Friday, December 23, 2011

On Rappers, Homophobia and Tolerance: Not Really Buying It

Alright, I'm trying to get into the holiday break spirit and take some time off, but a grant due in early January and grading is keeping me from it. And, I can't seem to shake an article I read the other day on homophobia, rappers, and hip-hop. In the Daily Beast article, "Why Rappers are Suddenly Coming Out in Support of Gay Pride," author Chris Lee cites several rappers discussions of queerness as evidence that rappers are not as homophobic as we think. He states,
While rappers have yet to unfurl rainbow flags en masse, and casual homophobia still abounds in videos and on songs, the current groundswell of tolerance reflects not only a wider societal acceptance of homosexuality but also changes in the way many MCs fundamentally view themselves. Where before hip-hop defined itself as a culture of resistance, by now the genre has mostly shed its outlaw status. Having saturated every corner of the mainstream—from fashion to advertising, television, and movies—hip-hop has largely remade the status quo in its own image. And given major rappers’ wealth, they seem less compelled to define themselves against others as a means of self-validation than at any other point in hip-hop history.
But in the last few months, seemingly unprompted by anything more than some new wellspring of compassion, major hip-hop artists have been speaking out in vehement condemnation of old homophobic tropes, calling for greater tolerance toward gay people, urging closeted gays to come out, and expressing admiration for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in ways that would have been unimaginable a generation ago.

OK, I will give it to you that there are some changes to the tenor of hip-hop and homophobic remarks are out of style right now (see how I said right now?) and one will receive condemnation if spoken and then quickly "apologize." Still, the evidence given doesn't convince me, Fat Joe's interview on Vlad TV, where he claimed, "In 2011 you gotta hide that you gay?” he asked. “Be real! ‘Yo, I’m gay. What the fuck!’ If you gay, you gay. That’s your preference. Fuck it if the people don’t like it," and Game's statement, "I don't have no problem with gay people." 

This is your evidence that things are shifting?

Um, let's put this evidence into context, shall we? In basically the next sentence in each interview, Fat Joe and Game suggest that there is a "Gay Mafia," or that "Gays are everywhere," running shit. Not to mention that the Game goes on to say he's got a problem with dudes pretending not to be gay but are really gay fooling people and giving people AIDS. Something to that effect (I've already talked about Game and his comments, here). So yeah, this "WTF, why can't gays come out, do you" attitude is one thing that is bulls---. But, to erroneously claim that these comments are somehow indicative of a larger support that rappers have for queer folks borders on irresponsible.  I'm not pointing fingers at any rappers in particular, nor do I assume that rapper = homophobic. I'm also not going to sit here and write that things haven't "gotten better," since, you know, 1930 or so. But, to suggest that these out of context/not really showing the bigger picture comments are somehow indicative of a significant shift in the experience of the queer hip-hop generation is false. 

And I love hip-hop. Have loved it since I was a teenager, particularly because of its Blackness in every fiber. But, there are few spaces for Black queerness in the genre. And while there are few spaces where queer Blackness exists in the mainstream (thank you for making Pariah, Dee Rees, need it!), the lack of queer spaces in hip-hop has been painful at times for those of us who identify with it. A space where queerness and Blackness meet has been carved out in gay bars, house parties, queer performativity, our own headphones, and in out, queer hip-hop. That's made things better, even good. So, to suggest that the words of a few (presumably) straight male rappers makes rap more gay-friendly ignores the decades long efforts of those of us who have made this music, this culture our own.

(OK, I should've prefaced this by saying that the grant I'm writing is on popular culture and LGBTQ Black youth. You know, where I write about invsibility and death. Yeah, I could've said that)...Still, I have to ask:

What, Mr. Lee, is the point of your article and, more importantly, how are you defining homophobia, you know, the casual thing you refer to above (I really don't mean any disrespect, but p.s. check out the comments section of your article to see how far "tolerance" is getting us)? How do any of us define  homophobia? And, an end to it? Is it simply that someone says I got no problem with gay people (only recently replacing "faggots" with gay people)? Cause that's not what it's about for many of us. I don't really care if you "got no problem" with me. What I need you to do is organize for an end to the oppression of LGBTQ folks. Make your spaces not just tolerable or accepting of gay people,  but safe. Reach out and acknowledge LGBTQ Black youth who download your songs, dance to your music, and are part of your community. Become friends with the gay people you say are running things and make sure they're not trotting out the same old tropes of Black sexuality. Interrupt homophobia every. single. time. you hear it and say why, cite those gay folks that Fat Joe says are in every family.

Do that, that's a start.

But don't give me words that signal tolerance. Tolerance does nothing for me or my people, especially those that have to hide, play along, navigate violence in schools, clubs, streets and our own homes. Which is, at times, all of us.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seems like a good day to Decolonize...

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Fred Hampton's murder. Let's celebrate him, his life, and his legacy by entering into a conversation about decolonization, colonization, and occupation.

"Without education, people will accept anything. Without education, what you’ll have is neo-colonialism instead of the colonialism like you have now. Without education, people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing, you know what I mean? You might get people caught up in an emotionalist movement, might get them because they’re poor and they want something and then if they’re not educated, they’ll want more and before you know it, we’ll have Negro imperialism."
"You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We're not gonna fight capitalism with Black capitalism. We’re gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself."

Chairman Fred Hampton, 1948-1969

The Assassination of Fred Hampton How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther 

Quotes uploaded from Why Am I not Surprised

Videos from democracynow, uploaded by mediagrrl9

In solidarity.