sign o' the times remix
I wrote this post two years ago after Kanye West's comments regarding the media's depiction of Hurricane Katrina. Since I'm ruminating on two other ideas, I thought I'd just post this in the meantime.
Originally posted on 9/8/05
throwing my diamond in the sky: open letter #4
"'Dey don't always know. Indians don't know much uh nothin', tuh tell de truth. Else dey'd own dis country still. De white folks ain't gone nowhere. Dey oughta know if it's dangerous'...'Dis time tuhmorrer you gointuh wish you follow crow...If Ah never see you no mo' on earth, Ah'll meet you in Africa'...They huddled closer and stared at the door. They just didn't use another part of their bodies, and they didn't look at anything but the door. The time was past for asking the white folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God."
--zora neale hurston, their eyes were watching god
cc: celine dion
i am writing to formally and temporarily retract any and all hatred of you on this blog, as well as any nastiness spewed before, during, and after meetings with the personality chix concerning the fate of hip hop and other shit. my bad, dog. you really showed me. though i often give folks whose "analysis" is filled with rearticulations of the immediately apparent (like dubya and jesse jackson) the moniker, "captain obvious," i'm going to refrain from assigning that name to you. because, well, as we know, there's nothing new under the sun, but every now and then someone tells you a tale, yet does it in a seemingly fresh way. what i'm trying to say is, you took a "duh" moment, and damn near made it shockingly revolutionary. sort of like when you burst on the hip hop scene wearing clothes that fit...but not really.
let me rehearse the event for those who didn't get to see you in all of your glory. friday night on nbc during a televised concert to raise money for hurricane katrina victims, you and mike myers stood before the camera apparently about to plead to the american people for scrilla. disgusted to the point of illiteracy, you gave the cue card guy the finger, and spoke from your heart. you said:
I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black. And even for me to complain, I would be a hypocrite because I would turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right to see what is the biggest amount I can give. And just to imagine, if I was down there and those are my people down there. If there is anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help about the way America is set up the help the poor, the black people, the less well off as slow as possible. Red cross is doing as much as they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us.though, as i said, you were teetering on incoherence, i understood what you were trying to say. i'ma break it down: 1) tragedy or not, the media will make niggas look like niggas. 2) the tragedy was hard for you to watch, and you didn't immediately understand the gravity of the situation. though you are not the secretary of state, and weren't strolling 5th avenue looking for some jimmy choos (or whatever), you feel bad for having not at least responded monetarily more quickly. because although you are merely a celebrity, you're someone who has more than the folks on the gulf coast do, and you have the means to attempt to help assuage the situation. 4) we live in a racist capitalist society where those who are the most unfortunate will get fucked first and fucked often. 5) though there are folks on the ground doing their best, the government failed us by not having the resources (read: troops) to protect the "homeland"--terrorist attack, natural disaster (dubya won't let you forget how "natural" the disaster was), or otherwise. 6) there are folks down there just trying to survive, and they're being treated like criminals.
mike myers, playing the part of the white liberal in this episode, appeared as if he hadn't cast a black chick in his last austin powers movie...looking sort of...uh, canadian?** as you, on the verge of tears, barely got your shit together to say, and i quote, "george bush doesn't care about black people." at which point, mike myers lost his fucking shit, and apparently the folks in the control room lost their shit, too. because instead of cutting to someone who prolly coulda held it together, they switched to another nig--chris "do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?" tucker--who very possibly, whether he found jesus or not, coulda been on his angry black man also.
yo, i must tell you,
you're right, dude. dubya doesn't care about black people. but george bush really doesn't care about poor people, and if he didn't say it, his mama sure as hell did. this is why, unfortunately, cunnilingus--'black' as she is-- can be appalled that you would say such things. i know you didn't have enough time to articulate how this situation was more complicated than the mere eight words you were able to spit out--they would've definitely just took the shit off the air--but i have to give props to you for being willing to be that pebble in the shoe: irritating enough that whoever's walking has to--no matter how hard s/he tries to relegate you to a more 'comfortable' place--keep it in the back of his/her mind that you're there, and every now and again, has to pause and decide if s/he's going to take the time to stop and address your presence.
unfortunately, nearly a week later, your act is barely a footnote in this story. you (and maybe ray nagin) are the germ that spawned yet another conversation on race and class. sadly, the media followed the same formula. as we all know, after someone on the fringe says something real and consequently deemed (temporarily) incoherent, they call in their list of "reinforcements". you know the script. there's a list of black people the media call (jesse jackson, al sharpton, t.d. jakes...alan keyes, and armstrong williams for the black conservative pov) when some sort of black shit goes down. and they get to channel your anger in such a way that doesn't scare white folks. call it a coherent articulation of black rage, if you will. but like audre lorde said, "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." and by tools i mean both mechanical device and
and though i said your move to "keep it real" was sort of ironic for a hip hop star, that's really not true. what you did, in a sense, was truly hip hop. though you came to your popularity in a moment where hip hop has nearly, if not completely, been sucked into the superstructure (that's the right word, right? correct me if it's not.)--hip hop's "induction" into the academy, in my opinion, is the most forceful evidence of this-- for a moment, you made me believe that hip hop might still be used as a place to promote social change.** that maybe it's not merely just another hustle, but, just as certain aspects of it once did, hip hop can still sometimes speak for those with no voice. so in this sense, the fact that you, the reigning
in fact, as i finish this letter, i'm thinking my hating on you might even be more than temporary. though i reserve the right to call you on your shit when you're on your shit, when it all falls down (pun intended), i gotta fuck with you,
what else but love?
though i can't promise not wanting to vomit when you come on tv, i bought--and did not download-- your album yesterday. you deserve the 80 cents. don't spend it on another pink shirt. just kidding.
keep it hip hop.
summer m., unofficial voice of 'the race'
p.s. if you haven't thought of this already, i think you and celine should do a record together.
1) by calling myers "canadian" i know i made that a really loaded term. i am not saying there are no people of color and/or racism in canada. but for some reason, whenever i saw that clip, i kept thinking to myself, 'why does mike myers look so...canadian?' i was not, however, entirely lucid.
2) i am not a hip hop skolar. and i know some of you may want to 'discuss' if the presence of hip hop in the academy signifies its death as a viable space of resistance. i say yes, but many of you may disagree...feel free to let me know how and why.
3) "all falls down" is a song by kanye west.
i really wanna give a special shout out to the blogger currently known as dandelion, author of the freshest blog, she real cool. not only is that a great name for a blog, but she very nicely posted the transcripts from kanye's television appearance, and celion dion's interview on larry king. thus, i didn't have to search for it. good lookin' out, fellow lover of maud.
to see the non-censored version of kanye's speech, feel free to visit ifilm.
open letter #1
open letter #2
open letter #3
Labels: the real
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison