(ONLY A FEW WEEKS FROM NEGROPEDIA ON SALE DATE. MANY VAINGLORIOUS PLANS IN THE OFFING. WE GOT A PRE-ORDER WIDGET TO THE RIGHT HERE--->> AND NEW HOT FIRE CONTENT COMING. BUT FOR JUST A LITTLE WHILE MORE WE REPUBLISH SOME TAN CLASSIC POSTS (i.e. ONES WITH COMMENTS and CONVERSATION ON THEM!!) ... SO IN THE MEANTIME, IN-BETWEEN TIME, HOLLER AT YOUR BOY, STOCK UP ON CANNED GOODS AND PREPARE FOR THE REVOLUTION!!!)
Jonah Weiner, who serves as one of the hip hop/urban music ambassadors for Slate, has a solid point-of-entry piece on the "No Homo" craze in hip hop (and beyond, since the term has by-and-large crossed over into more of a pop cultural phenomenon). His point, essentially, is: yes, saying "no homo" is still homophobia; but it's a lot better than what used to be status quo in hip hop.
Both those things are true. But, just like when racial or religious or *any* sort of intolerance needs a firmer hand, or at least noting that we are only scratching the surface of a much more profoundly complex issue, I think that's called for here. Because honestly, we need to be further along, and I say that mostly from the spirit of being a fan and hip hop urban-culture enthusiast.
Coates at the Atlantic has run some harsher words over this before. And been much more pointed about the problem. It makes me briefly wonder if Jonah, and/or Slate as proxy, can only approach with a certain cavalier attitude because it's not *their* issue so much. Maybe The Root and Skip Gates need to be slamming the door on this a little harder. Because while i don't actually cry, I do think about shedding a tear or two -- i feel the emotional swelling (no homo) -- when considering the rampant homophobia and ultimately, hypocrisy of intolerance, when I think about all the rappers and artists and *Heroes* who have brazenly been hateful to a group of people. It's really no different than your daddy being a racist.
Jonah opens his piece with the both brilliant and obvious example of Kanye. Specifically mentioning his rant about homophobia, that came a little prior to his "george bush hates black people" comment. Which got a lot more pub. He notes the anti-homophobia rant for its unique anomalous nature; no one else has really come out of the closet in such a bold declarative way on the homophobia issues in hip hop (and hip hop serving in some sense as proxy to black culture here).
But the more direct attack and implication is to consider Kanye extending the George Bush comment in this way: "George Bush doesn't care about Black people, Black people don't care about homosexual people. (Homosexual people don't care about vaginas, but that part is neither here nor there.)" Such a line might have framed the tradition of (American?) intolerance in a more comprehensive light.
In any event, i wonder about proprietary issues when righting a wrong. Correcting an error. Obama challenging black folk is different than Bill Clinton. An old-wave feminist doing the same to women, is a similar formulation. Rappers and black people need to be more forceful and demanding in this zone. Because we are losing when we reject ourselves in this way.
Which segues to some of Jonah's extended premise in his piece. A sense of humor/jokes as indicator of progress, movement towards truth.
This makes sense in the realm of racial and sexual identity politics. Black people make black people do this and white people do that jokes. Men and women make men do this and women do that jokes. "No homo" is in fact often a funny addendum. If you can insulate yourself from the hateful part of it all, it's an amusing pithy little phrase. And certainly when used to access the even broader construct of masculinity, femininity etc., it can bring a smile. Of course, that shows the "no homo" isn't even actually about "homos" any more. But what we consider masculine and feminine. The Katy Perry "ur so gay, and you don't even like boys" sentiment. Kanye and many famous "tough rappers" are probably a little removed from knowing how to fix a car that broke down on the highway, chop down a tree and start a fire, fist-fighting, but know about the latest fashion-designers, getting pedicures, etc. No homo?
But as any dysfunctional comedian will tell you, the sense of humor, comic relief, is sourced by a sense of detachment. ironic distance. you/we couldn't make jokes about black people for a long time, because it was too raw and serious and immediate. The wounds were still open. Then they scar over, and it gets a little easier. And now, shoot, we almost can hardly tell it's there now with all the cosmetic surgery we've enlisted *cough*.
So that's progress. But again, point of entry. There's a narrative of tolerance here. Where are we progressing from? How did the story begin? Why was hip hop culture so invested in hating others in the first place? I sense this racial issue, like so many others, is a gateway to larger American or human issues. In this case my suspicion is that when we have been abused we want someone else to at some point experience the same pain/abuse. We want to be empowered by damaging someone the same way we felt damaged. If we stop and *pause* and think about it, such logic doesn't make sense; all of these abuses and wrongs are circumstantial. You can never inflict the same pain, only the particular pain for those particular people/circumstances. If you as a father abuse your son, he doesn't know the abuse you received from your father, his grandfather, any more intimately. He only knows the pain he's receiving from you. This is why the Golden Rule works practically, not only as a morally idealized notion of the universe. We can't transfer our rationalized selves, which is what the psychological scars from abuse are. There's the immediate pain (or joy), and then how we live with it and synthesize it into the new us that emerges from the experience.....
I've sprawled out into deeper waters, and want to stay swimming safely in this smaller pool.... so, no homo. i guess, much like with women, we just need a "homo" rapper who through the sheer force of his will makes all the jokes and lines premised on intolerance, obsolete.
The Changing Face of Hip Hop Homophobia [Slate]