Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Ishmael Reed is my hero

Thanks to Br. Cedric Muhammad's always excellent for this link to a Reed article on the hypocrisy of the corporate media establishment, the faux-feminist matriarchy and the anti-hip hop forces in wake of the firing of openly, repeatedly racist-speaking broadcaster Don Imus. And I, like many others, am disgusted by the way that the Euro-American libservatives have used the firing of Imus to launch yet another attack (perhaps the most vicious ever) against two of the leading figures in the ongoing movement for social justice in the US: Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Reed writes: "
The other talking point set forth by Imus was that his smearing of the Rutgers team was his first offense and an apology to the Rutgers should have been enough.

"On March 14th, this line was parroted by Tom Foreman after yet another ignorant CNN rant about Hip Hop. Foreman complained that Imus was being punished for 'a few ill chosen words'--thus obscuring the fact that Imus’ firing was a culmination of KKK-type comments about Jews, blacks, Muslims and gays that extend backwards across many years. The Rutgers slur was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Though Imus’ defenders claim that he is an 'equal opportunity abuser,' his ridicule of Gays, Lesbians, and blacks, especially black men was a daily feature of his program. Yet, gays and lesbians, whose organizations have been complaining about Imus for years, weren’t invited to participate in the 'National Dialogue,' because the networks and cable channels have found that they can make more money by promoting the 'racial divide.'

"Don Imus’ acolytes, like the former NYPD cop Bo Dietal, were all over television insisting that the Rutgers team should be the final judge of whether Imus remained on the job--young women who were not fully acquainted with Imus’ resumé of past offenses against black women and who more were likely to cut him some slack. These young women might not have known that Imus called [African-American PBS news anchor] Gwen Ifill 'a cleaning lady,' a term which certainly wasn’t inspired by rappers. The Rutgers team might not have been tuned in to Imus when he and his crew joked about the manner by which Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, was murdered, a remark that doesn’t appear in any Hip Hop song. And they might not have been listening when he and his buddy, the smarmy Bernard McGuirk laughed over an obscene parody of Maya Angelou’s poetry or when Sid Rosenberg thought it clever to suggest on the Imus Show that the Williams sisters pose in The National Geographic. Though the American cognoscenti wallowed before the man, even calling him bookish, Imus was apparently ignorant of Maya Angelou’s highly acclaimed body of work, even though she was President Clinton’s inaugural poet.

"The other Imus talking point was that it was all about Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Kill the messengers, even though the National Association of Black Journalists made the initial call for Imus’ firing. Researchers at Media, according to The Wall Street Journa, posted the transcript and clips of Imus’ remarks at their website. This brought the matter to widespread attention, yet Media Matters (run by the gay former conservative David Brock, who wrote the infamous hit piece on Anita Hill) didn’t receive the kind scolding accorded Sharpton and Jackson.

"Frank Rich, another Imus stalwart, took another shot at Sharpton and defended his buddy Don Imus in the Sunday New York Times of April 15. Rich claimed the Rutgers basketball team and Don Imus were the only ones, during the entire episode, who weren’t hypocrites! Why isn’t the effort of Imus and his posse to deflect the attention from Imus to Sharpton and Rap music deemed hypocritical? Why wasn’t Imus’ pretending to distance himself from the man whom he hired to do 'nigger jokes' considered hypocritical?

"Why wasn’t Imus condemned for his attempt to transfer the blame of misogyny to black men instead of apologizing for his own verbal abuse of women? Frank Rich, who provided intellectual heft to the Imus show, was a former theater critic at The New York Times. Rich was the one who condemned the late August Wilson’s proposal for a Black Nationalist theater. I asked him in an email how he could criticize August Wilson’s black Nationalism, but cooperate with Imus’ crude yahoo bubba White Nationalism. Rich didn’t respond.

"After this cowardly display by Imus’ defenders--Rich, Bill Maher, and James Carville, et al.--how can they claim moral superiority to the men who are the targets of their relentless barbs, George Bush and Dick Cheney? (Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne also appeared on the Imus show). Neither Cheney nor Bush ever called a black person a 'nappy headed ho' or referred to black men as 'gorillas.' Not on national television, at least."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TONIGHT ON THE TERRORDOME: Don Imus + the Racial Backlash


6 PM Mountain Time

CJSR FM-88 Edmonton or

The recent firing of Euro-American broadcaster Don Imus has caused a hurricane of controversy and unleashed a backlash against Afrikamerica. Don Imus, known to most for calling a group of Afrikan-American young athletes “nappy-headed hoes,” apologised, but later blamed hip hop culture as a whole, seemingly implying that his behaviour was rooted in that experience. What he and most reporters glossed over was Imus’s extensive history of racially offensive remarks. The backlash against Imus’s critics, most notably Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, seems to serve as covering fire for a general tendency by liberal and conservative Euro-Americans to deny the on-going destructive power of cultural and institutional Whitesupremacy. The effects of that power system are wide-ranging. As recently reported by the US Centre for Disease Control and in the Whittier Daily News, Afrikan-Americans have the highest infant mortality rate of any ethnic group in the United States, even adjusting for class.

In 2002, Reuters news reported that “African Americans continue to receive poorer quality healthcare compared with their white peers, and racial stereotyping by American doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers is at least partly to blame.... Black patients are less likely to receive potentially life-saving treatments [and] were more likely than whites to receive less-desirable treatments, such as limb amputation... or removal of the testes in the case of prostate or testicular cancers.”

Other Reuters headlines from that time included “Study Finds Racial Differences in US Cancer Care” (March 8, 2002), “Poorer Care for Blacks Found in Medicare HMOs” (March 12, 2002), “Race May Be Factor in Young Patients’ Chronic Pain” (March 18, 2002) and “Death Risk Higher in Black Ovarian” (March 15, 2002).

How about environmental racism? Daniel Wigley and Kristin Shrader-Frechette explained that for the US, “In 1987, the most significant determining factor in the siting of hazardous waste facilities, nationwide, was race.... [T]he Environmental Protection Agency took 20% longer to identify Superfund sites in minority communities and... polluters of those neighbourhoods paid fines 50% [smaller than] polluters of white communities.”

And when discussing racial disparity, one must never forget well-documented political disenfranchisement. Afrikan voters in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election were harassed and threatened by police and blockades; boxes of Black votes were left uncounted. (“1 million black votes didn’t count in the 2000 presidential election,” Greg Palast, San Francisco Chronicle, 2004 June 20)

Racial disparities in police stops, surveillance, brutality, arrest rates, conviction rates and sentencing length are well-documented. Also well-researched is economic discrimination: discriminatory hiring, promotion and firing. There’s inequity in qualification for business and homeowner loans. There used to be direct red-lining--the illegal practice of financial racial profiling in which banks deny mortgages on the basis of where potential clients currently live. Social justice activists fought to make redlining illegal, so banks adopted indirect red-lining by simply shutting down branches in coloured neighbourhoods.

So despite the best efforts of many conservative and liberal Euro-American pundits and their constabulary of coloured sell-outs, reality is the best weapon against their attack on the struggle for racial justice in the realm of civil, social, economic and human rights. To discuss this issue today we'll hear from cultural critic, radio host and Baptist minister Professor Michael Eric Dyson. He's the author of over ten books, including:

  • I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tupac Shakur: Holler If You Hear Me
  • Is Bill Cosby Right or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Robert J. Sawyer and his new book ROLLBACK

By Minister Faust

Anybody over the age of 25 knows the terror of the following five words: “You’re not getting any younger.” Some have even heard the horror in the warning: “Past 30, you lose one thing a year,” where “thing” means bodily efficiency, process, or, heaven forbid, part. What’s there to lose? Quick metabolism. Sex drive. Endless energy and quick recuperation. Hair where you want it, and lack of hair where you don’t. Muscle power. Skin tone. Lack of sag. Pain-free exertion. Pain-free rest. Vision. Hearing. Taste. Bowel and bladder control. Kidney, liver and heart function. Memory. And, finally, life.

But what if you could get it all back, roll it all back to age 25 of peak performance, plus the benefit of your years of knowledge and wisdom (youth is wasted on the young, and wisdom on the old)? And all it would cost would be a fortune... and your natural connection to everyone you’ve ever known?

Such is the alpha and omega of Robert J. Sawyer’s latest novel Rollback, which spelunks the scientific, social and ethical implications of the technological age we’re entering right now, in which medical advances in surgery, tissue regeneration, stem cell application, gene therapy and nano-technology will allow the rolling-back of physical age. And who better to delve into the subject than Sawyer, a Canadian Michael Crichton with an Asimovian concern with scientific detail and accuracy? Sawyer’s also one of the nation’s top writers, having had a Canadian mainstream best-seller and won every major international award (prestige-wise and financially) in science fiction, and being the only author ever to win the top SF awards in the United States, Japan, France, and Spain. Maclean’s says of him: “By any reckoning, Sawyer is among the most successful Canadian authors ever." And he’s written--get this--seventeen novels. Sawyer will be at Audrey’s Books on May Day to read from Rollback and to delve into the issues he raises.

“This is a realistic technology,” says Sawyer of Rollback’s central concept, “and I do think we will be doing it in the 21st century.... It’s a love story in a science fiction context.” The novel examines what happens when an octogenarian and her husband are offered free rollbacks by the mid-21st century’s equivalent of Bill Gates as a quid pro quo for access to the wife’s scientific genius; the only problem is that her rollback doesn’t take. The novel charts Don Halifax’s misery at watching his brilliant wife drift towards death while he discovers that new vitality has opened him up to new realms of pain. He’s a 25-year old with an active sex drive, but his frail wife can’t possibly meet him even halfway. He wants to work, but he’s a half-century past relevant job training or experience, having retired decades before. And he’s alienated from his family and friends who are jealous of his second chance at life.

“Science fiction is always metaphor,” says Sawyer. “One of the things I’m dealing with is the health-care crisis that the United States and Canada are facing right now. When Tommy Douglas and the [CCF] in Saskatchewan gave us this great notion of socialised medicine for this country, nobody had the idea that you could spend millions or eventually billions of dollars on medical procedures eventually to prolong the quality of a given individual’s life. [But] it’s a bottomless bucket, how much money you can pour into medical procedures these days. And it means that despite of all of our best intentions, there are procedures that are going to be out of the reach of the ordinary Joe.”

The ethics of rollback medical interventions--which, of course, are the logical outcome of all medicine--are complicated and rife with conflict, and mirrored in our current global crisis of medicine for the wealthy and early death for the rest. Who will be able to pay for such treatments? Will ageing become the newest symbol of class division? What will become of mandatory retirement? What becomes of the human experiences, thus far relegated to a maximum of 120 years, when people might live to 170 0r 180? Will people discover they won’t even want to live to that age once they’re there? China’s one-child policy has socially engineered hundreds of millions of people to have no living memory of aunts, uncles or cousins. What kinds of effects would inexpensive “rollback” technology would have on Western society a hundred years after its introduction?

Rollback, like many of Sawyer’s novels, deals with a completely recognisable world in which humanity faces opportunities and crises caused by scientific discovery. Sawyer prefers populating his worlds with realistic people--journalists, researchers, students--rather than SF clichés of beautiful, buxom scientists and lantern-jawed heroes. It’s that humanity and familiarity, combined with Sawyer’s passionate pacifism and endlessly engaging revelation of scientific marvel and inquiry, that make his work so enjoyable and memorable. Such qualities have also endeared him to audiences that think they’re too good for “that sci-fi stuff,” granting him access to the same people who read Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake), Michael Crichton or Kurt Vonnegut, without realising that they’re imbibing the very SF they tend to dismiss out of hand.

Sawyer understands some of the resistance to SF, even while lamenting it and SF publishing’s current decline. 2007 is a long way gone from the post-war climax of SF literature, itself a product of American ascendancy and belief in the power of technology to cure all ills (Sawyer points out that in the 1950s, “Better living through chemistry” was an actual slogan, rather than an ironic punch line). In the 1960s, SF became, especially in the short story magazines, “a literature of technological boosterism,” says Sawyer. “That was perhaps right for the time, but it has not aged well.” By Sawyer’s reckoning, the Jetsons-vision of the future of flying cars and humanoid robot butlers seemed a genuinely achievable promise--indeed, a guarantee--in the 1950s. But by the 1960s, the robot’s sheen was rusted red; the gap between the promise of democracy and the lies of industrial capitalism was a chasm all were forced to witness, including the millions of bodies and the ecological devastation piling up inside it. What SF promised was becoming identified with what the Nixon generation had pledged, and fewer people than ever wished to identify with tricky Dicks of any stripe.

Yet the best of SF continues to be acutely relevant because of its dedication to asking difficult questions without resorting to reaction or pastoral fantasy, embodying what US social critic Michael Eric Dyson calls a toleration for uncertainty, rather than a demand black-and-white clarity. “I get in trouble when I dis fantasy, but I’m going to do it anyway,” says Sawyer, elaborating on the difference between the two genres, so often confounded. “Traditional fantasy clearly identifies the good guys and the bad guys. Not only do the readers know who they are, but even the characters know which [morality] they are. Although Star Wars has science fiction costuming about it, it’s clearly fantasy, and Darth Vader knows he has gone over to the Dark Side; he’s aware he’s made the choice of evil. That’s totally true in The Lord of the Rings as well. There’s no question of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

"And boy, do we, the general public, ever crave that. We really want there to be a clear cut [declaration] of ‘This is bad guy we have to go after: Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden.’ We identify these people [as] pure unmitigated evil, and we, by default because we’re going after them, become pure, unadulterated good. That’s very comforting. There’s a president in the White House who totally looks at the world in that way. There are no shades of grey. There’s black; there’s white. It’s totally clear in his mind which side he’s on. The irony is that half of the rest of the world, once you get outside of North America, looks at him and says, ‘No, he’s the evil guy!’ But there’s an unflinching clarity in his mind--and a lot of Americans share that as well.”


Tuesday, May 1, 7 pm
Audrey’s Books

10702 Jasper Avenue

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon

I recently read Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon and man, was I impressed. I'd already loved Morgan's Market Forces and was looking forward to Altered Carbon, Morgan's debut. It's a stunningly inventive, inquisitive 26th century noir thriller, oil-slippery in technophilia and resplendent in ultra-violence, and vibrating with fascinating questions about power, longevity, authority, artificial intelligence... and it's also surprisingly touching with exquisite prose. Dig it.

Pet names for my seven-month old daughter

My daughter continues to fill me with absolute wonder, joy, delight, marvel... maaxeru! She's seven months old this week, and she loves baby-babbling. She'll go on for a few minutes: "Lar-lar-lar-lar-la-la-la-la-larr...." Damn. My wife and I'll look at each other and laugh. And our girl has strong legs. Give her a couple of fingers to hold onto and she'll stand there swaying, smiling and sunshining up the whole joint. Life was never better.

You know what a red-bean bun is? It's a Chinese confection you can get at a whole lotta Chinese bakeries. Some folks just call 'em Chinese buns.
People call their kids all kind of "sweet" names: honey, sugar, sugar pie, sugar beet, sweety, sweet pea, hilwa (Arabic for sweet and also a specific type of fudge). I have a dozen nicknames for my daughter, but of late I end up calling her "my little Chinese bun." No, my wife isn't Chinese. And before anyone in the Chinese Anti-Defamation League gets upset, if I called my daughter "my little French toast," I'd hope the French wouldn't make a run at me.

New episodes of ASIKO PHANTOM PYRAMID up on podcast!

Check out these episodes which include the very first episode of Asiko Phantom Pyramid - look at the link on the right under PODCASTS. Dig it. Rock on. Let the jam gel.

In Defense of Tom Cruise

Okay, no, I'm not going soft on $cientology, but I just re-watched Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July, and I must say it's hard to imagine anyone else evoking the transformation from True Believer jingoist kill-em-up-some-comm'nists to wounded, eyes-open patriot. He truly was superb, and manages what too few actors in his star-range ever do: he demonstrated skin-crawling depths of vulnerability.

Tom Cruise should forget about the empty Mission: Impossible stuff and reinvest himself as an actor. Since he's the subject of so much vilification these days and needs to regain credibility, he might try returning to actual acting. But I doubt Hollywood logic will allow for that. Of course, what I'd love to see him do is a tell-all on $cientology, but that aint about to happen. If you're interested in that, try Operation Clambake or read L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? online or buy the book.

Anyway, see BOTFOJ. It's freaking great, with a beautiful score and typically (for Stone) superb cinematography and editing.

Apple's Newest Product... is it worth the cost?

Check out this... a comedy sketch that will make some folks say, "Oh no they didn't!"

Tim Wise breaks it down on Don Imus and Whiteliberalconservative America's bizarre, frightening but predictable counter-attack

Passing the Buck and Missing the Point: Don Imus, White Denial and Racism in America

By Tim Wise

April 15, 2007

Let us dispense with the easy stuff, shall we?

First, Don Imus's free speech rights have not been even remotely violated as a result of his firing, either by MSNBC or CBS Radio. The First Amendment protects us against state oppression or legal sanction for our words. It does not entitle everyone with an opinion to a talk show, let alone on a particular network. To believe or to demand otherwise would be to say that Imus's free speech rights outweigh the rights of his employers to determine what messages they will send out on their dime.

Secondly, those who are telling black folks to "get over it," when it comes to racial slurs, such as those offered up by Imus, are missing an important point: namely, the slurs are not the real issue. The issue is that these slurs (be they of the "nappy-headed ho" variety, or the semi-psychotic string of vitriol spewed by Michael Richards a few months back) take place against a backdrop of systemic and institutional racism. And that backdrop--of housing and job discrimination, racial profiling, unequal health care access, and a media that regularly presents blacks in the worst possible light (think the persistent and inaccurate reports of murder and rape by African Americans in New Orleans during the Katrina tragedy)--makes verbal slights, even if relatively minor, take on a magnitude well beyond the moment of their issuance.

Those who so easily let slip dismissive cliches, such as, "sticks and stones," have rarely themselves been the ones for whom slurs signaled a pending or extant campaign of oppression. So, for those whites who seek to change the subject to slurs used occasionally against us--like honky or cracker--please note: it is precisely the lack of any potent, institutional force to back up those words, which makes them so much easier to shrug off. But people of color are well aware that the slurs used against them, particularly when verbalized by whites, are often the tip of a much larger and more destructive iceberg, beneath which tip lies an edifice capable of shattering opportunities, of damaging and even destroying lives. In truth, even the words themselves can injure, especially the young, for whom an insistence on the development of thick skin seems especially heartless.

Third, and please make note of it, this is not the first time Imus had done something like this. In the past he's referred to black journalist Gwen Ifill as "the cleaning lady," a Jewish reporter as, a "boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy," and Arabs as "ragheads." Furthermore, he handpicked a sidekick who called Palestinians "animals" on the air, and suggested that Venus and Serena Williams would make fine centerfold models for National Geographic. Imus is a serial offender, and his contrition now, while perhaps genuine, has been long overdue.

So, a quick review: Imus is a racist, words can wound, and his employers had both the right and responsibility to fire him. But such is hardly the stuff of which meaningful commentary is made. So now, let us consider a few other matters as they relate to the Imus affair: matters that have been largely under-explored amidst the coverage of this story in recent weeks.

White Hypocrisy, Personal Responsibility, and Shifting the Blame to Black Folks

One thing has been made clear by the Imus incident: namely, white folks are incapable of blaming other whites for white racism and racist behavior. Despite all the demands by whites that blacks take "personal responsibility" for their lives, their behaviors, and the problems that often beset their communities--and especially that they stop blaming whites for their station in life--the fact is, we can't wait to blame someone else when we, or one of ours, screws up. So please note, from virtually every corner of the white media (and from black conservatives who are quick to let whites off the hook no matter what we do), the conversation has shifted from Imus's racism to a full-scale assault on rap music and hip-hop. In other words, it's those black people's fault when one of ours calls them a name. After all, they do it themselves, and of Imus really can't be expected not to say "ho" if Ice Cube has done it. At this point, I'm halfway expecting to hear Bill O'Reilly say that white folks wouldn't have even heard words like nigger if it weren't for 50 Cent....

Where is the media fanfare about the recently updated research from Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, to the effect that the racial wealth gap between whites and blacks has remained huge, even as income gaps have fallen? Oliver and Shapiro report that even among college-educated black couples with middle class incomes, their wealth disadvantage relative to similar whites remains massive: on average, these African American couples have less than one-fourth the net worth of their white counterparts. In large measure, the wealth gap can be traced to policies that historically restricted black asset accumulation and gave whites significant head starts in the same area, yet their findings have been reported in virtually no white-owned media outlets.

Or what about the research from Vanderbilt University, which finds that light-skinned immigrants to the U.S. have incomes that are significantly higher than those of immigrants who are otherwise similar--in terms of experience, education and skill levels--but who have darker skin. According to the research, which adds to a long line of data suggesting the role of colorism in the playing out of white supremacy, being one shade lighter than another immigrant is as beneficial to a person's income as an entire additional year of schooling. But where has the coverage been on this issue, and where is the outrage?

In other words, perhaps the biggest problem with the Imus coverage is the way that even liberal commentary on the subject has tended to reinforce the notion that racism is a one-on-one kind of thing, an interpersonal problem, or a character flaw, for which the easy solution is banishment from the airwaves, or perhaps several sessions of counseling.

So long as the bigger problem of institutional injustice remains off the radar screens of the media however, even victories against personal bias will remain largely irrelevant. And this is so because it is that larger racial inequity that so often contributes to personal bias in the first place, by giving the impression to weak-minded individuals that those on the bottom of the social and economic structure must have something wrong with them, or else they'd be doing better. That is what our society encourages us to believe, after all. Until we get a handle on racism as a social phenomenon, we'll be unlikely to make lasting progress on ending it as a personal one, whether for Imus, or anyone else.

For the rest, go here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Albert Einstein: If bees died out, "man would have only four years of life left"

Democracy Now! reports that cell phone radiation is exterminating bee populations across for Europe. So what? Read on.

"In science news, more theories are emerging on what is causing the disappearances of bees across the country and in Europe. As much as 70 percent of the commercial bee population on the East Coast have gone missing. The Independent newspaper of London reports that some scientists believe that cell phones might be causing the problem.

"The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. A limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. The disappearance of the bees could cause massive food shortages because most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, 'man would have only four years of life left.'"

Monday, April 09, 2007

This month's Bamboozled award goes to... the SCUMBAGS WHO RUINED HIP HOP

I appreciated Sister Moody's article below, which is a helpful articulation of many of the internal reasons why hip hop is in decline.

I wish she also would have addre
ssed the deeper problem, the cause: the super rich elites who control the production, distribution and radio/video play of pop music in North America, the same people who bought out the small labels when political hip hop was in its ascendancy, the same people who replaced conscious hip hop and its aesthetics with gangsta and then playa rap.

Nekesa Mumbi Moody writes (April 9, 2007) for the Associated Press, saying:

"NEW YORK -- Maybe it was the umpteenth coke-dealing anthem or soft-porn music video. Perhaps it was the preening antics that some call reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit.

"The turning point is hard to tap. But after 30 years of growing popularity, rap music is now dealing with an alarming sales decline and growing criticism from within about rap culture's negative effect on society.

"Chuck Creekmur who runs, says he got a message from a friend 'asking me to hook her up with some Red Hot Chili Peppers because she said she's through with rap. A lot of people are sick of rap. The negativity is just over the top now.'

"Nas [who sold out a Saturday concert at House of Blues] challenged the condition of the art form when he titled his latest album Hip-Hop is Dead. It's at least ailing, according to recent statistics: Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years, no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. In a poll of black Americans by The Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices last year, 50 percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society.

"Nicole Duncan-Smith grew up on rap, worked in the rap industry for years and is married to a hip-hop producer. She still listens to rap, but says it no longer speaks to or for her. She wrote the book I Am Hip-Hop partly to create something positive about rap for young children, including her 4-year-old daughter.

"'I'm not removed from it, but I can't really tell the difference between Young Jeezy and Yung Joc. It's the same dumb stuff to me,' says Duncan-Smith, 33. 'I can't listen to that nonsense. I can't listen to another black man talk about you don't come to the 'hood anymore and ghetto revivals. I'm from the 'hood. How can you tell me you want to revive it? How about you want to change it? Rejuvenate it?'

"Hip-hop also seems to be increasingly blamed for a variety of social ills. Studies have attempted to link it to everything from teen drug use to increased sexual activity among young girls.

"Though rap has been, in essence, pop music for years, and most rap consumers are white, some worry that the black community is suffering from hip-hop -- from the way America perceives blacks to the attitudes and images being adopted by black youth.

"But David Banner derides this growing criticism as blacks joining America's attack on young black men who are only reflecting the problems within their communities. Besides, he says, that's the kind of music America wants to hear.

"'Look at the music that gets us popular -- "Like a Pimp,"' says Banner, naming his hit.

"'What makes it so difficult is to know that we need to be doing other things. But the truth is at least us talking about what we're talking about, we can bring certain things to the light,' he says. 'They want [black artists] to shuck and jive, but they don't want us to tell the real story because they're connected to it.'

"Criticism of hip-hop is certainly nothing new -- it's as much a part of the culture as the beats and rhymes. Among the early accusations were that rap wasn't true music, its lyrics were too raw, its street message too polarizing. But the criticism rarely came from the genre's youthful audience, which was in love with a style that defined them as no other music had.

"'As people within the hip-hop generation get older, I think the criticism is increasing,' says author Bakari Kitwana, who is currently part of a lecture tour titled 'Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?'

"'There was a more of a tendency when we were younger to be more defensive of it,' he adds.

"During her '90s crusade against rappers whose lyrics were degrading to women, activist C. Dolores Tucker certainly had few allies within the hip-hop community or even among young black women. Backed by conservative folks such as William Bennett, Tucker was vilified within rap circles.

"In retrospect, 'many of us weren't listening,' says Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting, a professor at Vanderbilt University and author of Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip-Hop's Hold On Young Black Women.

"'She was onto something, but most of us said, "They're not calling me a bitch, they're not talking about me, they're talking about those women." But then it became clear that, you know what? Those women can be any women.'

"One rap fan, Bryan Hunt, made a searing documentary Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes that debuted on PBS. Hunt addresses the biggest criticisms of rap, from its treatment of women to the glorification of the gangsta lifestyle that has become the default posture for many of today's most popular rappers.

"'I love hip-hop,' Hunt, 36, says in the documentary. 'I sometimes feel bad for criticizing hip-hop, but I want to get us men to take a look at ourselves.'

"Yet Banner says there's a reason why acts such as KRS-One and Public Enemy don't sell anymore. He recalled that even his own fans rebuffed positive songs he made -- such as 'Cadillac on 22s,' about staying away from street life -- in favor of songs such as 'Like a Pimp.'

"'The American public had an opportunity to pick what they wanted from David Banner,' he says. 'I wish
America would just be honest. America is sick. America loves violence and sex.'"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tonight on The Terrordome: Tim Wise on How White Supremacy Harms White People, Part 1

Wednesday, April 4, 6 PM Mountain Time
CJSR FM 88 Edmonton

Tonight we’ll hear from Tim Wise. Tim Wise, a Jewish American, [is a leading anti-Whitesupremacist and has been praised by Professor Michael Eric Dyson as “one of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation” and as a national treasure. Wise has spoken in 48 states and on over 400 college campuses including Harvard and Yale. He provides anti-racism training to teachers, doctors, government and military officials and other professionals across the United States.

[Wise is the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White. He received the 2001 British Diversity Award for best feature essay on race issues. His writings are taught at hundreds of American colleges and he speaks widely in corporate media.] In tonight’s discussion, entitled “Trapped in a History They Do Not Understand: The Consequences of Racial Privilege for White Americans,” Wise explains how Whitesupremacy “damages the emotional, psychological, political, cultural, and economic well being of most white people, even as they provide whites with benefits.” The speech was recorded at the Smith College School for Social Work Lecture Series, Northampton Ma, on June 20, 2005.


In the last five hundred years, the global system of racial privilege and power, or White Supremacy, has amassed trillions of dollars of wealth and unprecedented global power for the Euro-American empire. That same system has, through war, oppression and slavery, committed genocide, killed scores of scattered millions, and rendered scores of other millions to lifelong destitution and subjection. Nevertheless, despite those awesome and terrible results, many of the beneficiaries of this system deny even its existence. At the centre of the empire, where human rights abuses are kept to a comparative minimum, the vast system of inequality feeding profit and power is rarely acknowledged. Yet occasionally it is. In March 2005, I reported on an Ipsos-Reid poll which revealed that one in ten Canadians--around three and a half million people--would not want someone of another race living next door to them.

Racial profiling doesn’t end with the police, though; it also enters also into housing. In 2003, CBC journalist Stephane Alari performed his own Black Like Me experiment. Donning Blackface make-up, Alari hunted for an apartment and then for a job, first appearing as Black, the next day as White. He said, “As a Black guy I asked who I should talk to for the job offer and they said it’s full.... And when I went back the day after as a White and I said, ‘Do you still need people?’ they said, ‘We always need people.’” Even White people who “sound” Black find they face discrimination. Torontonians Joan and Richard Davidson are White and Jewish, but they maintain the accents of their native Jamaica. A July 3, 1999 Toronto Star story on them reported that the couple faced difficulty securing jobs and housing any time they made inquiries over the telephone; suspecting racism, Joan had a neighbour with an Anglo accent call a landlord who’d just refused her; the landlord invited the neighbour to come view the apartment immediately.

Despite extensive studies proving who is the true target of racial profiling in employment, it’s still common to hear the lament in conversation that “White males need not apply,” while even a cursory visual inspection of typical Canadian police and fire services, not to mention board rooms, academies and government offices, show an over-representation of White males. Who needn’t bother applying seems obvious.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation 2000 report Unequal Access says that “after accounting for education level, unemployment rate is highest among Aboriginal peoples, followed by foreign-born visible minorities, and Canadian-born visible minorities.” University-educated Aboriginal peoples are four times as likely as White Canadians to be unemployed, with foreign-born “visible minorities” at least twice as likely as White Canadians to be jobless. Even after adjusting for education, coloured Canadians are still less likely to be hired or later promoted than White Canadians. According to the Globe and Mail, although African-Canadians between 24 and 54 are just as likely to be university educated as all other Canadians of the same age range, their average income was around $7400 lower than the average. Clearly, keeping the wages of any group of workers artificially low is exploitation of that group--but by definition, such suppression also lowers the average for all workers.

Unquestionably, given the systemic nature of racialised privilege, profit and punishment in Canada, uprooting it entirely may be next to impossible, but most anti-racist activists stress education and public relations campaigns as a start. Clearly, though, without legal sanctions, and with such widespread backing from Canadians, perpetrators of racial profiling will find little reason to end their practices. Their victims will find even less comfort.