The Audacity of Post-Racism

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The Audacity of Post-Racism

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     By Adam Mansbach 

 adammansbach-225I watched Barack Obama’s “Toward A More Perfect Union” in my living room, on a laptop computer with tinny speakers.  Like millions of other Americans, I felt a surge of amazement, a sense of expanding possibility, at the sheer fact that a black man with a good chance of becoming president was speaking about race and racism on national television for half an hour.  Such an eloquent and thoughtful discourse on any topic far exceeds what we have come to accept of American politics; to hold forth on an issue so pernicious and so seldom approached with honesty is remarkable.

 My enthusiasm held until Obama let white people off the hook. Though I grasped the political necessity of the move, my expectations of this man were sufficiently high that it was disheartening to hear him fudge the difference between institutional racism and white bitterness.  Three weeks earlier, I’d felt a similar sense of letdown when, challenged at a debate in Ohio to further denounce Minister Louis Farrakhan, Obama responded by articulating the need to mend black-Jewish relations, then proceeded to reinscribe the very paradigm that has served to rend them. 

 I say this as a white person, a Jew, and an enthusiastic Obama supporter.  My reaction, it also bears mentioning, was colored by the fact that when the Ohio debate aired I had just published a novel entitled The End of the Jews, which chronicled three generations of a Jewish-American family and also took as its subject the evolving relations between black and Jewish artists throughout the 20th century. Toward A More Perfect Union marked the first time I’d sat on my couch in weeks; I had just returned from a book tour speckled with dates at Jewish Community Centers and synagogues, in addition to the standard bookstores and universities.

Satch Sanders

Satch Sanders

This level of interaction with Jewish communities was utterly new to me. No one had ever considered me a Jewish writer before, except the white supremacists who’d protested the speaking gigs for my previous novel, Angry Black White Boy, and accused me of “masquerading as white.”  I was raised by secular parents raised by secular parents, and at the age of twelve I was expelled from the Sunday School And Half-Price Car Wash For The Children Of Agnostic Cultural Jews after getting into a fight with my teacher about whether Satch Sanders of the 1940s Boston Celtics was the only black person in history not to abandon his community after achieving success.  It was the culmination of a lesson devoted to the great Jewish Exodus – from Roxbury, Massachusetts in the 1950s, when the blacks moved in.

 

I won’t blame the encounter for souring me on Judaism; more accurate would be to say that as a kid growing up in a largely Jewish suburb, I simply conflated Jewish with white, and thus my frustration with the complacency and hypocrisy of white liberals (I didn’t know any conservatives) extended automatically to Jews.

The pervasiveness of injustice was something I had always intuited; obsessing over fairness on a personal level is a childhood instinct that can remain personal and fade, or broaden into an analysis of the world and grow stronger. But my absorption in the still-underground culture of hip-hop was what allowed me to confirm that things were not well, very close by and yet in another world altogether. 

Public Enemy

Public Enemy

I believe the music to which one is exposed at twelve is the most important one will ever hear; I was that age in 1988, when Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Stetsasonic, The Jungle Brothers and N.W.A. were articulating the insidious realities of police brutality, a Eurocentric school system, American collusion in South African apartheid, and ghettos ravaged by crack and guns – all over unbelievably dope beats. Thanks to METCO, a busing program that constituted Boston’s uni-directional form of school integration, these tapes made their way to the suburbs and to me.

 

Hip-hop, at the time, was one of the only sites in American life to dislocate whiteness from its presumed position of centrality. By listening, I was listening in. And only by physically seeking out the parties, the shows, and the record stores that sold 12” singles – all located in the aforementioned Roxbury and other equally un-white neighborhoods – could I hope to participate. Doing so meant venturing outside of comfort zones, rendering myself visible as different. 

Soon, it also meant a chance step away – semantically, momentarily – from the nimbus of skin privilege and the complicity in injustice it afforded me.  This is to say that hip-hop became a different kind of comfort zone: contested, and all the more beloved for it.  Hip-hop demanded that I cast off romantic notions of colorblindness and investigate oppression.  Not just as a relic of the past, as it was presented in school.  Nor as something held at bay by regular donations to the NAACP or the Southern Poverty Law Center.  But as something monstrously alive, a fact of life even a fool could see  – so long as that fool knew where to look. 

By taking casual and institutional racism for granted, hip-hop created space for follow-up questions – quintessentially hip-hop questions like how do we flip this? Well, by exploiting exploitation: by using the black kid as a decoy in the art supply store, while the white kid steals the spraypaint.  By having the black kid buy the beer in the white neighborhood, since the old white store owner can’t tell fifteen from twenty-one so long as fifteen is darker than blue. 

Of course, nobody ever got carded at Giant Liquors in the ‘Bury; you could ride in on a tricycle and leave with a case of Olde English 800.  The realization was sobering, and it was not the only one.

Though it opened my eyes, hip-hop also let me bullshit myself.  It permitted me to believe that the opposite of white privilege was not working to dismantle that privilege, but embracing and being embraced by blackness. Thus, as long as my friends were black people who didn’t like white people, I figured I was doing my part. The experience of being a token whiteboy was one of being identified, tested, and ultimately accepted; it was about feeling exceptional, in the word’s truest sense. Had I pondered my status a bit harder, I might have concluded that it was not to be attributed to an uncanny understanding of the plight of black people and the true nature of racism, but rather to the fact that I was a little less oblivious and smug than the average white kid, a little more willing to put myself on the line.  Also, I could rap.

It would take me years to realize the flawed nature of some of the racial equations by which I lived, but one thing I did grasp immediately, given the company I kept, was the unspoken difference between the political and the personal.  Between Whiteness, as a concept that engendered fury and pointed jokes, and an individual white person, who would be judged on his merits – if he stuck around long enough to realize that a rant about The White Man didn’t mean he ought to leave before he got his ass kicked, but rather the opposite.

I delve into the race politics that marked my adolescence (and hip-hop’s) because the manner in which their sharpness has blurred is the backdrop for “Toward A More Perfect Union.”  Hip-hop is now America’s dominant youth culture.  It still dislocates whiteness, but in a way far less conducive to personal growth or rigorous assessment of injustice.  White hip-hoppers of my era constructed elaborate rhetorical structures intended to accommodate paradox, to acknowledge the devilishness of white supremacy without condemning ourselves.  Today, white youth are confounded by a different paradox: the divergence of cultural capital and hard capital in American life. 

Levi Johnston

Levi Johnston

Largely because of hip-hop, American coolness is coded and commodified more than ever as American blackness.  White kids all over the country believe, based on the signifiers flashing on their TV screens, that blackness equals flashy wealth, supreme masculinity, and ultra-sexualized femininity – interrupted occasionally by bursts of glamorous violence, and situated in a thrilling ghetto that is both dangerous and host to a constant party.  They feel locked out of the possibility of attaining that lifestyle, because of the color of their skin.  They don’t know where to find a workable identity, unless they embrace the “I’m a fucking redneck” ethos of Levi Johnston, Sarah Palin’s future son-in-law.  All this strikes them as oppressive, and their resentment is compounded by the fact that they possess no language with which to discuss it. 

 

Were any of this utterable, one could present them with reams of evidence demonstrating that in all the important ways, white people in America are anything but marginal.  Traditional markers of prosperity – the inheritance of wealth, the rates of home-ownership, the comparative levels of education and income and incarceration – reveal just how privileged whites remain relative to blacks.  A recent study conducted at Princeton University revealed that a white felon stands an equal chance of being granted a job interview as a black applicant with no criminal record, and there are dozens of other studies that each speak volumes.

Nonetheless, confusion persists even among the kind of coast-dwelling, liberally-raised, relatively well-educated white kid I once was about the basic facts of racism today – to say nothing of everyone to their ideological right.  They want to know if the playing field is level; they can’t tell, and they’ve got their fingers crossed that it is because if it’s not they’ve got to confront things no one has prepared them to face.  Many of them would rather believe, and in fact suspect, that it is slanted in black people’s favor.

At the very least, they’re eager for a kind of moral compromise, one with an air of the fairness so appealing to young minds: racism cuts in both directions.  Anyone can be its victim, just as anyone can refuse to perpetrate it.

This is what Barack Obama provided on March 20th in Philadelphia.  After a succinct but powerful summary of institutional racism’s history and its practical and psychic effects on black people, he added that 

      “a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race… as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything…. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time… to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.” 

Obama’s insights about white anger are salient, but to characterize ire at affirmative action and at the thought that others might think them prejudiced as ‘similar’ to the frustration felt by the victims of entrenched structural racism is disingenuous, and even irresponsible.  I don’t dispute that white resentments should be addressed, if only because white people will refuse to grapple with race unless they are allowed to centralize themselves.  But to begin such a discussion – the mythic National Dialogue on Race – without acknowledging that structural racism is a cancer metastasizing through every aspect of American life is impossible.  Call it, to borrow a catchphrase from the foreign policy side of the election, a precondition. 

Implicit in the resentment Obama identified is whites’ belief that they should be significantly advantaged because of their race.  They are not angry because people think they’re advantaged when they aren’t, they’re angry because they don’t feel advantaged enough.  The essence of white privilege is not knowing you have it; white people in America are bicyclists riding with the wind at their backs, never realizing that they owe part of their speed – whatever speed that is – to forces beyond their control.  By no means does this guarantee success.  But few whites are conditioned to contemplate how much worse off they might be if they had to grapple with factors like police profiling and housing discrimination, in addition to the other travails of being an American in 2008.

To place the experiences of white and black Americans on an equal footing, Obama must abandon the empirical and speak the language of the emotional. Hence, the focus on how people ‘feel’ – privileged or not, racist or not – rather than on the objective realities of what they have and do and say. 

The soft-focus abstraction of racial realities goes beyond Obama’s speech.  It has been a hallmark of the entire presidential campaign, with its musings on whether Obama is too black, black enough, or ‘post-race.’ Naturally, one must be black to be ‘post-race,’ for the same reason that no one thought to ask whether Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney was too white or not white enough.  The purpose of abstracting race is to obscure racism, to elide the fact that a black person is never so lacking in blackness – culturally, personally, politically, or by any other standard – to find himself exempt from discrimination.

The desire for personal post-race status is an impulse I encounter frequently.  Without fail, it comes from well-intentioned white people looking to be absolved of whiteness – not through their politics, but their biographies. They listen studiously to my take on race privilege, then raise their hands to identify themselves as white but gay, or white but Irish and thus part of an ethnicity that was once considered nonwhite, or white but from an all-Dominican neighborhood.

My response to such statements is always the same.  I have no desire to belittle any aspect of your identity, I say, but either you walk through this world with white skin privilege or you don’t.  There’s no such thing as being pulled over for Driving While Wanting To Be Black. Sometimes how you ‘self-identify’ is irrelevant.  You could be a gay Irish dude from the heart of Washington Heights, with a Senegalese lover and a degree from Morehouse to boot.  The cop and the judge and the loan officer and the potential employer are only going to check one mental box. And when they do, you’re going to benefit from the way they see you, like it or not.

‘Post-race’ suggests, not without an air of self-congratulation, that we are moving toward an acceptance of the multifaceted nature of identity – learning to assimilate, for instance, the idea that a human being can be both Kenyan and Kansan. This may be true.  The problem is that post-race inevitably implies post-racism. To conflate the two ignores the very nature of oppression.

I witnessed this perspective recently at a talk I gave in Minneapolis.  A woman in the audience stood up to explain that racism would soon be vanquished without any concerted effort on our part, and cited the infant on her hip as proof.  She was Korean, she said, and her husband black and Italian.  Their son was all three.  Any machine that attempted to categorize him would explode. 

 The sad truth that this child will someday be forced to color in a single bubble on a Scantron form like everyone else speaks to the particular insidiousness of race.  It is a construct, not a question of biology or self-image.  It will not vanish in the face of multi-ethnicity, because it exists for a purpose, and that purpose is hierarchy.

Had Obama not lent so much currency to the notion of a kind of equality of racial bitterness, enacted on a field that everyone thinks favors the other team, the case of Geraldine Ferraro might not have played out as it did: as a spectacular example of racist action forgiven because racist ‘feeling’ is not found, and an abject, to-the-political-death refusal to acknowledge the difference between structural racism and white resentment. 

 The former Congresswoman and vice-presidential nominee forfeited her place in the Clinton campaign when she told reporters that “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” just as she would not have been tapped for the vice presidency by Walter Mondale had she not been a woman.  The difference between being appointed to a ticket and winning a record number of primary votes across the entire nation seemingly escaped Ferraro, who elaborated on her remarks a few weeks later in a stunning Boston Globe op-ed: 

“Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama’s historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama’s playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They’re not upset with Obama because he’s black; they’re upset because they don’t expect to be treated fairly because they’re white.” 

Contrary to Ferraro’s recollection, the most striking aspect of the media’s response to her initial comments was the consistency with which pundits and commentators across the ideological spectrum fell all over themselves to avoid accusing her of racism.  Seldom, in political life, has the sinner been granted such immediate distance from her sin. 

But this has become the blueprint for public figures who make inflammatory remarks about race – as long as they’re white.  First comes the claim that their words do not reflect their hearts. This puts the ball in the commentariat‘s court. The commentariat duly concurs that the figure is not racist, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then, after a probationary period of a few months, the figure quietly resumes his or her role in public life.

 “I am not a racist.” So said Bill Clinton on ABC News shortly after the conclusion of his wife’s presidential bid, defending himself against accusations of race-baiting.

 “I’m not a racist, that’s what’s so insane about this.” So said Seinfeld’s Michael Richards in 2006, explaining himself on The David Letterman Show after a video surfaced of him dropping multiple n-bombs on a black heckler at a comedy club.  Mel Gibson, who disgraced himself with an anti-Semitic rant the same year, put forth the same argument: I’m not a racist, merely a guy who said something racist. It came out of nowhere, for no reason, and it doesn’t reflect who I am. Ditto Don Imus, after his 2007 “nappy-headed hoes” remark. And Senator Trent Lott, whose pro-segregation comments cost him his role as Majority Leader in 2002, though not his job.

It is a dramatic reversal of the standard criteria for judgment. Usually, we seek to be judged by our actions, not our thoughts, and we accept that the former is a manifestation of the latter.  The success of this strategy, it would seem, hinges on the fact that it has become more acceptable to spout racism in the public arena than to accuse someone else of spouting racism.

On to the thesis Ferraro put forth: that whites in America have been rendered voiceless, that to be black is to be ‘lucky’ (to paraphrase another of her comments about Obama), that whites are the new racial underclass, that “they’re attacking me because I’m white.”  They are notions that rhyme neatly with the identity frustrations of white youth. And Obama’s speech would seem to grant them legitimacy, if we accept the argument that whatever people feel about race must be treated with the same respect as the facts.

I have no problem believing that people have been stopping Ferraro – although I suspect ‘sidling up to’ would be more accurate – to voice this ‘common sentiment.’  One might well ask, though, how she has been so unaffected by the racial gag order against which she rails.  One might wonder why her silent majority of whites can so readily muster outrage at their own ‘unfair treatment,’ yet remain so blissfully unruffled by anyone else’s.  If one is feeling particularly optimistic, one might contemplate how to turn such complaints into what’s known as a “teaching moment.” Could white America’s cresting indignation at its own marginalization be the Rosetta stone that allows it to understand how other people in the country feel?

Eh.  Probably not.

On the other hand, the pressure on Obama to denounce Minister Farrakhan – which directly preceded the pressure to denounce Reverend Wright – offered the candidate a chance to speak a difficult truth to a valuable constituency and play a role in genuine healing. Certainly, Obama’s rhetoric spoke to such a desire: 

      “What I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community. I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task… is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened. 

But rather than turning to that task, Obama proceeded to do precisely what the current, sorry state of black-Jewish relations demands. He iterated his rejection of Farrakhan’s endorsement, citing the Nation of Islam leader’s anti-Semitism, and left it at that.

For twenty-five years now, the specter of black anti-Semitism has been used as the rationale for tremendous Jewish disinvestment – practically, emotionally, financially – from the black community and the legacy of progressive work that blacks and Jews once shared. A handful of comments from civil rights-era black leaders provide most of the evidence. For many in the Jewish community, Jesse Jackson will always be the man who called New York City “Hymietown” in 1984.  Al Sharpton will always be the man who inflamed a tense situation in Crown Heights in 1991, and Farrakhan will always be the man who, in 1983, called Judaism a “gutter religion.” 

 The fact that all three have apologized, moved on, and made amends does not seem to matter – that Jackson was instrumental in restoring peace to Crown Heights, that Sharpton’s 2004 presidential run was an exemplar of inclusiveness, that Farrakhan has been meeting regularly with a group of rabbis for more than ten years now, in an effort to mend fences.

Nor does it seem to matter than none of these men speaks for the black community at large, or that Obama’s candidacy and the emergence of hip-hop generation leaders and grassroots political organizations prove that the civil rights generation is no longer in the driver’s seat. They remain central in the Jewish memory of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Their comments are frozen in amber, never to be forgotten or forgiven.  Thus, denunciations of Farrakhan – despite the declining influence of his organization and his own outreach to the Jewish community – remain red meat for many Jewish voters.

How can this be, when the Ferraros, Imuses and Lotts of the world tiptoe back into the mainstream after a few probationary months, their best intentions unimpugned?  Even Gibson, whose anti-Semitic rant was truly epic, had his incoherent, responsibility-dodging apology promptly accepted by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish watchdog group that has never stopped vilifying Farrakhan.

The story behind the story is complex, one of changing identity in a changing country. Perhaps no two groups in America share such an intimate history as Jews and blacks; by turns it has been beautiful and tense, unified and vituperative. Both groups have been shattered and scattered, displaced and enslaved, and both have made outsized contributions to the cultural life of America. Both communities, perhaps by the nature of diaspora, have wide margins, in addition to existing on the margins of American life.  By this I mean that the ratio of people who feel ambivalent, ambiguous, full of unresolved questions about their blackness or their Jewishness, is high in relation to the number of people nestled snugly in the bosoms of those communities. The pain and perspective engendered by this double marginality are important ingredients for art, and in the desire for social justice.

Jews and blacks have been united by this shared Otherness, and also pitted against one another because of it.  At the root of the Jewish retreat from the coalition of which Obama speaks is the way in which Jewish assimilation has relied on the immutability of black Otherness as a foil.  It has been an Other more Other than their own, and sometimes one to measure progress by their distance from. 

As the Jews have been accorded more and more of the privileges of whiteness, many have decided, consciously or otherwise, that it behooves them to change their bedfellows. Fifty years ago, it was far more difficult for Jews to be complacent or hypocritical about race: they didn’t have the option to pay mere lip service to the cause because they understood that they were implicated in it, both as potential victims and potential oppressors. The benefits of whiteness were fewer for Jews, and more readily contested.  Thus, the morality of allowing them to accrue was easier to address honestly, and find lacking.

There is, of course, much more to the story – more than I have the space to go into, and also more than I know.  I realize, too, that I have addressed the reasons for Jewish pullback from Obama’s “historic relationship,” and said nothing of black actions or motivations.  This is not because I wish to cast all the blame on one side, but simply out of a desire to stick to what I know, as someone who has discussed race with Jewish audiences quite a bit lately.

One question I was asked regularly at JCCs, as I proposed that more disturbing than the pickled comments of Farrakhan, Jackson, and Sharpton was the reasons Jews held so dearly to them, was “What about Jeremiah Wright?”

The query was always met by nods and murmurs of agreement from the audience – which, I should add for the sake of context, tended to be made up largely of people born well before the Truman administration.

“What about him?”

 “Well, he’s said some things… some anti-Semitic things…”

 “Like what?”

Silence.  Had my interlocutors responded that Wright’s church had honored Farrakhan as “exemplifying greatness,” that would have been something.  But it never happened.  Rather, the logic at work seemed to be that a black religious leader was in the news for inflammatory statements, and therefore he must be an anti-Semite.  Even if no evidence to that effect came to mind. 

What will it take, then, to reverse the “fraying?”  What more could Obama have said in Ohio about blacks and Jews, or in Pennsylvania about the larger conundrum of race?

 Any answer begins with radical honesty of the sort most politicians can ill afford to muster.  In Ohio, Obama could have risked declaring himself committed to moving beyond the old politics of suspicion and condemnation, detailed the reasons for the splintering of the black-Jewish alliance, and laid out a plan for reestablishing trust and a commonality of purpose. In Pennsylvania, he could have framed the road to racial reconciliation in the same terms he has been brave enough to apply to climate control: as a journey that will require real sacrifice, profound reevaluation of our lifestyles and the unsustainable practices on which they’re built.  He could have looked into the living rooms of white America and declared that institutional racism is alive and well – that it benefits all those considered white, and also exacts from them a high moral toll.

 But the political costs of such statements would have overwhelmed Obama’s campaign. And while the senator’s commitment to presiding over a sea change in America’s racial climate appears to be perfectly sincere, it is the level of commitment for which he is willing to call that matters.  Soft-peddling the reality of white privilege might help bring people to the table, but if they come under false pretenses, they won’t stay. 

All of this points up the fallacy of a national conversation on race led by a president, no matter how thoughtful or inspiring. Not just because political constraints prevent him from addressing the issue with the candor we need, but because a chief executive’s role in moving the country toward a state of post-racism should be to address structural discrimination on the level of policy. Dismantling the system of racist policing and biased judiciary that has lead to the epidemic incarceration of black men will do more to heal the nation’s racial wounds than even the most compassionate and sustained dialogue. So will revamping a dysfunctional educational system that reinforces racial and economic disparities.

If President Obama wants to attack the issue on all fronts – as he must – then he should use his healing hands to sign over funding for a national program of community forums, to take place in town halls and high school gyms, JCCs and YMCAs, mosques and movie theaters. The structure and facilitation of these events would be delegated to people like Vijay Prashad, Tim Wise, Tricia Rose, Robin Kelley,  bell hooks, Van Jones, Rosa Clemente, and hundreds of others who have made drawing people into compassionate dialogue on race their life’s work.

There would be incentives for attendance: whatever it took to get people in the door, from parking-ticket forgiveness to free-cable vouchers. The conversations would need not tackle race head-on; the issue’s pervasiveness is such that almost any topic of universal concern raised in a multi-ethnic setting will intersect with it, from law enforcement to primary school education to jobs.  The appetite for dialogue is there, as surely as the bitterness; what we lack is the language and the context to engage. And nothing can tap the veins of goodwill running through the body politic quite like genuine interaction, particularly in this age of technological mediation and shrinking public space. 

What’s fascinating is how quickly the imagination falters in anticipating the direction these conversations might take.  What happens, for instance, after a young black man in need of employment testifies about the difficulty of overcoming the perception that he’s a thug, and a white soccer mom raises her hand to asks “well then, why do you dress like that, with your pants so low and your T-shirt so big?” Who speaks next?  Does the black man’s grandfather concur with the soccer mom?  Does the woman’s fourteen-year-old son – attired just like the job-seeker – realize, at this moment, that black people don’t have it as easy as he thought? What do the local business owner, the high school guidance counselor, the policewoman have to say?

Our access to one another is so limited, so constrained, that the journey into uncharted territory is a swift one.  It is a journey on which Obama’s “Toward A More Perfect Union” is an important stop, but the road stretches well beyond it – toward racial critiques more daring, policies more radical, and healing more profound.  

Adam Mansbach is the author of several novels, including The End of he Jews, winner of the California Book Award for Fiction, and the bestselling Angry Black White Boy

Comments

  1. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    This is called “spin”. I want to love Jewish people, but talk to your buddies who run the Hipihop industry that have been exploiting Black people for years, talk to you newspaper owner buddies who only write the negative. Adam Mansbach, talk to your people about how they’ve been exploiting our young people and then we can talk. Appreciate your comment, but this is some old ADL propaganda and what not. Talk to your people. Sure, our kids need the work, but not like this, Damn!

  2. Those are some pretty tuff pre conditions Mr.Mclendon. If Adam were to do all those things what need would there be for a dialogue?

    Why do the Japanese always get a pass for exploiting artists when they own the largest media conglomerates? I know there’s Jews involved in booking and clubs but most of the exploitation comes from the record labels and they’re Japanese owned? No one mentions them at all let alone with the venom reserved for the industry Jews.

  3. STFU, Robert says:

    Robert, every single comment you’ve ever left here is called “spin”. “spin” every single article to blame hip hop. Most of us can’t wait until you “spin” your way out of here. The only people who agree with your comments are white people and cops.

  4. Soul Man says:

    Like I said, talk to your buddies and then we can talk. He has you people’s attention.

  5. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Let me explain something to you all that you all do “not” understand. Black people created what is known as “Rap Music” and it wan’t until it was first recorded by a Black woman did it become an industry. Sure, white people recorded it first with FatBack, but it didn’t become a music form and industry until a Black woman first recorded it. Now, Hip-hop is a European term that has been around since atleast the 1930’s – 1940’s to describe Nursery Rhymes. Etymologist know this! This is not a new term that was made up in the Bronx. This is the negative term that someone’s mother called the music because it sounded like “hip-hop” nursey rhymes. From Sylvia to Russell Simmons it hasn’t been Japanese. Hip-hop was the code word that Jews used to sell negative images of Black people globally. Initially, Rap Music was about talent, then Jews made it about exploiting young people for money. The reason hip-hop is so supported is because Jews are employing young people, but if young people actually saw what it is doing to their own race they’d say – damn! Most young Black people don’t catch on to what I’ve been saying until their grown, those who get pleasure from black exploitation will never get it, those who make a living off of the “trick” term Hip-hop, of course, hate me. So, when I say “Hip-hop” is only an acronym for helping ignorant people – hurt our people, I’m simply telling you its not the word “we” created for the music, its the music that they created to sell records to white people globally, and you don’t even realize that the term is a European term, which is the hidden code – “we started rap music and you don’t even know it”. Its a play on words to sell negative stereotypes of young black people all across the world. I wan’t to love Jewish people, Black people, and everyone, but you all have been hurting our people for years with this ignorance. I don’t care how much money “ignorance” can sell for.

  6. Robert not sure where u got ur info from, but the term Hip Hop like many words may have aparticular origin and root.. So maybe it was around in the 1930s.. But when it was used in the Bronx in the late 70s it wasn’t because somebody went and look up the word.. and adapted..

    It came about because people when they rhymed would scat as a way to transition or break up their flows.. Hence I might say Hip hop ya don’t stop yes yes y’all to the beat y’all keep on etc etc..

    The first person i heard use the term was Bambaataa in 1979 and it was used to described all the things that we did at party also known as Jam..
    You i went to the Hip hop party..
    I can also tell you as an emcee the term RAP was never ever used by that generation of emcesss. You either used the word emceeing or rhyming..
    I have rhyme books of myself dating back to 1977 and the word rap was not once used to described rhyming

    The term rap was used to describe talking to a female..
    I do know in previous generations it was applied to other artists like Millie Jackson and Isaac hayes..
    But it was not the word we as emcees used to describe what we did…

    When rappers delite came out.. they used the word rap and it caught everyone off guard, because it was still called emceeing, people outside of New York went along with the definition used by Sugar Hill which was really Sylvia’s word …

    As far as Jews and all Hip hop being a code word and all that.. All that was written could applied to anyone in the music industry who decided to to take bits apieces of a culture. isolate the music aspect and then repackage it.. Before Hip Hop the music that got diluted was Disco.. It went from being rich, with gospel like vocals to mechanical, monotonous drug inspired tunes designed to keep you high while dancing..

    Same with Punk, and New Wave and even jazz..

  7. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Davey D, I said my peice, and you make a living off of “Hip-hop”. But like I said, Rap Music is what put New York on the music map with young people, Hip-hop is the “ignorance” that’s sold globally. This is your livelihood – defend it, these are “my” children and people, I’m going to keep defending them. Its all about who paying you and “why” you stand for what you do?

  8. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Thirty years ago (1979) a Black woman recorded some young fellows in a studio in New York and they created a new genre of music and a new industry, as well. This is “not” celebrated because some ignorant young people from the Bronx ran to the Jews, who took the term “hip-hop” and hodge-podged everything going on throughout New York and sold it and exploited it as “hip-hop”. I get mad because “we” have no “history” because of some greedy, ignorant folks. I can tell you 1979 is when Black people created Rap Music ,and I want to send you a tape called “Rapologist Speaks ’94”. No, your rhyme book won’t say “rapping”, and it won’t say you were doing “hip-hopping” either, because it was -emceeing. We can’t just try to know and celebrate hip-hop, know your Black History. Ignorance is a big part of hip-hop, know your history – 1979 is when emceeing in New York was put on the map by a Black woman and three young cats from New Jersey. You select Jackie Robinson to break through, not any old ignorant brother from the Bronx.. Quite frankly, Bronx style rappers or “emcees” really counldn’t sell good dance records. It was the brothers from Harlem and. Brooklyn that kepts us dancing. The sub-culture of hip-hop was cool for New York, but when you all commercialized it (selling grafitti art, “Wid Style, “Rap Attack”, Run-DMC, Village Voice, Source, ect). – you all sold your souls. Truth hurts.

  9. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    The Sugar Hill Gang were from New Jersey and got America’s attention, and Flash and The Furious 5 gave us a little something with “Super Rapping”, but it was The Almighty Crash Crew from Harlem that showed us young “Black folk” how it was supposed to be done!

  10. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Here’s a joke that I just heard that will probably go right over you guys head. It’s from a new movie called “Funny People: Live”, I believe. The comedian’s name is “Hugh Fink” and he say’s – HERE’S MY IMPRESSION OF EVERY HIP-HOP ARTIST AT ANY AWARD SHOW – “YO, YO, YO! WE WANT TO SHOW WE REPRESENT… WE WANT TO GIVE PROPS TO OUR PEOPLE OVER AT SONY RECORDS – SEPH “COHEN”, HARRY “LIBOWITZ”, BRUCE “HERTZ”, LOYD “GOLDBERG”, STACY “LEVINE”, HARRY “ABRAM:, MANNY “SILVERMAN”, HERB “SWARTZ”, OUR MANAGERS – BERNIE “KAPLIN”, MARK GERVITZ”, AND MY DOG ADAM SHAPIRO. YO BECAUSE “HIP-HOP” IS FROM THE GHETTO!!!” I don’t know if they are all real people at Sony records, but the joke is on you all, you just won’t get it.

  11. Yeah, Racism is a main main problem that we are facing in these days also.

  12. This was a great article that Americas under-(educated)-class will definitely garner important utility from in their day-to-day lives.

    I love Heep-Hop!

  13. alec prince says:

    It was actually spoonie gee, also from harlem that pre-dated crash crew that showed us how it should be done, I and davey d are around the same age and both like some others here remember when the terminology wasn’t called hiphop we would say disco rhying etc and other terms, it wasn’t until about the late summer of 78 when cowboy coined the phrase hiphop to say what we were doing back then, wether the term aka name hiphop already existed, was not the same definition as the phrase the late cowboy used. Some may dispute that, but to each is own

  14. LOL Ok Rob.. you said it correctly about ignorance..

    First point my I already pointed out that my rhyme book described rhyming as emceeing.. please read what i wrote.. and my rhyme book from 1979 has the word Hip Hop in it on anumber of rhymes within a stanza as I also described..

    “This is Davey D let me state my case
    I’m the master mind of the human race
    I’m the cool out kid I’m king of the crop
    This here kid can’t be topped
    Rock Rock y’all Hip Hop Y’all
    To the beat y’all and ya don’t stop..

    second of all what caught people’s attention before the rapper was the dancers.. it was international and practiced by all in various forms long before Syvia recorded Sugar Hill Gang..

    It was definitely the entry point for people out west and many places around the country and it had already garnered both news and international attention before the rapper.

    second point.. if you wanna talk about the record industry and its corrosive nature than as you said bro the truth hurts. It was sylvia who rolled her rap product into that music industry enclave of the music industry. She took a recording put it through a white owned distrubution system that demanded a bottomline and piece of the pie. She put it on radio.. If you were around Robert then you know that Sugar Hill was played on white owned stations like WKTU before WBLS.. and when it did hit those airwaves it was with money in the envelop and some cocaine.. Righ then and there we were dealing with the corrosion..

    She used music that was owned by Atlantic records and then later got a house band.. but was still engaging in a corrosive system..

    She didn’t stay independent she sold her label and according to you if you’re messing with these labels-she sold her soul like everyone else.

    .I’d be the first to the industry has destroyed many things..I don’t defend it at all..

    third.. I wasn’t arguing about boroughs I lived in both the Bx and in Harlem. There were wack people in both places and talented people in others..

    And yes Spoonie G, Treacherous Three, Crash Crew and others did good records, but so did Funky 4, Flash and jazzy 5..

    So I’m not sure of your point.. Crash Crew with Mike and Dave will forever get props for their independent hustle and do for self mentality.. I’m good friends with many of those cats.. But there was no beef or seperation between all of us as you’re trying to make it..seem..

    Each neighborhood had their own flavor.. each borough had their style.. and each place and person added and built off the other.. For example Sugar Hill made initial noise, using rhymes written by GM Caz

    As far as ignorance.. there was lots of it around before records were recorded, whikle records were recorded and now..During the sugar hill era which you applaud it was a cocaine era, freebase, angel dust era.. The Nicky barnes , Guy williams era.. many of those parties both in and out of the clubs ended in the ignorance of others.. just as they do now..

    Lastly I’m not an industry man.. I don’t work for no major label.. or major company..I don’t get paid or sell things off my site… so lets not act like I’m some flunky who takes orders from someone.. I have my own business…

  15. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Didn’t want to use Spoonie because they may have been confused with the Treacherous Three being from the Bronx. But as a “group”, we know it was the often over-looked Almighty Crash Crew. No disrespect, but Kieth Cowboy did “not” coin the phrase, the phrase used to have a definiton until it was deleted from dictionaries to sell records. Sounds far fetched, but mainstream America speaks in codes and if I brake the code: and I am a PHA Mason, and you don’t accept it. I did my part.

  16. Cowboy popularized the phrase in his rhymes.. It was really Lovebug Starski who many of first heard and give credit to.. bambaattaa umbrelled all of the elements and the words caught on..

    For years any recording with rhymes on it.. was called a rap record. That was a term the industry applied and not one the early practioners used.

    It wasn’t until later down the rode in the late 80s and early 90s you started to hear the word Hip Hop to be used synomously with rap.. That in itself caused alot of debate because folks asserted it was leaving out other aspects of the culture-dance and deejaying a grafiiti.. Rap was just one aspect

    marketing of ignorance is an age old profession and whether you call it Hip Hop or rap in certain industries if it can gain an advantge than albel wil be attached to sell whatever.. So Hip Hop has become that word..

    But my using the term Hip Hop is not in the same vein as a record label executive or radio station owner..

  17. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Dave D, you defend well what you all were doing from your hearts “hip-hop”. But you know exactly what I’m saying about the industry, how you pointed out Sylvia’s short comings. I can not argue with you, not because you’re right, but because you are not one of the people who are “helping ignorant people – hurt our people”. You using a word that once meant something, that people have changed to exploit people. Its very hard to argue with you on principle, because we are really on the same page as far as informing people, but you know i got to come back at you on – 1) In your rhyme you do not refer to emceeing as “emceeing” nor rap, you simply did the same thing Melle Mel did as “The Younger Generation” – Hip-hop have a ball rock-rock em all, 2) let’s find the oldest real dictionary on the etymology of words and you’ll see that they’ve hid the real definiton of the term “hip-hop”, 3) when you start talking about the dance shows prior to and during the acts, I love it! Why don’t you guys tell that history when you all have a chance on televsion. That’s what I be saying about if it doen’t have a video, Black people don’t have a history. For those of us who lived “outside” of New York it was about who could rock the mike on tape or record, who said at Harlem World – “This ain’t no fashion show?”, 4) Point on the Bronx is that their style of music didnt push the Rap insdusrty, it only forstered ignorance and allowed emcees who should have only been party rappers make record and then you had the Slick Rick cursing and NWA and today’s ignorance (boy, I need to write another book) and there’s was no beef between the OldSchool New York boroughs on record, but tell that to KRS-1, who told you all Bronx created hip-hop and it was how our young people should live, and 5) I am just glad for you to admit that you are not an indusrty man. You use the word hip-hop because that’s what you lived in New York back in the ’70’s and ’80’s, these people use the word from Village Voice, Rap Attack, Wild Style, MTV, Source, ect. to exploit you Black people globally. There’s a difference. Hard to distinguish, but theres a difference. Rather hear you talk here, rather than on that MC Battle crap. Atleast you sound like you have some conviction and its not scripted.

  18. Robert first of all we called it emceeing.. My rhyme book on the title and folks who saw it on dsiplay at yerba Buena Hip Hop exhibnit in 2001 can attest, has my original emcee name M.C. DC. that was my orginal rhyme name starting in 77.. I changed to Davey D because of the way people were flippining their names.. to add ahard constanant at the end..

    Also at that time AC DC.. meant being gay and MC DC was a close enough to elicit jokes from people.. At that time I didn’t know or think to spell MC emcee..

    We refered to the art of saying rhymes to music emceeing or rhyming.. and Rap was what you did when you were spitting game at a female..

    There is no doubt in my mind that phrases that we used in the 70s have roots somewhere.. However, that does not mean we were aware and delibeartely trying to change definitions..

    The word Hip Hop had flavor. It fit in the rhymes schemes of the day and it got used.. end of story..

    It may be a good excercise to know where word first originated and all that, but unless uttering the word Hip Hop amongst a group of teenagers and pre -teens in the 70s was going to have pychological impact, then I don’t get the point..

    We used lots of words back in the day.. that had orginal meanings.. the most common was motherfucka.. by the 70s the word was term of endearment or an enhancing adjective. i.e Dave D is the muthafuckin man.. or ‘all you muthafuckas throw your hands in the air..’

    the use of the word had very little to do with what many have asserted was the original meaning to describe a slave master who came in and raped Black women..

    as far as the history of dance..there are dozens of people who routinely do sold out shows around the area of dance. renne harris is one who imediately comes to mind here in oakland Tracey bartlow, Suzie Lundy, naomi Braggin, Boogaloo Dana… of course we have everyone from Popmaster fabel to Electri Boogaloos to Tony Touch and Crazy legs and rocksteady… I been to too many dance sets all over the country to see that aspect of Hip Hop culture is flourishing..and in many ways has remained much purer then its rap brethren..

    I see huge crowds from all over the world attending dance shows. I see lots of international exchanges., more so then industry controlled rap.. and I see and hear the history of dance being shown and displayed going before hip hop emerged.. Too many examples to cite.. But I would start with Rene Harris..who last time I saw him was doing incredible work at UCLA, Philly and in Madison, wi..

    Now do I expect Lil wayne to tell the story? hell no.. However I do see rappers in the Bay Area documenting their experiences and letting their truth be told.. In fact today the Hyphy dance crews from east and west oakland are in oakland doing their thing to a large crowds.

    When KRS talked about the Bx created Hip hop it was in response to a song and was taken in the spirit delivered..and because Hip Hop’s expressions come from music, dance and art traditions before it so there will always be debates both serious and light hearted as to where things come from..

    I know from being on both coasts that there was a music and dance scene now attached to Hip Hop that existed on its own.. cats in oakland were not looking to NY for guidance they did their own thing..

    Lastly I talk about history all the time.. but I’m not a one horse show.. I talk about emcee battles cause I love that aspect, grew up on it and as an emcee I have passion for it.. It might not be your cup of tea which is fine.. But please don’t tell me what I have convictions for.. I have love and passion for both.. as well as things outside of the narrow confines that some like to put on this culture..

  19. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    There will never be a movie about “Rap Music” because the truth will always be distorted by the Bronx and others because to them “the white man’s ice is always colder”. “Controversy aside, Sugar Hill’s impact on music can’t be denied and they remain one of the most influential labels ever”. We don’t love ourselves.

  20. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    This has never been about taking food out of the young people’s mouthes, its always been about putting knowledge inside their heads. If BET, MTV, VH1, FUSE, and other “Hip-hop” lovers only showed programs like “Black in America 2” What do you think our young people would think they were supposed to grow up to be? You got to “re-read” what I wrote above and you’ll say, “This is a lot deeper than what ‘I’ve’ been hearing since 1984.”

  21. Um… I have a friend that was infuriated by the recent incedent involving Henry louis Gates Jr. She wrote a blog and in it she states that people are affraid to talk about white priviledge. I showed her this article. I have since read the comments and frankly, I am noticing how truly reluctant people are in discussing white priviledge. The article was addressing many complications involving white priviledge and instead of reading about how people feel about the message in this article I get I man (robert) who has an agenda to to bash hip hop terminology and take the focus of the article and flip it on its head. Lets hold a disucssion on white priciledge and not the exploitation of hip hop

  22. Davey-D – Russell Simmons said in the movie “The Show” that DJ Hollywood was the 1st to use the term Hip Hop. Is this true?

  23. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    This is not about white privilidge, its about some people who have been exploiting young Black people globally. We know from the Gates story the “privilidge” that cops have to beat up on and abuse black people, what we “don’t” see is how hip-hop fosters institutionalized racism. Look up the term “Saggin”, now look at the Hip-hop Awards ceremony. I don’t want to start preaching. Just listen to “Can’t stop the Prophet”, by Jeru the Damaja and “”greed” is why they can’t handle the truth. “White privilidge”, who you think you talking to?

  24. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Jeremy, re-read the joke about hip-hop that the comedian Hugh Fink told about “hip-hop” coming from the “ghetto”, I know Adam Mansbach laughed because he got it, but did it go over your head?

  25. Party Crasher says:

    You can’t undermine privledge. nor should you.The most you can do is focus your energy on creating your own privledge.

    There will always be class disparities between people that have the prvledge of an education or being born to the right parents or looking a certain way.

    And this will never end……ever!

    The question is how to make it work FOR you instead of AGAINST you.

  26. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    If the music is designed to keep a people messed up and its owned by people since the days of those who wrote the Bible and started “anti-hammitism” in the first place, How can you make this ignorance work for you, Party Crasher? Music ain’t never helped Black people solve no problems. They come with Public Enemy to piss Black people off, they just coming with N.W.A. to niggerize every Black youth in America. You can’t make ignorance directed at “you” work for you, you can only point out the “devils” and get away from them and find a newway to make a living without denigrating yourself and your race. Basically, “grow up” and get a real job like every other Black man.

  27. Abstruse says:

    First of all, “Jew” is not a race of people, but a religious faith like Christianity. I think that in order for us to exterminate racism altogether, we must discuss the origin of racism on a large scale.

  28. party crasher says:

    @Robert

    Music isn’t “owned” by anyone. It’s created, promoted and bound by certain cultural assumptions of “legality”

    The same way land isn’t “owned” by anyone.. it just colonized and guarded based on certain cultural assumptions.

    The way you make the prevalent social order work for you instead of against you is by being hyper sensitive to the assumptions people around you are operating by and riding the wave of them in a manner that uplifts you.The more assertive you are to it the better you get at it – like riding a bike or playing chess.

    The problem is most people have trouble challenging their own assumptions…so they set themselves up to be victims of people that have already figured all this out.

    Your life is like a nation until itself … you have to know when to raise tariffs to outside influences, when to align yourself with ideas and people and when to do or not do certain things.

    This all takes discipline, humility and is a life long learning experience.

    hope it all works out for you buddy

    ciao

  29. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    God has my favor, Pal. Been fighting this ignorance for 15 years now. Thanks to Nas some people are starting to realize what your friends are doing to exploit our Black youth in front of America and globally. Goggle – Nas You Tube video. Pal, you were hired by the jews. Like a Shaolin Monk I’ve been disciplined to wait until God said was the time. All that I’ve been doing is prraying that he’d send a Hitler type message to these people to let our young people go. Part Crasher, you don’t understand and I don’t expect you to, because you are a supporter of hip-hop (helping ignorant people – hurt our people). MY PEOPLE ARE YOU WITH ME WHERE YOU AT – RELEASE YO’ DELF – METHOD MAN. THAT’S ME BACK IN 1994 THAT THEY’VE BEEN DUCKING ALL THESE YEARS. GOD GOT THAT “HITLER PRAYER” THING HAPPENING NOW.

  30. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Abstruse, I do not feel like picking up the Bible, but the jews that I talk about are the one’s known as -” those of the synagogue of satan that say they are jews, but are not and .do lie… .If God were your father you would love me, but yet you seek to kill me… If you knew God you would love me”. Those jews, the sect of people, who are into finance, propaganda, ect., you know who they are, and if not – a man named Jesus defined them very well in the Bible.

  31. party crasher says:

    I don’t care for hip hop, jews or bible thumpers. Personally I think you’re as clueless and as baked as the “HipHop” people you complain about and as much of a victim complainer as any jew stereotype.

    You really need to look in the mirror buddy

  32. Let's be honst says:

    If that’s the case, why are you here defending your buddies, party crasher? Truth hurts

  33. Let's be honst says:

    And “God” gave no one the “privildge” to say that they are the chosen people and that Black people should be under the white man based on a fable about a guy named Noah. Find out what “Zionism” is all about. It has nothing to do with God. As soon as Black people learn this, the quicker they will realize that this so-called sect of people stole their birth right and have been exploiting them since the Bible was printed. Who bought the slave ships to bring the hammites to America to be slaves? Truth hurts

  34. This is a must read for anyone interested in knowing Obama. It is like a window to the man’s soul. I read the book almost a year after he was elected President and it struck me how much of the same arguments he presented in the book he later used during the campaign and during his first year as president.