise to do it for us. Instead of teaching our own children, we burden an already broken and insufficient school system with the entire responsibility of educating our children, and then get mad when they can't read dot on a spot. We point the finger at groups who don't kiss our collective Black behind, but when they do make progress and move toward the 'colorblindness' that we pretend to want, we are the ones who are actually blind to it. We think that everyone else is supposed to change. We want everyone else to be agents of change. We let snake oil salesmen and pied pipers get us upset about the establishment when they are just establishment-wannabes themselves. It's everyone else's responsibility to change.

When are WE going to change?

When are we going to get a 21st Century perspective on our own history? When are we going to go beyond just celebrating the successes and admit the failures? When do we critically analyze our history so that we can see what isn't working and form new social theories and action plans based in fact and not emotion?

When will we truly be the ones that we have been waiting for?

When are we going to change OUR view of change?