Saturday 14 April 2007

African-American women caught in race and racism rows

Advisory: These are comments and views on a contemporary and developing situation, the analysis is general rather than specific and it does not cover all issues that are either attendant or related to the topics discussed. Reflect, if you do have to comment. Thanks.

The American People

America is one peculiar place, a people from all sorts of places with views and ideas that sometimes leave the rest of the world startled.

We have heard too many times that America is the land of the free, the land of opportunity even there is something called The American Dream - the relentless pursuit success through perseverance and determination where the story even becomes more interesting if by the scale of the American class system you have travelled so far from the lower rungs of society to some exclusive position of prominence; prominence being the ability to create wealth beyond your peers.

In bondage to race and religion

However, this is not the complete American story, whilst many can exercise rights and privileges that more than half the world aspires to, they are in deep bondage, shackled to their history with chains moor them to the past like they still live in those past times.

Race and religion always seems to have a way of cheapening and denigrating American values; beyond this, one has to contend with that great divide between the conservatives and the liberals - words that have a completely different meaning in America from the accepted English meanings.

In the last three weeks the race Pandora's box began to unravel into some international news story, a long going battle for justice, atrocious remarks from a radio talk show host and the pervasive American music culture and this all converging on African-American women.

Chilling out after lacrosse

Just about a year ago, three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team were accused of rape at a party organised by one of the accused where an African-American lady had offered her services as part of the evening's entertainment.

Charges were swiftly brought against the men even though other evidence that showed that the laboratory samples from the lady included male semen from multiple partners which did not include traces from the accused.

It also transpired that the prosecuting attorney was remiss in offering this information to the defence and he also had not interviewed the accuser closely enough to determine the veracity of her claims.

However, these men who probably have people in high places had the privilege of members of Congress and other influential assail the prosecuting attorney that he recused himself from the case and eventually the men were cleared not just from the lack of evidence but significant inconsistencies in evidence, account and the unmentioned covert politicking for re-election that might have been a conflict of interest on the part of the prosecutor.

Stop and think - I

The men however helped us learn a few lessons about America.

  1. Seemingly well brought up kids do have an underbelly of lascivious and wanton living as paying for entertainment where a lady denigrates herself by erotic dancing and they are titillated to the point of plausible risqué and possible illegal activity.
  2. Many well-off middle-class Americans are completely oblivious of the injustices and miscarriages of justice where the legal profession through negligence, incompetence, slothfulness, acquiescence or even stupidity mess up other innocent people's lives and never get sanctioned for these atrocious activities because no one investigates them.
  3. Justice is not an equitable right; you need resources as money and influence to obtain justice.
  4. Women are still abused and many offer themselves up to abuse because of other pressing socio-economic issues as need for a livelihood, fees to get through university and so on. In fact, some African-American leaders offered to sponsor the lady through University if the reason for her strip-dancing was to earn money to get through university despite the fact that she had allegedly made false accusations.
  5. Reviewing this case fell across race lines, the believability that Caucasian men might indeed take advantage of an African-American lady, the victim complex of African-Americans who think everything that involves them is a continuation of white oppression, the fact that the men could muster a credible and well-resourced legal challenge which too many cannot.

Hos! But not Santa Claus

Until a few weeks ago, nobody outside America knew who Don Imus was; a radio talk-show host of the unpalatable shock-jock genre.

People whose popularity stems from speaking the unspeakable, being offensive, breaking taboos and pandering to the innate intolerant, bigoted, prejudiced and jaundiced views that we in civil society work hard to conceal about ourselves.

Don Imus it appears already has form in these areas but the audience figures and sponsorship kept him about in what one commentator said was supporting and rewarding bigotry and reprehensible behaviour.

However, on the 4th of April 2007, Mr. Imus swept his bacon off the table with this exchange between him and some guests on his show.

"IMUS: So, I watched the basketball game last night between -- a little bit of Rutgers and Tennessee, the women's final.

ROSENBERG: Yeah, Tennessee won last night -- seventh championship for [Tennessee coach] Pat Summitt, I-Man. They beat Rutgers by 13 points.

IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and --

McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kinda like -- I don't know.

McGUIRK: A Spike Lee thing.

IMUS: Yeah.

McGUIRK: The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes -- that movie that he had."

Once said the consequences are grave

Nappy-headed hos was the seeding of the storm that first started as a two-week suspension, the withdrawal of sponsorship, the withdrawal of syndication and finally a sacking.

This thing got as far as Don Imus together with his wife meeting the basketball team at the New Jersey Governor's mansion; the governor who was on his way to mediate at the meeting got caught up in a accident and ended up in hospital in a critical condition.

Mr. Imus' apology has been accepted by the ladies but there is a lot to this whole matter than meets the eye.

Stop and Think - II

Questions like

  • What makes it right for black hip-hop performers to use this kind of language in their multi-million dollar record releases but the same words are offensive from a white man?
  • Is the African-American woman in America primarily seen as a sexual object ready for all sorts of abuse until proven otherwise?
  • Why can we not take this opportunity to address wider issues within the African-American community about self-respect and positive identity?
  • Who are these preachers who get rolled out to incense and ignite the atmosphere whenever an issue like this occurs?
  • Now that the man has been sacked, would he be able to get on with his life?

Losses unquantifiable

Unfortunately, Don Imus has done himself a bad turn because beyond his despicable radio persona is a work of charity where he has raised over $40 million to help children and he also founded the Imus Ranch which is a charitable organisation for children with cancer and sibling of victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

This episode might lose him sponsorship to carry on this good work effectively, though it is unlikely that that ranch would close because the good work is still well worthy of supporting.

It was however disingenuous for some commentator to try and use the good works in another realm of activity to gloss over the gross misdemeanour on radio.

It is however instructive to know that Don Imus is licensed to carry a concealed weapon in New York and New Mexico for his own protection - I do wonder how people cannot express their views in such a way as not to attract personal violence - this is a topic for another discussion.

Don Imus would be back sometime soon to your airwaves, he has recovered many times before.

The minority of the truth

I have many times written about a fashion amongst the youth where their trousers with hefty belts still cannot be held above the knees, decency is maintained almost exclusively by the long tops or coats they wear with their hoods up even in the blazing sun.

A commentator on Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN helped me out of my misery of understanding why people have adopted such fashion.

Where everyone has been baying for blood and the resignation of Don Imus to the extent that they have been gleeful with the developing results, a lone voice wrote about something deeper.

The influence of hip-hop

The hip-hop culture comprised of the music and lifestyle, the music which sells well with lyrics which are at times too offensive to repeat get bought and listened to by white kids in the comfort of their insulated suburban homes.

The African-American kids however live out that life of aggression, violence, the denigration and abuse of women, the clothing all very much like ill-fitting clothes in a prison.

The bitterness, the hate, the pain, the need for respect at the barrel of a gun or edge of a knife in a dog-eat-dog world is all borne of a prison driven mentality.

Why would a 15 year old kid say to a girl, I want you to have my babies? I almost fainted when I heard that in Milton Keynes a few weeks ago.

Where is he going that he thinks he cannot be occupied with more productive activity like finishing school, starting a career and really working to be a useful member of society?

Preparing for disaster

It is like the foreboding of war, they mate now to forestall the wiping out of humanity, however, closer to home it is the preponderance of neighbourhood crime and getting involved in gangs whose activities skirt the limits of legality and sometimes run foul of the law leading to a life of running the gauntlet of prison.

The women however who have seen men earn money from doing nothing like an honest day's work offer themselves as objects of abuse to be able to dip into those deep pockets and spend without knowing the value of money.

It is a feeding frenzy that is also getting played out in England where over the last few months 6 teenagers have been killed with guns or knives in this rough prison that is now played out in our communities.

This is the challenge to our community leaders and the one many would never be courageous enough to address head-on and save our communities of the sorrows of loss, the denigration of our women and careers that thrive in get-rich-quick schemes of expressing prison culture as everyday live.

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