Sunday, April 30, 2006

Searching for Truth - Pt. 2

I was so fired up the other day, that I kept writing and ended up several different themes. So I'm publishing them as a series. I am posting the first two this evening/early morning, and hopefully will post more by Tuesday.

Another angle on the Duke sex scandal - Notions of hypocrisy and betrayal

The caller on the aforementioned radio show last week touched a raw nerve for me when she implied that a lack of support for this young woman was tantamount to betrayal. But by whom? Could she have meant the men in the young woman's life, and how their lack of responsibility made her seriously consider stripping as a career option?

Of course not, that irate caller was making a larger case about collective shame in our community, but she missed the mark. However, upon further consideration I think the caller has a valid point. This young woman was betrayed by our community, but not because some of us questioned her choices. She was betrayed when we accepted sexual exploitation as an integral aspect of black culture.

Remember “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”…

When we allowed the pimp to be resurrected as an icon of black manhood, then we betrayed every young black woman. Pimps are in the business of pimpin’ and the currency of that enterprise is the ho, a.k.a. the black woman. So when that song won an Oscar, it was not our proudest moment. If anything, it was an acknowledgment of how shameful we have allowed our culture to become.

When we accept the explanation provided by some rappers that they are only referring to certain women when they pepper their lyrics with the terms bitches and hoes, then we betray every young black woman. When we dismiss rap videos full of under-dressed young woman as overly stylized fantasies, then we betray every young black woman. When we dance to the beat but fail to listen to the lyrics, then we betray every young black woman. When we allow music executives to claim that this is what we want because we eagerly buy their products, then we betray every young black woman.

And this is larger than hip hop, because other so-called beloved entertainers have contributed to this betrayal. We embrace R. Kelly, even though he is accused of urinating on a thirteen year old child. I’ve heard people defend him on the theory that he was seduced—by a thirteen year old child! As for his annulled marriage to late singer Aaliyah when she was only fifteen: “Age Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Number”. Here is someone who is clearly sick, yet we celebrate him by selling out his concerts and buying his trashy music. But to bash him in public is to air dirty laundry that is best kept “In the Closet”…

We’ve looked the other way when black public figures disregard their black wives and engage in infidelity. Jesse Jackson spent less than two weeks in exile after it was revealed that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. His wife stood by him, but I wonder if she felt betrayed by the way the community ignored her pain. Countless other political wives probably endure similar humiliation. Our forgiveness of black preachers is legendary and best summarized in the oft-repeated refrain, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

We apparently have a soft spot when it comes to our sports heroes and their sins against women. When these guys father children from one end of the country to the next, why do we overlook their irresponsibility in sleeping around and aim our accusations at the women? When Allen Iverson put his naked wife out on the street in an incident that clearly indicated domestic abuse, why did we ignore it as personal drama and cheer him on at his next game? And why did we do the same thing for Jason Kidd and Warren Moon? Is Jim Brown viewed as an abusive brute, or is he still regarded as a sports icon? Do we really believe that O.J. Simpson never hit his black wife, and are we ready to believe that he probably killed his white wife?

If we forgive black entertainers, religious leaders, political figures, and athletes accused of behaving badly toward black women, then why should we be any less forgiving of white men similarly accused? If we don't hold the men in our community accountable for their behavior, then what do we expect?

I bet that question is on the mind of every Duke athlete on the lacrosse team.

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