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So you think I'm racist? February 15, 2013 4:38 PM   Subscribe

What is the MetaFilter etiquette concerning trollish remarks to an innocuous comment?

Some of the crap that was said in this post comes across as an outright attack.

Wow, holy shit, you don't have the first fucking idea what you're talking about and you're coming off as really racist here. Can you understand why?

(Pulling the some of my best friends card doesn't help either.)
Pope Guilty



I politely asked Wayland to clarify his comment,
This is literally the worst possible takeaway from contemplating this guy,
assuming there would be a civil discussion and he would explain. He didn't respond, instead I get a couple nasty remarks from the bleachers rather than civil discourse:

"cause it's super whack and hella racist sounding.
posted by ShawnStruck

cause it's super whack and hella racist sounding.

fixed &c.
posted by dersins


My question is:

Where's the line between discussion and outright name-calling and trolling and why shouldn't it be called out for what it is?


My response to the three of you:
Pope Guilty, you call that pulling the friend's card? My FAMILY is racially mixed. Blacks, Mexicans, whites--some of them are dear to me, some are just in-laws. I don't HAVE to love the whole damn human race. Believe it or not, there are people I don't like irrespective of their skin color or nationality. Don't tag me with racist when you don't know WTF you're talking about. Makes you sound like an asshole.

If you think I've made a racist comment, then use your words.

ShawnStruck, dersins, F-off, both of you, if you can't contribute to the discussion or do better than insults.
posted by BlueHorse to Etiquette/Policy at 4:38 PM (320 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

In general, "you are saying something that sounds racist" is not considered a personal attack. It's usually taken as one, which is unfortunate and doesn't help the general flow of discourse, but that's not really fixable.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yeah, the complaints are about saying something that is racist. If your concern is about trolling and community standards, telling people to "F-off" probably isn't the best way to elevate the discussion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


For context: The OP's first comment, in a post about Neil Degrasse Tyson, was

Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!

People took offense.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2013


Attacking a whole genre of artists of a diverse typically black art form like that sure comes off culturally ignorant, at least.

As far as comparing him to rap 'artists', they can hardly string a sentence without ten obscenities, they constantly talk about sex, including rape, dis women and call them bitches and 'hos, and advocate killing, anarchy, and destruction. Not exactly what I envision as a role model for any kid.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:49 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


holding NDT up as the "right kind" of black man as opposed to those "rap artists" is the sort of rhetoric that has a long history among people who say racist things. maybe you just stumbled into it and don't know that? but i admit that i rolled my eyes when i read it. on the other hand, telling other mefites to f-off is far more forbidden than being questioned and challenged about racially charged things you said.
posted by nadawi at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2013 [89 favorites]


It's also a little unfair to mosquito PG as "sounding like an asshole", given his pretty spot-on explanation of why that particular sentence expresses a racist attitude.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I hope we can focus on the important issue here, which is that "wack" should never be spelled with an H.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2013 [42 favorites]


Personally, I think the FU should result in a timeout for the OP. There is simply no excuse for that behavior here.
posted by COD at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, using Tyson to slander musicians simply because they tend to have the same skin color he does is really not a good idea and reinforces racist narratives that whatever one black person does is representative of all black people.

Also, there are a lot progressive rappers who make substantive social commentary, some of whom are actually *gasp* female!
posted by Deoridhe at 5:06 PM on February 15, 2013 [38 favorites]

Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!
Why can't we see more peaceful politicians dudes like this instead of Islamic 'freedom fighters'. Keith Ellison is The Man!

Why can't we see more of eloquent statesmen dudes like this instead of lazy Italian 'Americans'. LaGuardia is The Man!

OP, perhaps this illustrates why your line of reasoning is problematic, and comes across as racist.


This list was actually a lot harder to create than I expected.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:08 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hey, at least you didn't pick Scalia.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You seem to think that your personal history, to which none of us have access, precludes you from making remarks that come across as racist. That is not the case.
posted by OmieWise at 5:18 PM on February 15, 2013 [59 favorites]


well, to answer your question about what the "etiquette" is, the second choice would be to flag it and move on.

The first choice, mind you, would be to avoid saying things that other people maybe could assume might be racist.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


BlueHorse, you apparently missed Pope Guilty's very clear and concise explanation/expansion of Wayland's and ShawnStruck's pithy comments:

It's not racist for a white person to like a black person, but it is racist for a white person to frame their appreciation for that black person in terms of that black person's relationship to the real or perceived traits of other black people.
posted by carsonb at 5:27 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Spurious claims of racism are a variant of (OMG no pun intended) white-knighting.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2013


here's jay smooth on the whole thing maybe help put things in context a bit.
posted by boo_radley at 5:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bluehorse,

The problem, as I see it, isn't in what you said, but the way you said it. You used a phrasing and approach that sets off racist alarms in a lot of MeFites. A slightly better way to have phrased it would have been something like:

"It would be wonderful if our society was one in which black intellectuals like this got the recognition they deserved, instead of our media ignoring them in order to reinforce racist images of blacks through the misogyny of artists like X and Y"

(Note: Not having lived in the US for a really long time, I'm not hip to current top 40 musicians)

I think that says basically what you are saying, and there would still be a few insinuations of racism (this is Metafilter, after all), but a lot fewer than you're seeing, and a lot less fervid.
posted by Bugbread at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: "Spurious claims of racism are a variant of (OMG no pun intended) white-knighting."

you can't put kindess tokens into a black dude until some daps fall out, c'mon.
posted by boo_radley at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Spurious claims of racism

(Spurious claims of racism/actually racist statements) is almost always a number less than one, despite the claims of people who dislike racist statements being called out (/dislike the "tyranny of political correctness.")
posted by OmieWise at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Spurious claims of racism/actually racist statements is almost always a number less than one"

Less than one, greater than zero.
posted by Bugbread at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2013


Yes.
posted by OmieWise at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2013


"It would be wonderful if our society was one in which black intellectuals like this got the recognition they deserved, instead of our media ignoring them in order to reinforce racist images of blacks through the misogyny of artists like X and Y"

Eminem and the Beastie Boys.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blue Horse, if you can't understand why your initial post read as racist, consider that it was a discussion thread about a minority astrophysicist, and you were the first and only one to drag your perceptions of rap performers into the discussion. Seriously: what in the world does any rap musician have to do with NDT? What's the relevance to the video in question?

Then, when called on it, you spouted off some astonishingly ignorant stereotypes about rap performers. Perhaps you'd have been better advised to contemplate why your mind landed on "rap" after watching that video. Because I genuinely can't see a chain of association leading from one to the other that doesn't rely on, yes, racist stereotyping.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:48 PM on February 15, 2013 [47 favorites]




"Eminem and the Beastie Boys."

Exactly. The Beastie Boys are far from misogynstic. Off the top of your head, you couldn't even manage to pop off two famous misogynistic white hip hop artists. How hard would it be to come up with two famous misogynistic black hip hop artists? Pretty easy, right? But ask MeFites for recommendations, and you'll get a ton of non-misygynistic black artists. Indie hip hop artists. Underground hip hop artists. In other words, hip hop artists ignored by the media. They're out there, but you wouldn't know it from racist media depictions.
posted by Bugbread at 5:57 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


BlueHorse: simply put, your comments comparing NDT to rappers veers into an updated version of "Good Negro" territory, which encompasses two general points: 1) that African-Americans are all automatically representatives of "their race," and 2) some of them are "better" representatives than others. Which, even if not intended as racist, is at the very least inflected by internalized ideas, assumptions, etc. that are racist.
posted by scody at 5:57 PM on February 15, 2013 [69 favorites]


I like anarchy.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:01 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Girls, to do the dishes
Girls, to clean up my room
Girls, to do the laundry
Girls, and in the bathroom
Girls, that's all I really want is girls
posted by Drinky Die at 6:02 PM on February 15, 2013 [23 favorites]




As a white guy (minority) in Japan, I'd be happy if white folks were represented better in the media here. Does that make me racist against white people? What about the fact that I wish black people were better represented on TV, instead of always being cast as buffoons? I worry that my kids will internalize that buffoon image and grow up with a negative impression of black people. Does my desire for better and less racist depicitions of black people on TV make me racist because it's "good negro" thinking? Should I be happy that they are usually seen as comic relief? Or should I just have no opinion?
posted by Bugbread at 6:03 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Girls, to do the dishes
Girls, to clean up my room
Girls, to do the laundry
Girls, and in the bathroom
Girls, that's all I really want is girls"


Holy shit, I forgot all about that era of the Beastie Boys. I take back my comment about "non-mysogynistic".
posted by Bugbread at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


MCA’s Feminist Legacy
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:05 PM on February 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


They did change over the years, but yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:06 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


(What he said)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2013


On the other hand, that song becomes really brilliant if you mentally swap out "girls" for "squirrels."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2013 [77 favorites]


I was all worried that there might be some substance to the criticism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a white guy (minority) in Japan, I'd be happy if white folks were represented better in the media here. Does that make me racist against white people?

No, but that's not equivalent to the comment that people are calling a racist comment.
posted by muddgirl at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


What about the fact that I wish black people were better represented on TV, instead of always being cast as buffoons?

There is a surprisingly nuanced and layered analysis through the tv show 30 Rock, which had a large number of black men (including one "buffoon", which was deconstructed in several ways as you got to know him). I've also found the interviews of Tylor Perry somewhat enlightening on this point, as was a lot of the things David Chapelle has had to say on the dynamics of prejudice in the media. Personally, I like to pay attention to the gender and racial breadown of my shows, just as a sort of mental measure of the implicit messages I'm getting, and a number of shows I like have non-"buffoon" black male characters (and some even have black female characters!).

Condemning an entire style of music as "bad", especially while explicitely contrasting them with the presumed-ethnicity of all members of the genre, is a racist assumption, though. Especially if you gloss over the misogyny of the white rappers to focus on the black ones (not to mention the *ahem* white washing of misogyny in pretty much every-fucking-other genre of music) and claim they are all "bad rolemodels" in contrast to the educated Tyson (there's also some classism tied up in there, too; one can become educated if one is poor, but it's a lot harder).

Often times calls of sexism or other discrimination are used in place of overtly racist critiques in order to insult racially-identified things with a layer of plausible deniability (I'm not really racist, it's just all those idiot black rappers suck because sexism!!!). This isn't necessarily going on here, but it is a very common dynamic which can usually be identified when someone is focused on genres still associated with racial minorities (as rap is) while both ignoring equally problematic material in other genres (heavy metal tends to be white-identified despite being partly based on black musical traditions, for example) and ignoring problematic members of those genres who don't fit the racial category being insulted (as I lampshaded with my examples of two white, misogynistic rap examples).
posted by Deoridhe at 6:18 PM on February 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's also a little unfair to mosquito PG as

Does "mosquito" have a meaning here that isn't about the bug? What am I missing?

I agree that trying to make a point about community norms/standards about stuff while telling certain mefites to fuck off if a suboptimal way of trying to make that point.
posted by rtha at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2013


Does "mosquito" have a meaning here that isn't about the bug?

What I meant is he pinpoints PG's quote that follows his screed, while for whatever reason ignoring the very clear and level-headed explanation PG gave of what makes the attitude expressed racist.

And I think it's really unfair to ignore what was a reasonable explanation and fire back defensively at a group of people, then come on over here to tell them to fuck off. But it does take the escalation out of the blue anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:25 PM on February 15, 2013


What am I missing?

It's probably that damn autocorrect.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:27 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think you're racist. I think you expressed a sentiment that is consistent with the sorts of things I hear racists say, and so, if you say them, there is a risk of you seeming to be racist.

So it might be worth discovering why that comment reads as racist to a number of people, and reconsidering that particular conversation point, or reframing it, or realize that you run the risk of sounding racist when you say it.

I also think that opening a "How dare you call me racist" MeTa thread is not going to make people think that your comment is inconsistent with the sorts of things racists say.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


It seems to me that American media shows white people as being very diverse, while the blacks they show are much more often either criminals or athletes, or misogynist musicians. I blame the media for this slanted portrayal. I wish they'd show non-whites in a more realistic range of diversity. How do I express that without sounding racist? Or is having that perception itself racist?

a very common dynamic which can usually be identified when someone is focused on genres still associated with racial minorities (as rap is) while both ignoring equally problematic material in other genres


OK. Fair enough. But I'm listening mostly to indie pop (I guess) or outright poppy stuff these days. Where are the equally problematic examples of misogyny there? What's equal even to a more rap-like track track that I actually like, say "99 problems?"
posted by tyllwin at 6:30 PM on February 15, 2013


Gotcha. Thanks, Marisa.
posted by rtha at 6:31 PM on February 15, 2013


So you think I'm racist?

I have no idea if you're racist but I agree with the people telling you, repeatedly and in various ways, that your "Why can't we see more of dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'." comment is problematic and tone deaf. It smacks, pretty loudly, of "Black people, why can't they be more like white people, amirite?"

That may well be a unwarranted smear on the soul of your reality, but you might want to just step back, walk away for a bit, and contemplate why people are reacting to the words you put on the page they way they are.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:32 PM on February 15, 2013


I'm listening mostly to indie pop (I guess) or outright poppy stuff these days. Where are the equally problematic examples of misogyny there?

Misogyny in the Decemberists
posted by KathrynT at 6:36 PM on February 15, 2013 [32 favorites]


"There is a surprisingly nuanced and layered analysis through the tv show 30 Rock, which had a large number of black men"

I think you missed the "in Japan" part. Here, in Japan, black guys are generally cast as scary thugs or loveable buffoons. Black women are always cast as loveable buffoons. Can I wish for better representations, or does that make me racist because I'm somehow implying that all black people should be representatives of their race? If I saw a black actor in Japan who portrayed an intelligent and rational person, would it be racist of me to say that I wish TV showed people like him more, and less Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun?
posted by Bugbread at 6:43 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Misogyny in the Decemberists

Thank you. They haven't seemed remotely as vile to me as a lot of the rap I've heard, but it was a genuine question, and I'm going to read and digest rather than argue at this point. I reserve the right to argue it at some later point after I actually read, listen, and think about that.
posted by tyllwin at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also think it's important to address this idea that 'racist' is a mean name to call someone. This is silly.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:46 PM on February 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


If I saw a black actor in Japan who portrayed an intelligent and rational person, would it be racist of me to say that I wish TV showed people like him more, and less Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun?

I think there's a critical difference between saying "I wish that roles written for black characters had a wider range," which is a criticism of the writing, and "I wish black people behaved differently" which is a criticism based on the assumption that you know how black people as a group behave.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [51 favorites]


Also, NdGT is not an actor. He is not portraying an intelligent and rational person. He is a SCIENTIST, who IS an intelligent and rational person.
posted by KathrynT at 6:55 PM on February 15, 2013 [29 favorites]


"I think there's a critical difference between saying "I wish that roles written for black characters had a wider range," which is a criticism of the writing, and "I wish black people behaved differently"

Whoa, whoa, whoa! That's how people are parsing what she said? That's totally racist, but totally different than what I parsed her as saying, which is "I wish the media would shine the spotlight more on people like this than on the misogynists"

Also, NdGT is not an actor. He is not portraying an intelligent and rational person. He is a SCIENTIST, who IS an intelligent and rational person.

If that's in my response to the comments about Japan, that's because I can't think of any black non-actors on Japanese TV to reference in my comments. Of course, I would love for there to be intelligent, rational black scientists on Japanese TV. But that's a fucking pipe dream. First, I'd just be happy with even depictions of them.
posted by Bugbread at 6:59 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


[black characters in the media] are much more often either criminals or athletes, or misogynist musicians. I blame the media for this slanted portrayal. I wish they'd show non-whites in a more realistic range of diversity. How do I express that without sounding racist? Or is having that perception itself racist?

Interesting question. In the abstract, it's hard to tell, without actual data on how they do show black characters. For instance, if you said that and it turned out that in the media you regularly watch black people appear in a perfectly balanced way, then it would be a deficit in your perception of the media and not in the media portrayal of black people.

This perceptive deficit could be some kind of confirmation bias attached to your own default perception of black people that makes you only notice their race when the character fits a category that you expect (this would imply some racist prejudices on your side), or perhaps confirmation bias attaching to your belief that the media portrays black people badly.

I don't actually know if your perception is correct at all, would be interesting to see data on that.
posted by jacalata at 6:59 PM on February 15, 2013


That's how people are parsing what she said? That's totally racist, but totally different than what I parsed her as saying, which is "I wish the media would shine the spotlight more on people like this than on the misogynists"

The follow-up reflections on rap the poster made show a total disapproval of the genre, rather than an uneven depiction in the media.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:04 PM on February 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Whoa, whoa, whoa! That's how people are parsing what she said? That's totally racist, but totally different than what I parsed her as saying, which is "I wish the media would shine the spotlight more on people like this than on the misogynists"

I was responding to your question specifically - why talking about fictional roles is different than talking about real people. I think most people are responding to the part of BlueHorse's comment that characterized all rappers as people who "can hardly string a sentence without ten obscenities, they constantly talk about sex, including rape, dis women and call them bitches and 'hos, and advocate killing, anarchy, and destruction" as well as implying that all of those rappers are black.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:05 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


re: The Beastie Boys - honestly, I liked them even when they were misogynistic fuckwits. A number of things I enjoy contain misogynistic fuckwittery, and racist fuckwittery, and don't even get me started on transphobic and ableistic fuckwittery, we'll be here forever.

One of the more difficult thing I've had to do as someone who gradually has become more and more aware of how pervasive prejudicial assumptions and implicit discrimination is reconcile that with things I enjoy despite their being steeped in the dominant narratives. Identifying it is one of the ways I cope with this. "I know they are wrong about this, but man their music is bouncy and I just want to dance when I listen to it. I'll change the word to boys!" (That's what I did before, but now I think I'll sub in squirrels, though part of me would like an adoring man who likes to clean in my life; I hate cleaning.) It's not about removing anything and anyone problematic from my sphere, but it's critical to me that I am able to identify problematic things and discuss them frankly and without tiptoeing around words like sexist and racist.

I'm listening mostly to indie pop (I guess) or outright poppy stuff these days. Where are the equally problematic examples of misogyny there?

I'm not going to play "trawl through your music collection to identify the sexism". Educate yourself on what those things are and trawl yourself, if you want to. It seems a whole lot more like you're begging the question and implying that of course the music YOU like doesn't have sexism in it because if it did you would have noticed! This is unlikely. I am a woman raised a feminist and I still miss sexism in things I like sometimes. Hel, sometimes I miss when I'm being a sexist fuckwit.

Can I wish for better representations, or does that make me racist because I'm somehow implying that all black people should be representatives of their race?

You're really far afield of what the original statement was - which was that Tyson is good, and all black rappers are idiots and bad rolemodels (which was problematic on several levels which you seemt o not be hearing people explain). You also again seem to be trying to play some sort of "gotcha" game, where magically the critique of that statement is wrong because OMG THE JAPANESE. See my note above about how one common thing to do with implicit racism is to deflect to other things - like for example becoming really focused on Japanese media and whether you can comment on the problems with how their media portrays race. People also tend to deflect into outrage, a la "You called me racist! How DARE you! I am 52.4% non-white in my soul, eat breakfast every morning with at least three members of various minorities randomly rotated through, and I'm even tolerant of members of my family marrying black people!"

In a more than 101 sense, everyone is more likely than not to have implicit biases. Project Implicit at Harvard has a very good summation of it that is reasonably easy to comprehend, if one puts in the effort. Usually we are unaware of our biases because they are not the result of conscious thought, but rather extrapolating from the examples we've seen - something humans are really good at.

If one wishes to effectively combat racism, having others point it out and offer opinions on race in various media and social circumstances becomes a blessing because it means one can always learn more and improve oneself in this area. I can't count the amount I've learned from people speaking up about different inequalities they've noticed. This requires being more concerned with not perpetuating racist/sexist/etc... norms than being concerned with whether or not an adjective is publically applies to one, though.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:05 PM on February 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


It seems to me that American media shows white people as being very diverse, while the blacks they show are much more often either criminals or athletes, or misogynist musicians. I blame the media for this slanted portrayal. I wish they'd show non-whites in a more realistic range of diversity. How do I express that without sounding racist? Or is having that perception itself racist?

This is not racist; you expressed yourself very well.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:08 PM on February 15, 2013


It seems to me that American media shows white people as being very diverse, while the blacks they show are much more often either criminals or athletes, or misogynist musicians.

Or judges. I'm more surprised to see a black actor playing a criminal than a judge on TV. We must watch different shows.
posted by John Cohen at 7:16 PM on February 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


...some of whom are actually *gasp* female!

Fuck that shit, Yo! Majesty!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This perceptive deficit could be some kind of confirmation bias attached to your own default perception of black people that makes you only notice their race when the character fits a category that you expect (this would imply some racist prejudices on your side)

Yes. I was raised in a racist time and a racist place. Intellectually I know better, but I'm not fool enough to believe that poisonous shit may not be lurking in unexamined corners of my psyche. It's entirely possible that my perception is wrong because that kind of confirmation bias is exactly the sort of place where nonsense learned as a child hides out from adult thinking.
posted by tyllwin at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2013


"You also again seem to be trying to play some sort of "gotcha" game, where magically the critique of that statement is wrong because OMG THE JAPANESE. See my note above about how one common thing to do with implicit racism is to deflect to other things - like for example becoming really focused on Japanese media and whether you can comment on the problems with how their media portrays race."

I'm not playing gotcha, but good god damn your comment seems to be.

I'm not trying to deflect anything, I'm failing to understand something, and presenting a situation which I find myself in, which I believe is analogous. Maybe there's a big difference I'm missing. If that's the case, I hope someone will point it out, and I'll go, "oh, yeah, that makes sense, never mind." Or maybe there's not a difference. Since I do, actually, refuse to believe that "I wish the media didn't always portray blacks as buffoons" is a racist sentiment, if people say, "Yeah, bugbread, your example is racist, too", then I'm just going to take it that this is one of those cases where I think MeFi is off its rocker.

But I'm not playing gotcha. What I hope for is for someone to say "Here's how it's different for wanting more rational, intelligent black people on Japanese TV and less mixed martial artists", and for me to say, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Thanks." That's my desired end game here, not "gotcha" or "deflection".

"Project Implicit at Harvard has a very good summation of it that is reasonably easy to comprehend, if one puts in the effort."

Is that the test that shows the images and words, and you have to select negative or positive traits or whatnot?
posted by Bugbread at 7:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I hope for is for someone to say "Here's how it's different for wanting more rational, intelligent black people on Japanese TV and less mixed martial artists", and for me to say, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Thanks."

It's different because you're talking about fictional characters and not real people, and not implying that actual black people are choosing to do things that lead to the negative portrayal. They're apples and oranges, which is why people are finding your question to be somewhat out of place.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:37 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ok. That makes sense. I'm suspecting that perhaps I'm assuming a lot more media fault here than others; i.e. that every race has a bunch of dicks and a few cool folks, and the disproportionately negative media portrayal of blacks is the fault of the media, not of the blacks themselves. I took BlueHorse's comment to mean that; that it would be great if the media didn't always ignore the good and go out of its way to disproportionately emphasize the bad.

Based on that, I thought my example was analogous because I was also talking about media depictions, and the narrative the media creates, just in my example it was more literally a depiction.

If people are taking BlueHorse to be talking about "why don't more black people act like X instead of Y", instead of "why does the media ignore X and just show Y", then, yeah, my analogy is totally different. I agree that in that case, what BlueHorse said is racist. I just don't know if that's what BlueHorse is actually saying. I certainly took it a different way than that.
posted by Bugbread at 7:53 PM on February 15, 2013


Well, my read was "Y is so awesome compared to all of those horrible Xs" where the only thing Y had in common with the Xs was race, plus BlueHorse's characterization of the Xs was tremendously negative, overbroad, and consistent with pop media perception of Xs rather than direct experience. And not all Xs are actually black but that was the implication.

So, not as simple as your question, which again sort of made it sound like a weird derail and not actually related to the topic of the thread. I know you didn't mean it that way, but I'm still not totally sure I understand why you're stuck on it.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:59 PM on February 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bugbread, the reason your own desire for less racism on Japanese TV is only tangentially related to this conversation is because Black people aren't 'exotic' foreigners in America. Neil Degrasse Tyson is an American person telling his own American story, in part to inspire the next generation of American children, and in the original thread he was held up as a better role model than other Black Americans with careers the OP found distasteful. None of this has anything to do with what's going on in Japan or on Japanese television. I mean, yes, Japan has some pretty serious business problems with race and there are lots of ways in which those problems manifest themselves in ways that will look cringingly familiar to an American viewer, but the racism of Japanese TV has very little to do with Americans judging who does or does not count as a worthy role model.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:12 PM on February 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


if you read my comments
and you think I'm racist
come on sugar let me know

if you read my meta
just reach out and comment


etc etc etc
posted by subbes at 8:17 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


yeah I'm afraid I'd say that you're sounding like a bit of a racist.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 8:18 PM on February 15, 2013


I dunno, but as for me I figured out a long time ago that I don't have a duty to correct every error or misguided sentiment on the Internet. When it comes to threads relating to contentious subjects, I stay the hell out. Usually I don't even read them, let alone comment.

I'm not going to convince anyone, and it isn't worth even trying, especially in this forum. All that does is lead to grief.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:21 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Girls, to do the dishes
Girls, to clean up my room
Girls, to do the laundry
Girls, and in the bathroom
Girls, that's all I really want is girls


What's that in Ad-Rock's cheek? Could it be a tongue? Naaah. The Boys were never known for sarcastic, self-deprecating humor, he must really expect women to exist only to do those things.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will repeat the standard mod line: if you do not find these MetaTalk threads worthwhile or interesting, you are welcome to not read or comment in them.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


What if I said that I think that most of the rap/hip-hop that I hear is violent and misogynistic? The qualifier being "most". Does that make me racist?
posted by Splunge at 8:27 PM on February 15, 2013


What if I said that I think that most of the rap/hip-hop that I hear is violent and misogynistic? The qualifier being "most". Does that make me racist?

You do understand that the men at the head of the record companies pushing violent, misogynistic hip-hop are white, right?

Shit, if you listened to any top 40 station, the sum total of human existence is getting someone of the opposite sex to look at you at expensive bottle-service clubs.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, the qualifier is "that I hear." And, as with everything, context matters - if you say that in a conversation about race, then maybe. If you say it in a conversation about rap, probably not.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2013


What if I said that I think that most of the rap/hip-hop that I hear is violent and misogynistic? The qualifier being "most". Does that make me racist?

Depends. Are you assuming that most rap you hear represents all rap, and are you judging people who say they like rap based on that fact?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What if I said that I think that most of the rap/hip-hop that I hear is violent and misogynistic? The qualifier being "most". Does that make me racist?

No, it means you're somebody who should be listening to better hip-hop. I bet you'd like Brother Ali.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:39 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Where's the line between discussion and outright name-calling and trolling and why shouldn't it be called out for what it is?

The discussion was going fine until you trolled it.

That's where the line is.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:40 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last I heard, NDT was consulting with GZA of Wu-Tang Clan fame on a rap album about cosmology to be titled "Dark Matter."

But I think people are being way too rough on BlueHorse.

He made a statement with racist overtones he was deaf to, and with no conscious racist intent.

I'd guess NDT has heard variations on that theme a thousand times, and right in his face, too, but I doubt he ever dealt with it by shaming people and trying to humiliate them as much as he knew how to, and there might be something we could learn from that around here.
posted by jamjam at 8:52 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


sure, she did that, and then dug in, and then insulted a bunch of people, then brought it to metatalk and ended a rambling post with "f-off." her initial boneheaded statement isn't the entirety of what happened and certainly isn't all people are responding to.
posted by nadawi at 8:56 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!

...yup, that's incredibly racist. The fact that you have a mixed-race family doesn't mean that you are magically racism-free. It's like a guy who argues that he knows he's not a misogynist because he has a sister. Inculcation has no auto-bypass.
posted by tzikeh at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh hi. I just commented in the other thread before realizing this was here. BlueHorse, I apologize for not responding -- other people had covered the territory well, I thought, and I wasn't really awake enough to write down my thoughts about it clearly when I responded to Sonny Jim. I've had a sort of crazy day and haven't had the chance to check up on Metafilter until now.

scody, thanks for pointing out the "Good Negro" thing; that sums up my thoughts pretty clearly.
posted by wayland at 9:02 PM on February 15, 2013


When it comes to threads relating to contentious subjects, I stay the hell out. Usually I don't even read them, let alone comment.

I'm not going to convince anyone, and it isn't worth even trying, especially in this forum. All that does is lead to grief.


I'll just post my single data point: I've changed my mind on contentious subjects based on things people have written here.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:05 PM on February 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


She made a statement, thank you for the correction, nadawi, but "f-off" does tend to be how people respond when attacked and wounded, don't you think?

What good does that do them?

And it degrades you.
posted by jamjam at 9:05 PM on February 15, 2013


Are there people here who do nothing but look for grievances? This whole thing is ridiculous. Everyone is a racist--happy?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:08 PM on February 15, 2013


what degrades me? answering the questions she laid out? explaining to her why the things she said comes off as racist?
posted by nadawi at 9:08 PM on February 15, 2013


jamjam, are we reading the same thread? I don't think I've seen anyone humiliating or shaming BlueHorse.
posted by wayland at 9:12 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


what degrades me? answering the questions she laid out? explaining to her why the things she said comes off as racist?

I thought your comment was actually pretty measured, nadawi, but she ended her post with the "f-off" before anything was said in this thread, and I, in my baseless yet incorrigibly optimistic way, foolishly imagined that would be enough to keep "you" from seeming as personal as it did-- yet it does serve to illustrate what I said about attacking, perhaps.
posted by jamjam at 9:27 PM on February 15, 2013



Are there people here who do nothing but look for grievances? This whole thing is ridiculous. Everyone is a racist--happy?


I never understand this perspective. You think people enjoy finding things other people say racist? Why on Earth would that be? Racism is extremely hurtful. I am not a white person, nor am I a black person, but I feel like I am constantly managing racist attitudes toward me, intentional racism or no. I hate it. I would love to not experience it. I'm grateful that on Metafilter there are people who are thoughtful enough about this that they understand how cultural context and history can affect how things are interpreted and perceived.

I don't think Metafilter is at all perfect in this regard, but there is some thought here. But do I ENJOY the fact that many people are racist often in daily life? No. Seriously, why, why, why would I. Please explain it to me.
posted by sweetkid at 9:31 PM on February 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


The roles that Black people assume in the media - such as commercials, or the news (1, 2, got more, too) - form definable, noticeable and very predictable patterns.

And considering WHO consumes rap music and produces it at the executive level, it is NOT okay to hold up Black performers as detractors from the efforts and accomplishments of other Black public figures. Especially because they are quite literally performing a caricatured version of their racialized gender identity. Especially because all I ever hear about are "those damned rappers degrading women." Seldom are my ears graced with the sound of performers in white-dominated genres being criticized for their equally present misogyny, although the evidence lies there in volumes. The double standard is real, and no one should be waving it about in a thread.

In that same context, holding up Neil deGrasse Tyson as an example of how Black public figures should act is racist. Someone already mentioned the Good Negro trope upthread. It's more than just a matter of offending sensibilities or "finding something to gripe about," it's the nastiness of coming into a conversation or social situation with really damaging, restrictive and alienating attitudes about an entire people. Considering that sentiments like the offending comment frequently influence the mundane - like court proceedings, and there's research aplenty on that - how negatively people react to more of it in their community is not the problem here.
posted by Ashen at 9:47 PM on February 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Slap*Happy: What's that in Ad-Rock's cheek? Could it be a tongue? Naaah. The Boys were never known for sarcastic, self-deprecating humor, he must really expect women to exist only to do those things.

It would be great if we could extend the same benefit of the doubt to everyone, and not just people whom we presently have decided we respect. It rarely happens that way, though.

And I don't care how deep into your cheek you move your tongue, "...what I did to his daughter. I did it like this, I did it like that. I did it with the whiffle ball bat." is straight-up misogynistic.
posted by themanwho at 9:59 PM on February 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


jamjam, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean but BlueHorse specifically calls out two users and says "fuck off, both of you". That's not my understanding of an impersonal expression of irritation.

More generally, "where do you come off telling me I sound racist" is usually answerable with "I read something you said and drew a conclusion about its meaning based on context". You don't get to decide how you come off to other people, nor how your words will be perceived. That's why it's extra important to be precise with language, especially when we're talking to a general forum. Just as you can have the opinion that what Pope Guilty said was way out of line, Pope Guilty (and ShawnStruck and dersins and a whole lot of us in this MeTa) can be of the opinion that the original comment betrays a lot of racist underpinnings, consciously or not. Doesn't mean you're a bad person, just that you said something that some of us found problematic.

You're free to react with"how dare you, you don't know me" or you can meet us half-way and maybe try to understand why your words were perceived that way, regardless of intention. Intention is a tricky thing, and not worth a whole lot when the language we use is still oppressive. Hell, I'm Chinese and had no idea the word Oriental was considered offensive by Asian-Americans until maybe last year. If I used that word and someone got offended, even though I myself am part of the demographic being slagged? Eh, now I know and I won't use it again. No skin off my back.
posted by Phire at 10:16 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


restless_nomad: "So, not as simple as your question, which again sort of made it sound like a weird derail and not actually related to the topic of the thread. I know you didn't mean it that way, but I'm still not totally sure I understand why you're stuck on it."

I'm not stuck on it anymore, my last comment was meant to be my "Ah, ok, I was interpreting it this way, but y'all are interpreting it that way, which makes my comments not really apply. Sorry." comment. I apparently have lost the ability to communicate what I'm trying to communicate.
posted by Bugbread at 10:21 PM on February 15, 2013


As this whole things started out:
For context: The OP's first comment, in a post about Neil Degrasse Tyson, was
Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!
People took offense.


And to the first person that expressed that opinion, I asked why they were offended, for better understanding. Instead of clarification I was called racist.



...his pretty spot-on explanation of why that particular sentence expresses a racist attitude.

It's not racist for a white person to like a black person, but it is racist for a white person to frame their appreciation for that black person in terms of that black person's relationship to the real or perceived traits of other black people.

This statement makes no sense to me. Black or white, we're all people. If this is restated without regard to race or sex then it can be said:
It is not wrong for a person to like another person, but it is wrong for a person to frame their appreciation for that person (whom they like) in terms of that person's relationship to the real or perceived traits of other people.
I like John because he's funny and kind to animals. I don't like drunk drivers because they're inconsiderate of the fact that their behavior is dangerous to people and animals. John is a better role model.
If I'm totally misunderstanding this, then I'd welcome further discussion.


Why can't we see more peaceful politicians dudes like this instead of Islamic 'freedom fighters'. Keith Ellison is The Man!

Why can't we see more of eloquent statesmen dudes like this instead of lazy Italian 'Americans'. LaGuardia is The Man!

OP, perhaps this illustrates why your line of reasoning is problematic, and comes across as racist.


I admire Keith Ellison and think he's a great role model. Not so someone that kills for religious reasons. I would hope all kids would take after Ellison.

I don't know about lazy Italian Americans (and why did YOU put quotes around Americans? Are they not 'real' Americans? Could be racist.) Lazy Italians, never heard that one.

We'll do mobsters as our stereotype. Some Italians are connected with organized crime. Not all, but some. LaGuardia is a much better role model than any of the Genovese or Gambino family. LaGuardia is The Man.

Why can't we see more Nobel prize winner dudes like this instead of Hells Angles? Harold Pinter is The Man.

I'm still not seeing what's wrong with these statements.


Perhaps you'd have been better advised to contemplate why your mind landed on "rap" after watching that video

My mind landed on role models. And what a wonderful model NDT is for any kid. My contrast model could have been athletes, Hollywood personalities, lying politicians, or cheating financiers. My thought was why don't we have lots of publicity for positive role models instead of giving tons of publicity to the negative? How many kids will see this youtube video, versus repeated exposure to negative influences via multiple media? Doesn't matter what the color--scientists, doctors, teachers, social workers,--are all good role models. There I go with stereotypes again. Of course, there are evil doctors and mad scientists--they aren't good role models.


BlueHorse: simply put, your comments comparing NDT to rappers veers into an updated version of "Good Negro" territory, which encompasses two general points: 1) that African-Americans are all automatically representatives of "their race," and 2) some of them are "better" representatives than others. Which, even if not intended as racist, is at the very least inflected by internalized ideas, assumptions, etc. that are racist.

Thank you for your comment, Scody. Wayland, you say Scody has summed up your thoughts on this by referencing the "Good Negro". Had any of the three responses I object to above approached the respect and desire to communicate that this reply conveys, perhaps I could have clarified what I meant and how I felt my statement was being misinterpreted, as well as discussing the concept of the "Good Negro" and internalized ideas and assumptions. Instead, your statement: worst possible takeaway from contemplating this guy is dead ended and judgmental and left me gobsmacked as to why you'd say that. Which is why I asked for your clarification.

The next two statements after that were simply insulting: cause it's super whack and hella racist sounding.; cause it's super whack and hella racist sounding. You appeared to agree.

I don't think I've seen anyone humiliating or shaming BlueHorse.

I do find it humiliating to be called a racist and to be shaming to be accused of making derogatory remarks when I meant nothing of the kind.


If one wishes to effectively combat racism, having others point it out and offer opinions on race in various media and social circumstances becomes a blessing because it means one can always learn more and improve oneself in this area.

Agreed. I appreciated MetaFilter for the exploration of different topics. However, as stated, Scody's answer invites discussion with an opportunity for clarification and reflection, and his link has many ideas to consider. Super whack and hella racist certainly wasn't edifying for me, although it might have influenced or reinforced what others were thinking about my statement.

You don't get to decide how you come off to other people, nor how your words will be perceived. That's why it's extra important to be precise with language, especially when we're talking to a general forum.

Quite true. I did not state clearly what I meant to say.


I parsed her as saying, which is "I wish the media would shine the spotlight more on people like this than on the misogynists"

The problem, as I see it, isn't in what you said, but the way you said it. You used a phrasing and approach that sets off racist alarms in a lot of MeFites. A slightly better way to have phrased it would have been something like:

"It would be wonderful if our society was one in which black intellectuals like this got the recognition they deserved, instead of our media ignoring them in order to reinforce racist images of blacks through the misogyny of artists like X and Y"


Thank you BugBread, both for your charitable interpretation and for expressing what I meant so eloquently.


...telling people to "F-off" probably isn't the best way to elevate the discussion.

It was said in the heat of the moment, and to the community, as well as ShawnStruck and dersins, I apologize. I also apologize for using the word asshole.

We'll just take it as given that Pope Guilty was correct in his statement that I don't have the first fucking idea what [I'm] talking about.

But rap? No, I don't like 99.99% of rap. I believe it was on the Blue that I first encountered the phrase Your Favorite Band/Music Sucks.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:31 PM on February 15, 2013


man, you must spend a lot of time listening to rap if you're sure you disklike 99.99% of it. i'm not even sure if questlove has heard that much of it.
posted by nadawi at 11:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


You don't type, preview and post in the heat of the moment. Own your post.

You answer your own question in your response. As you say you could have said " more NDK and less lying financiers!" But you didn't, you said rappers. Because black. And with that you reduced him to his race, and held him up as a good (enough to have earned white respect) black. The implication if you want to keep picking at it is also that the level for "good enough" for a black man is HEAD OF NASA! Or president. Or finding a cure for cancer while being a handsome super-dad.
posted by Iteki at 11:45 PM on February 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


*sigh*
Fine, clarification.
99.99% of the rap I've heard.

Which doesn't predispose me to listening to more, although I did look up Brother Ali on youtube as Ragged Richard suggested, but meh, whatevers.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:46 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


BlueHorse, I just searched for the word "racist" on that page and no one called you a racist. Some people said that some things you said were racist and that you come off as racist, but those are different. No one is jumping on you and calling you an awful person -- just that something you said was problematic and reflective of societal racism in a way you maybe weren't aware.

Calling a statement racist is not insulting.
posted by wayland at 12:12 AM on February 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Let's start from the back: I doubt very much that you have heard 99.99% of rap, which throws your ability to comment on "rap" as a whole or rap artists into immediate doubt when those are your characterizations. Those characterizations are also basically identical to much racist commentary on the state of black culture, that it is too violent, too disrespectful, too savage.

So, you appear to be assessing and dismissing an entire culture based on unexamined narratives of inferiority and lack of civilization. You can have as many nonwhite relatives as you want, that's still and always going to be pretty damn racist.

Your "contrast model" could have been anything, sure. But why was there one in the first place? What relationship does Tyson have in his professional life to rap music? It's an absurd comparison on its face, like holding Isaac Asimov in opposition to Matisyahu. That's even before we get to the outright contempt mixed with ignorance in your sneering scare-quotes dismissal of rap 'artists', as though you can hardly believe these "idiots", whom you clearly know nothing about, could be so elevated.

You also don't seem to understand that not meaning to make derogatory comments doesn't prevent you from doing so. You're not insulated from the racist narratives of our culture by good intentions alone.

So, you compared an accomplished intellectual to a non-specific category of bogeymen, in the process dismissing an entire racially-loaded medium as savage and inarticulate, with no other cause for that comparison except a perceived skin color and responsibility to represent people who look like them well to your satisfaction. That is racist as hell.
posted by Errant at 12:14 AM on February 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


Is [Project Implicit] the test that shows the images and words, and you have to select negative or positive traits or whatnot?

Essentially. It tests the lag in time between associating things, and has been correlated highly with other measures of unconscious racism (Project Implicit started with studies on doctors and how they treat different people, finding markedly different treatments for the same illnesses based on race). The research is remarkably solid and they've been establishing that it coincides with real world implications, like who is hired for jobs and who gets adequate treatment in hospitals.

Girls, to do the dishes
Girls, to clean up my room
Girls, to do the laundry
Girls, and in the bathroom
Girls, that's all I really want is girls

What's that in Ad-Rock's cheek? Could it be a tongue? Naaah. The Boys were never known for sarcastic, self-deprecating humor, he must really expect women to exist only to do those things.


The Beastie Boys' subsequent disavowing of their early statements and lyrics (Like one of them commenting he was a feminist because he liked women with big breasts) is fairly strong evidence against their lyrics being "tongue in cheek" mocking of sexism.

By the way, when I say that it's important to be able to identify problematic things as problematic, this sort of response (but he's clearly TONGUE IN CHEEK!) is exactly what I'm talking about. Not only is it intensely disrespectful to the eventual awareness of the Beastie Boys about their sexism, and their subsequent actions to try to rectify some of the harm they did, but it also is a denial of the experiences of women like me who had to navigate music that reinforced what other aspects of culture (like who was expected to do the chores at dinner parties - yes, all women, and I got criticized for staying in the dining room for the interesting conversation instead of washing dishes) are clearly stating - that it is womens' jobs to clean up after men. Pretending that there isn't a larger narrative of social expectations, training in different contexts like the workplace, and other media examples of women being responsible for the cleanliness of a location is simply insulting to the intelligence of anyone who pays attention to these things, not to mention the Beastie Boys themselves who owned their own flaws and then worked to correct them.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:36 AM on February 16, 2013 [36 favorites]


scody: " that African-Americans are all automatically representatives of "their race,""

Interestingly, in some respects this was the dilemma of NDT's story; whether by becoming an astrophysicist he was hurting his community.

It occurred to me that I have always had the luxury of not worrying about how my life choices might affect some larger community. That, right there, is privilege.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:37 AM on February 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


If this is a re-tread of a point already made - sorry.

As per Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys....

"I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / the disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / I wanna offer my love and respect till the end"


Later Beastie Boys are not younger Beastie Boys, because they grew up.

Peace.
posted by jbenben at 12:38 AM on February 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


Bugbread: "Does my desire for better and less racist depicitions of black people on TV make me racist because it's "good negro" thinking? "

I feel like it's a natural reaction but a highly problematic one. Basically, it's like this: if a black people does something bad, inevitably his blackness becomes a topic of discussion. But if a white person does something bad, he has the distinction of just being an asshole.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:40 AM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: "I also think it's important to address this idea that 'racist' is a mean name to call someone. This is silly."

How about this: I once got in an online debate with someone who didn't like it when girls labeled men as "creepy". Because of how it might hurt the feelings of the person described as creepy.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:43 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Splunge: "What if I said that I think that most of the rap/hip-hop that I hear is violent and misogynistic? The qualifier being "most". Does that make me racist?"

You should stop listening to those songs then, and find better hip hop to listen to.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:47 AM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like Beastie Boys more than Neil Tyson, and I'm having trouble figuring out if that makes me a racist. Can someone help?
posted by michaelh at 12:51 AM on February 16, 2013


That whole line of argument about rap being mysogonistic and violent offends me as a music fan. I don't listen to much rap. I mostly listen to rock and indie. So look at my recent Nick Cave FPP or early Rolling Stones sings or the Beatles songs about domestic violence or Nice Guy pop punk or violent metal before you attack rap, because its people like you who make non-rap fans look like racist idiots. And don't say you like the blues, because the blues had all those things you dislike in music.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:18 AM on February 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


As someone who really likes rap music this thread is kinda hard to read because of the general willingness I'm seeing here to lump it into "good" and "bad" categories. I can't fault anyone for avoiding offensive material but I find it dissappointing that so many are willing to impose conditions on art.

I completely disagree with the notion that violence and misogyny in rap is being imposed by label heads or white music buyers. There's a lot of sexy (and sexist) stuff in radio singles, but most of the rap that's really talking about criminal activity isn't coming through major labels and doesn't even necessarily have commercial release. The most commercial rap artists -- I'm thinking Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, Drake -- will give you a lot of sexy glitz and materialism on a radio single, but not much if any violence. Mainstream white audiences aren't buying violent rap music, for the most part.

Eminem -- the most commercially successful rapper ever -- somehow has a running joke in his music about violently murdering his ex wife. He's white.

Personally, my feeling is that most problematic issue in rap is not the offensive things that young black men are saying. It's the absence of the voices of women and lgbt artists, but I think we're making good if slow progress there. Have you all listened to the Le1f mixtape?
posted by chrchr at 1:32 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Guys, I understand that there are underlying assumptions about rap/hip-hop that people may be interested in deconstructing, but this thread needs not to turn into a general music discussion.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:47 AM on February 16, 2013


For your raw rippity rap fix, how about How about Z-Ro or perhaps this track among dozens of others (I suspect he's bipolar and prolifically manic or manically prolific)...or perhaps a little Slaughter Rico.

As a white dude who group up in a poor, rough, and ~75% black [at the time] neighborhood (where crime and per-capita-income rates are still awful compared to surrounding areas), I'm pretty familiar with the whole "I hate rap vociferously because I'm kinda racist" mentality, where folks will go out of their way to fall all over themselves writing off all of hip-hop. This seemed to be a defense mechanism for the older white folks who didn't really appreciate the rise of grunge or hip-hop, so they were just pretty bitter but really hated "c"rap music.

Not to say BlueHorse is a racist individual or fits some stereotype I'm carefully constructing like a ninja out in the open doing pantomime and then POW!

But this is the context I'm operating from and just about everyone I've known who made a point about hating rap music went on to make obviously cringe-worthy racist comments down the road, often qualified with "I'm not a racist but" padding.

I went to middle school in the rough neighborhood and then ended up in the white bread suburbs for high school, and it was interesting how much more popular hip-hop was among white dudes than it was in my previous setting. Could be confirmation bias but there seemed to be a strong adherence to "hard rock" and such in my previous neighborhood because rap music seemed scary. I got into Coolio while "in the 'hood" but was always intimidated by Dre and Snoop until I subconsciously learned to love 'em after leaving MTV on for too long.

Sometimes the rap haters throw in "and country!" so we know they've balanced their dislike of one diverse "subculture's" music with another's.

Methinks many folks protest about rap too much. I remember getting into Pantera, NIN, and Marilyn Manson before finding the Scandinavian metal scene and having my mind blown...there's plenty of grittines here but somehow black folks expressing aggressive thoughts tend to be painted as aggressive folks, while white dudes are just blowing off some steam and fantasizing about having more power.
posted by lordaych at 1:59 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


To those that had something thought provoking to say and said it with respect, thank you. You have given me something to think about.

Errant: You can have as many nonwhite relatives as you want, that's still and always going to be pretty damn racist.

So, you compared an accomplished intellectual... blah blah blah ... satisfaction. That is racist as hell.


Wayland, you listening? I'm pretty damn racist, just as racist as hell.

So, you appear to be assessing and dismissing an entire culture based on unexamined narratives of inferiority and lack of civilization.
No, I just don't like rap that has repeated obscenity, violence and misogyny, OK?

And I think kids need positive role models, which was most likely a derail of the original discussion in the main post.

I didn't know who Matisyahu was, so I looked him up.
Quote: Matisyahu stated that "All of my songs are influenced and inspired by the teachings that inspire me. I want my music to have meaning, to be able to touch people and make them think. Chasidism teaches that music is 'the quill of the soul.' Music taps into a very deep place and speaks to us in a way that regular words can't."
He certainly doesn't sound like the rappers I was referencing. Why, he might even be someone I'd call a role model! Or can't I say that because it would make me anti-Semitic, too? I may give him a listen. Even if I don't like his music, maybe I'll like his lyrics.

Matisyahu doesn't work for me in your comparison. How about if I hold Asimov in opposition to Eminem? Seems like a better analogy. I respect the work of one and not the other. One is a hella prolific role model, the other makes my skin crawl. I'll leave it to you to pick which.

Errant, you are just plain obnoxious. You want to put words in my mouth and misinterpret what I say to service some agenda of your own, be my guest.


And don't say you like the blues, because the blues had all those things you dislike in music.
Guess I better get rid of the record collection, since I can't possibly appreciate it the way you think I should.

Charlemagne, I can't think of a single blues song with lyrics that can compare with Dr Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit"


Taz, let 'em have the thread. The few cogent comments and good points that were being made have been overwhelmed by the crap-fest. Maybe a discussion about music would be better. I'm going to bed.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:06 AM on February 16, 2013


It would make no sense at all for you to compare Isaac Asimov to Eminem in almost any context ever.

Comparing Neil Tyson to rappers is similarly nonsensical, unless the comparison was based on their race.

That's why what you said sounded racist.

Have a good night!
posted by chrchr at 2:14 AM on February 16, 2013 [66 favorites]


Sometimes the discussion on racism, or perhaps more correctly, the perception of racism, breaks down for a very basic reason: Folks talking past each other because neither can read the other's mind and therefore can't get the context.

Seriously, I think most folks are well-meaning on this topic, and the ones that are not aren't likely posting to Metafilter. But this is a topic which is nearly impossible to discuss without offending someone! How you handle that offence is what matters.

Some folks have accepted as an article of faith (and I'll include rational but unseen proof as 'faith' here) that the 'other' is really like they are, and not some inferior/superior sort of being. Especially folks whose lives haven't included many (or any!) of these 'others'. But then finally someone comes along and proves their faith was right.

Part of the problem is the discussion, perhaps of necessity, is constantly switching between the private emotional calculus of the individual, and the rational world of facts. It's way too easy to cudgel people expressing emotional truth with rational fact. "Oh! That's a racist thing to say!" is all too often true! It's just meaningless in context of the emotional truth that the other person is working hard to sort out. And it mainly serves to put a damper on that sorting out.

The thing with Dr. Tyson (Why does no one call him that?) is, for some sheltered white folks, he may easily be the first time they've known a person of color with whom they really identify. As such, he confirms that 'faith'. It's a personal thing, but it's an important one.

I mean, really, is it that different than the geek that grows up in a sports town, and feels really bad about themselves until they go to college and finally meet like-minds? (JEEZ, I've been struggling to write this for an hour and can't keep going. I hope it wasn't wasted)
posted by Goofyy at 2:15 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Blue horse, you're pretty out of line here, and while I honestly believe you don't think you're racist, and that compared to people you grew up with, essentially acknowledging a black man as a credit to his race might be fairly progressive (it would have been in my family), you probably should spend some time thinking really hard about why bringing up rap in a thread about a scientist, just because he is black betrays some seriously racist thought processes.
posted by empath at 2:46 AM on February 16, 2013 [41 favorites]


I think enough has been said.
posted by Segundus at 2:57 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charlemagne, I can't think of a single blues song with lyrics that can compare with Dr Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit"

I don't think that having a limited knowledge of nasty blues as well as a limited knowledge of "worthy" rap is a helpful argument for you.

Some of those are filthymouthed black women though, so I don't know if that counts.
posted by Iteki at 2:59 AM on February 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


Wayland, you listening? I'm pretty damn racist, just as racist as hell.

Geez, did we read the same post?

So, you appear to be assessing and dismissing an entire culture based on unexamined narratives of inferiority and lack of civilization. You can have as many nonwhite relatives as you want, that's still and always going to be pretty damn racist.

"That" here refers to the antecedent "assessing and dismissing an entire culture based on &c. &c". Errant says an action that you appear to be performing is "pretty damn racist", not you.

So, you compared an accomplished intellectual to a non-specific category of bogeymen, in the process dismissing an entire racially-loaded medium as savage and inarticulate, with no other cause for that comparison except a perceived skin color and responsibility to represent people who look like them well to your satisfaction. That is racist as hell.

"That" here refers to "[comparing] an accomplished intellectual to a non-specific category of bogeymen". Errant says a comparison you may be enacting is "racist as hell". Not you.

BlueHorse, I'm sorry if you feel attacked, humiliated, or shamed. That sucks. Being singled out sucks. That's not our (or, at least, my) intention. The fact remains, though, that you said something kind of fucked up. I don't think it's inappropriate to point that out; do you?

I think enough has been said.

Agreed; I'm going to step out here.
posted by wayland at 3:15 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


This statement makes no sense to me. Black or white, we're all people.

[Colbert] Now, I don't see color. People tell me I'm white and I believe them because police officers call me "sir". [/Colbert]

Which is to say, dude. I get that you're hurting, but "you are the real racists, for thinking about race!" is not a good response.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:17 AM on February 16, 2013 [20 favorites]


Charlemagne, I can't think of a single blues song with lyrics that can compare with Dr Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit"

Off the top of my head, Robert Johnson's "me and the devil blues"

Me and the devil
Walking side by side
I'm gonna beat my woman
Til I'm satisfied
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:20 AM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Isaac Asimov and Matisyahu are both culturally Jewish. That is about the only thing they conceivably have in common. There's basically no comparison between them to be made except in terms of a shared Jewish culture.

Tyson and "idiotic rap 'artists'" (and here you haven't identified a target, just labeled a whole category) are identifiably black. That is about the only thing "they" (and again, this is harder, because your impossibly-broad characterization makes responding to it equally problematic) have in common. There's no feasible comparison between those entities that doesn't turn on the fact of blackness.

So when you say "this guy is a great role model, much better than these awful utterly-unrelated people", you come off, at best, as someone with a particular axe to grind, and at worst as someone adjudicating what it means to be a good black person. Your subsequent responses suggest an unwillingness to examine the presence of those assumptions, assumptions which I didn't invent but that you told us about without prompting.

You can find me obnoxious for saying so, that's about what I expected. I wasn't expecting you to like me. But I urge you to reexamine those assumptions and ideas that have clearly garnered a fair amount of negative feedback, rather than dig your heels in and presume that there must be some secret agenda of which you've fallen afoul. The only one on display is fairly explicit: I'd like you to stop saying racist things, I'd like you to consider the ways in which you may be acting out derived racist attitudes from our common culture, and I'm telling you so here, in a thread specifically created by you to talk about this stuff. It's unfortunate that you find that obnoxious, but while you may need a hug and I'd be happy to supply one, I'm not under the impression that you require coddling.
posted by Errant at 4:42 AM on February 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


Bluehorse, next time someone here admires Iggy Pop will you say they should admire Einstein? In the next Stephen Fry thread will you say you wish more people admired him than that wife-beater John Lennon? Why or why not?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:58 AM on February 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm still confused by the "media depiction" angle. When was this stated or implied? The sentence in question is:
Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!
Nowhere in this sentence is it stated or implied that the media puts a disproportionate focus on "bad" rap as opposed to the good kind. Nowhere in this sentence is the media blamed for BlueHorse seeing fewer "dudes like NDT" instead of said rap artists. Nowhere is the media even mentioned. When BH is questioned on this, though, the very worst tropes about rap artists are evoked, and she's later said that a whole 99.99% of the rap she's heard is precisely this type of stereotyped garbage. So clearly, the problem isn't that the media is showing us only one type of rap artist, by BH's metric.

But this is all beside the point. Chrchr has summed it up very well: It would make no sense at all for you to compare Isaac Asimov to Eminem in almost any context ever. Comparing Neil Tyson to rappers is similarly nonsensical, unless the comparison was based on their race. That is the heart of the matter.

How BH is able to shout down other members of the community and tell them to fuck off because some things she said were pointed out as racist is beyond me, but I doubt this thread serves any more purpose. Multiple people have tried to carefully explain the component parts of what made that sentence racist, BH doesn't seem willing or able to let these points sink in, so maybe it's just best to lock this up and let the reflection begin.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:31 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "I'm still confused by the "media depiction" angle. When was this stated or implied? The sentence in question is:

Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!

Nowhere in this sentence is it stated or implied that the media puts a disproportionate focus on "bad" rap as opposed to the good kind.
"

The word "see". Where do we see famous rappers or NASA scientists? In the media (or, maybe y'all just live more interesting lives than me). If it were "why aren't there" instead of "why can't we see", I'd have taken it as a dig on black people.

That said, I never thought BH was implying that the media puts a disproportionate focus on "bad" rap and ignored "good" rap, I thought BH was saying pretty much all rap is all bad, but the media focuses inordinately on rap at the expense of folks like Dr. Tyson.
posted by Bugbread at 6:27 AM on February 16, 2013


(Note, I'm not trying to bring up / defend / continue that particular interpretation and discussion, I was just responding because you said "I'm still confused", so I wanted to help clear that up)
posted by Bugbread at 6:28 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you can boil it down to, wtf is going on w/ comparing rappers to astrophysicists
I mean, you wouldn't say, Shakespeare, what a doof, why can't he do shit like whoever was doing science shit during the 1600s.
posted by angrycat at 6:31 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amusingly, if you are a Baconian, you would argue that he did.
posted by Errant at 6:50 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are there people here who do nothing but look for grievances?

At some point or other, everyone has a grievance, even people who ask things like "Are there people here who do nothing but look for grievances?"

This whole thing is ridiculous. Everyone is a racist--happy?

People feel the need to talk about it. You think it's ridiculous that they need to talk about it. So... everyone is ridiculous--happy?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:10 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell, I'll go ahead and say it - I *do* think you are racist. I don't think you are a hateful burning bigot or white supremacist or anything, but there's a lot of different kinds of "racist." More importantly, though, I *don't think you're a bad person.* I think you are unwilling to confront or still unable to see the way the million of invisible threads of racism that run through and define modern society.

And not because of that comment, but because of your constant howling retrenchment and anger when someone tries to unpack your invisible napsack. That's a cognitive defense.

This thread has been full of good (and sometimes excellent), thoughtful insights about the nature and effects of racism, and your only take-away has been to devolve into feces throwing mess. I'm reminded of Jay Smooth's excellent talk, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Talk About Race.

So I’ve always had a passion for studying and observing how we communicate about race and how we might get a little better at certain aspects of that communication. I made a video commentary named How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist that talks about a particular type of race conversation, which usually doesn’t involve any explicit racist intent, and there’s no blatant racism involved. It usually involves well-intentioned people, but it’s a situation where one of us feels the need to tell another that something they said may have had connotations they weren’t aware of, or they may have done something that had a hurtful impact they might not have been aware of.

That’s a conversation we all find ourselves in from time to time. And it’s a conversation that usually goes horribly.

Because no matter how clear you try to be in conveying that you’re not attacking the person, just trying to offer a specific critique of a particular thing that just happened, when we are receiving that sort of critique we tend to deeply personalize it and take it as a personal attack. We tend to respond with “are you saying that I am racist?? How could you say that?? I am a good person, why would you say that I am a racist?” and you try to explain, “I’m just saying, about this particular thing that you said--” “No! I am not a racist!” and what started out as a "What You Said" conversation turns into a "What you Are" conversation, a "What I Am" conversation, which is a dead end that produces nothing except mutual frustration. You never wind up seeing eye to eye or finding any common ground.

posted by absalom at 7:11 AM on February 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


I feel like I should explain why I think you were trolling, BlueHorse.

It's actually pretty simple, and doesn't even necessarily have anything to do with racism: You said you like X (the subject of the post), then followed that up with how much you hate Y (which had nothing to do with anything), and dragged it through the mud apropos of nothing.

You're objecting to name-calling? YOU STARTED IT! And for absolutely no reason whatsoever. The only possible outcome of your whole rap "artists" line was backlash. That's the definition of trolling.

And then you come over here to MeTa with your F-yous? What kind of response were you expecting?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:11 AM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


...you probably should spend some time thinking really hard about why bringing up rap in a thread about a scientist, just because he is black...

Hey, one of my favorite black musicians is a scientist!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:15 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your favorite internalized racist assumptions about rap culture sucks.
posted by ndfine at 7:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Who's trolling who now?
posted by molecicco at 7:31 AM on February 16, 2013


The linked comment was far more racist sounding than I'd expected it to be. It's the kind of you thing you hear from geriatrics that haven't fully recognized that the world has changed around them.

It probably didn't help that, as Sys Rq just said, it was couched in general nastiness.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:33 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never understand this perspective. You think people enjoy finding things other people say racist? Why on Earth would that be?

I can't speak for the person you're responding to, but one reason could be because some people enjoy feeling morally superior to others, love participating in a pile-on and are hoping to see a flame-out. Since they are white and part of the privilege that comes with that is that racism doesn't automatically hurt them, they can use it for their personal satisfaction without it spoiling their day.

To be clear, the majority of people who notice and call out racist speech are not like that. I think it's right that the original comment in the Dr. Tyson thread was criticised. But there are comments on Metatalk (and I'm not talking specifically about this thread now) which seem to be more about the joy of making the most cutting remark than clearly explaining the cultural context or Jay Smoothing the difference between what someone said and who they are. It's absolutely right that genuine rage be expressed by those genuinely hurt, but that does leave a space for pot-stirrers to poke a cornered member with sticks in the hope that they will lash out.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who's trolling who now?

Who's trolling whom.


***THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN AWARDED THE TITLE "MOST CUTTING REMARK"; CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED TO NEW ENTRIES***
posted by Sys Rq at 8:01 AM on February 16, 2013 [34 favorites]


Often i think that we act like people are racist, rather than worrying about ideas and statements. You should be able to say, "that sounds really racist," without impugning the character of the person that said it. We all say stupid things sometimes, and often we don't even realize we're doing it. It doesn't necessarily mean we're rotten to the core.

People aren't intrinsically racist, their ideas, actions, and statements are. Once you separate those from the character of the person behind them, it's easier to attack the problematic statements without attacking the person behind it. That's important if you're interested in actually changing the world, and not just digging the trenches deeper.

You can deconstruct an idea without attacking someone's character, but those two seem particularly hard to separate when talking about social issues.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:03 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


This has certainly devolved to a "You're racist" vs "No I'm not" shouting war.

When I look at the original comments, ignoring the later comments that were obviously made in more emotional states, this is what I see:

I believe there are levels of racism, from "Kill them animals" to statements made from a lack of full knowledge about the issue that then come across as racist but are more accurately ignorant.

There are ways of handling racist statements that span from bannination to a gentle "hey, that's probably not what you meant, but it came across as racist."

What happened here is that BlueHorse's original statement what pretty much towards the "more ignorance than racist" end of things, and the response was not on par with the original statement, which only led to fighting and drama and an absurd amount of piling on. So can we just stop piling on? I think BlueHorse gets it, and I don't think piling on is helping anything.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Based on Bluehorse's comments, I don't think she does really get it yet. But life is long and many things are possible.
posted by rtha at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2013 [19 favorites]


When people feel like they're being attacked they dig their heels in.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:31 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a good thread for me because in my day-to-day life I am surrounded by relatively decent people who are completely racially dense. Middle aged white and Latino professionals who think they are all color blind when it comes to race. So do I. Threads like this really open my eyes and make me realize that I have no fucking clue. I sort of nodded along with BH and yes, why can't we have less rappers and more NDTs? A casual and seemingly valid point.

It didn't dawn on me how the "good negro" concept was bad because I'd never thought about it. My life is full of people who say similar things all the time and because no one is around to question it or condemn it we don't know any better.

I hope I am willing to learn and change and understand these things. I strive to be kind and do good. So when someone like BH says "I AM NOT BEING RACIST LEAVE ME ALONE." I don't feel any pity when they are piled on. It is not a time to stand up for oneself. It is a time to defer and reflect, to learn and see the world from a different angle.

I believe that proving you're not racist isn't about saying it aloud, it's about living your life in a way that shows respect to everyone.
posted by M Edward at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2013 [35 favorites]


What is the MetaFilter etiquette concerning trollish remarks to an innocuous comment?

Only start a MeTa if you are willing to try and see other people's points of view about the situation.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:53 AM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


eh, as somebody who made a metatalk thread once wherein I was basically like FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK MEXICO (bad idea, natch), I can testify that it is very easy to make a horrible metatalk post w/o being a troll.
posted by angrycat at 8:59 AM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


> It occurred to me that I have always had the luxury of not worrying about how my life choices
> might affect some larger community. That, right there, is privilege.

No one of any community, majority or minority, has to worry about that, so failure to do so hardly counts as a privilege. Personal obliviousness is an option for any individual in any group.

Now, I see you're a white male. Some white people do worry that any racist thing they say will be taken as an example of how "white people" talk and think, and bring whites in general into disrepute. Some straight people do worry that homophobic talk or actions by them will be taken as showing how straights in general talk and act. Some males do worry that the sexist life choices thay as individuals make will be taken to show males as a class up as a safe harbor for sexism. They're free not to worry about it, just as you point out, but they do anyway. You'll find lots of these worriers right here on metafilter. If you're not one, more power to you.

I'm with you, BTW. I worry just about exactly as much about how my life choices will affect the larger groups that have no choice but to have me as a member as NWA did about how they might tar blacks in general as dangerous gangstas when they were recording Compton's N the House. Not worrying is for anyone who wants it, and it's free.
posted by jfuller at 9:00 AM on February 16, 2013


When people feel like they're being attacked they dig their heels in.

I wear crocs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2013


Holy Christ and balls, people! Are this many people this goddamned ignorant about what a group pile-on accusation of sounding racist sounds like to somebody who wasn't expecting that shit to happen?

No shit BlueHorse is getting pissed off at all of us. This is obviously a discussion she has not had before (and BlueHorse: it is TOTALLY okay that you haven't had it before, though it's worth having now) and everything she says is immediately countered with fifteen different people saying "Oh my god you're such an idiot for not understanding this!" and "You must be trolling, clearly you are trying to waste my time" and "HA! I have proven that your argument DOES NOT HOLD WATER! Enjoy your RACISM".

I know that everybody here is either way too enlightened to have ever gotten in a fight with smart assholes on the Internet or else grew up on 4chan and thinks that nothing worse than Tubgirl is even worth blinking an eye at, but having a bunch of people call you racist and clearly have an entire crowd supporting them doesn't exactly, like, help you calm down and think about shit. It makes you hurt, angry, confused, and defensive. And then to keep on acting like BlueHorse should be humiliated, insulted, and proven WRONG at every possible juncture is only going to reinforce the impression that a whole bunch of y'all are given, which is that you're kind of jerks.

I've seen plenty of instances in which people who were saying problematic things got piled on and the piling on convinced them that the pile-onners had to resort to nastiness because otherwise they didn't have a compelling argument, and therefore racism/sexism doesn't exist! Simply being right in a goddamn argument doesn't mean you win. I blame Aaron Sorkin for this bullshit.

Like, Phire, you know I love you but:
jamjam, maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean but BlueHorse specifically calls out two users and says "fuck off, both of you". That's not my understanding of an impersonal expression of irritation.

More generally, "where do you come off telling me I sound racist" is usually answerable with "I read something you said and drew a conclusion about its meaning based on context". You don't get to decide how you come off to other people, nor how your words will be perceived.
This line gets trotted out a lot, yet regardless of who says "You don't get to decide how you come off to other people", it never seems to occur to them that this sentiment applies to them as much as it does to whomever they're criticizing. A lot of us seem to be patting ourselves on the backs, reassuring ourselves that we're giving the right responses, it's too bad BlueHorse is too [insert derogative sentiment] to understand these things! Very few people are saying the thing that needs to be said, which is: BlueHorse is pissed off and unhappy, and clearly neither of those things are good things for us to have made her. Even if we had valid points to make!

Now, I'm not suggesting that these conversations shouldn't be held, and I'm not suggesting that people who have legitimate points to make should avoid making them for the sake of offending people (and, BlueHorse, I do think the people in this thread have a point; please feel free to MeMail me privately if you'd like to talk about this without the feed-her-to-the-lions! public audience), but simply having a point does not excuse you from trying to empathize with the person you're arguing with. The irony of the many, many people who are smugly saying "You shouldn't be here if you can't see other people's points of view" while clearly refusing to try and sympathize with somebody who's clearly not happy about something that happened on this site... well, it's the same damn irony that always pops up here.

There's a conversation to be had about what BlueHorse said, but I'm not going to join in that here. This discussion is making things worse, not better, and it's not because BlueHorse is a troll or dense or any of that bullshit. It's because people here, as with people anywhere, can't understand that there's a difference between being right and connecting to somebody. Cue two hundred responses to me telling me that it's not anybody's responsibility to pander to somebody who is wrong about something, it's the person who's wrong's responsibility to accept that they're being wrong, yadda yadda, we've heard it all before. I'm not joining in this thread any further (though MeMail or email or Twitter is a thing). But this entire affair's been shameful, and it's not BlueHorse who ought to be feeling ashamed.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


she said "Where's the line between discussion and outright name-calling and trolling and why shouldn't it be called out for what it is?" right before she told two members to fuck off. the fact that this thread is so civil is frankly shocking to me and i think most everyone behaved like adults. this isn't a pile on, it's a response to a thread she made. you can't remove her actions just to castigate everyone else.
posted by nadawi at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


Rory, I like you, but....what? Are we even reading the same threads?

The person who escalated this conversation is BlueHorse. The worst that was happening in the original thread was, "Wow, that thing you said is pretty racist!"

In an ideal world, yeah, it would have been nice if people had been kinder and gentler about it, because you're right that kindness and empathy are more likely to change minds and behavior, and as much as I personally think it's pretty messed up to consider an accusation of racism as WAY WAY WORSE than actually having said a racist thing to begin with, I understand that in reality there are lots of people who freak out about that word.

In an ideal world, someone would have said, "Hey, BlueHorse, I'm sure you mean well, but that thing you said is kind of problematic for XYZ reasons." And then it would have been up to BlueHorse to decide whether to dig her heels in and defend her statement or apologize and let it go.

But acting like we were a pack of dogs who descended on this poor, well-meaning woman and tore her to bits to satisfy our own social-justice bloodlust strikes me as a really weird read of the whole situation.

Just because BlueHorse began this MeTA acting like she'd been viciously attacked in the original thread, doesn't mean she actually had been.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:25 AM on February 16, 2013 [38 favorites]


having a bunch of people call you racist and clearly have an entire crowd supporting them doesn't exactly

Holy Christ and balls, there is a difference between having people say "That thing you said was kinda racist" and "You are a racist." There is no "entire crowd" of people calling Bluehorse a racist. Acting like there is is really unhelpful.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Rory it seems like you barely understood (or assumed rather) what was happening in the original thread and here and then barged in here with a grar-y scold for everyone, then said you weren't engaging further except to MeMail with BlueHorse. That is damn frustrating and a poor use of a MeTa comment.
posted by sweetkid at 9:51 AM on February 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've seen plenty of instances in which people who were saying problematic things got piled on and the piling on convinced them that the pile-onners had to resort to nastiness because otherwise they didn't have a compelling argument, and therefore racism/sexism doesn't exist! Simply being right in a goddamn argument doesn't mean you win. I blame Aaron Sorkin for this bullshit.

I agree very much with this part of Rory's comment, although I'm not sure how Sorkin fits in. I don't think anybody's being an asshole in this thread, but having a zillion people tell you that something is racist (it was racist, but, leaving that aside) I think can have the bad thing happen of racist-speaker's leaving the conversation altogether.

That being said, I'm a white girl, hence not a target of racism, and I'm disabled, and have repeatedly gone off on people about disability issues (SORRY) so what I see here is sort of inevitable result of BH's initial comment and then this metatalk.
posted by angrycat at 10:06 AM on February 16, 2013


Being right in an argument means you're right. Other people being rude to you in an argument doesn't make you right. And BlueHorse was the one who told people to fuck off after they said that comparing Neil DeGrasse Tyson and "idiotic rap artists" was inappropriate, so the rudeness scale tips the other way anyway.

Unless BlueHorse was comparing Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Insane Clown Posse, because we know Neil DeGrasse Tyson would never say "Fucking magnets, how do they work?"
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Part of what's bothering me about all of this is that the only reason we're in a pile-on-spectrum situation is because BlueHorse opened this MeTa thread. In the original thread, the derail would have run its course and that would have been the end of it. But now, we're all sitting around having this extended meta conversation that I doubt most of us really wanted to find ourselves in at all.

A "pile on" is just a bunch of individual people with similar opinions deciding to come and say their piece; no mod is going to come in and announce, "All right! We've reached our quota for X perspective in this thread!" and so those individual opinions will continue to accumulate, until yeah, it kind of feels like a wall of agreement. But what else are people supposed to do? What's the alternative? I guess more of us could sit silently and not contribute, but isn't the whole point of MeTa to discuss the culture of the site and feel out where we all stand with regards to policy?

All of that said, I honestly kind of wish this thread had been closed up last night.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:41 AM on February 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


So this is a post to set right the misconception that metatalk is heavily moderated, right?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless BlueHorse was comparing Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Insane Clown Posse, because we know Neil DeGrasse Tyson would never say "Fucking magnets, how do they work?"

He totally would, though! And then he'd say "It's AMAZING! Let's find out how they work!"
posted by rtha at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


The word "see". Where do we see famous rappers or NASA scientists? In the media (or, maybe y'all just live more interesting lives than me). If it were "why aren't there" instead of "why can't we see", I'd have taken it as a dig on black people.

Alright, I appreciate the clarification. I understand your point a lot better now. But that's quite a lot to read into that sentence from the word "see". There's no implication that the media places a disproportionate amount of attention on rappers as opposed to scientists; just that "we don't see" enough scientists for all the rappers. This could mean a lack of coverage of scientists, or that we just don't see enough of them, for any number of reasons.

I like that you're being charitable - honestly, there ought to be more of that on the internet in general - but the subsequent comments from BH that have followed have pretty much closed the book, especially from the incredibly ugly stereotyping of an entire music genre.

Here you have a black scientist who's actually fairly prominent in the media (for a scientist, heh) and the question asked is "why don't we see more dudes" like him and less of - of all the possible professions and type of people - rappers.

Personally, I audibly winced when I read that. It was that thing where you squint, and suck in air through your teeth.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:54 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rory, I totally agree that people who think they're "right" also don't get to decide how they're perceived. And that's okay, too. I'm sure plenty think I'm sanctimonious or whatever, and that sucks to be on the receiving end of, but I only get to control how I react to that perception, not the perception itself. And sometimes, I need to walk away until I'm in a better position to assess those perceptions.

And to be clear, I am often terrible at this, and I know that, and boy do I wish I were better at taking criticism. It's hard, and painful, and defensiveness is certainly understandable if not necessarily desirable.

But while I'm all for being as gentle and considerate as we can when having these sorts of discussions, I'm not on board with the idea that (and please correct me if I'm misunderstanding you) we shouldn't contribute our opinion if there are already X people with the same opinion, because that would be....overwhelming, I guess? It's possible we had different preconceptions going in but it seemed to me like there were a decent number of people in here trying to explain in good faith via different angles why they had a problem with BH's initial comment. We can have a separate discussion about the behaviour of commenters in this thread, but the premise of the call-out was "I said something innocuous and people were total trolls to me, wtf". It's kind of hard to have that conversation without pointing out that the thing that was said wasn't that innocuous, and the people who were upset weren't trolling her. So things are bound to escalate further if the pushback is then "but it WAS innocuous, what's wrong with you?".

And maybe even friendly comments feel like a pile-on because it's more people disagreeing with you, but I think it's disingenuous to say that everyone here is commenting for the blood sport. Were some comments harsher than they needed to be? Yeah, absolutely. As you point out, it's not a conversation everyone will have already encountered in their lives. But commenters are fallible, and I hesitate to write them (us) off as self-aggrandizing back-patters the same way I hesitate to write off BH as a troll or a jerk, rather than people who said things with implications they didn't entirely think through.

For my own part, I was trying to point out that most MeFites don't make negative knee-jerk assumptions about other MeFites for the heck of it, and if those assumptions exist it can probably be traced back to something specific that was said, rather than "you are projecting your racism onto me". I wasn't trying to play any sort of gotcha game, and my apologies to BH if it came across that way.
posted by Phire at 11:30 AM on February 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


The pile-on thing is something that comes up often, and my general opinion is that given the medium, it's an unavoidable if sometimes unfortunate dynamic. MetaTalk is intended for community discussion, not Marquis of Queensberry adjudicated duels, and it's important to let people work out their own positions and start side discussions and frame things in different ways, because that's how the community gestalt becomes clear. And, like M Edward points out, there are a lot of people reading and not talking who get value from the conversation even when it tends to be one-sided.

The takeaway really is that if what you want is an official opinion on whether particular comments are inappropriate or not, use the contact form. If you want to take the temperature of the entire community on your position, you need to be prepared for the possibility that you're in the extreme minority.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:38 AM on February 16, 2013 [29 favorites]


So what you're saying is my seconds can't call on you in the morning?
posted by cjorgensen at 12:59 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not in MetaTalk. Otherwise, I am at your service, sir. (But remember, the challengee gets to pick the weapon...)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that if you say when publishing a MetaTalk post, "If you think I made a racist comment, use your words", and then people use their words to tell you that they think you made a racist comment, that isn't really a pile-on. BlueHorse wanted comments from the community. She's getting them. Neither she, nor you, Rory, are in a position to say, "ok, that's enough from the community, sorry everyone who still has something to say, we're sold out."

I'm not ignorant to the fact that BlueHorse probably feels kind of put upon right now. I'm sorry if she does, because I think that's a counterproductive reaction. I think she made a racist comment that made me, and it seems some other people, feel kind of bad and icky, and then when people largely let it go, she created a venue for the public examination of that comment.

And, you know, I think that comment sucked, I think her subsequent comments have sucked, and I don't love that you, Rory, have put yourself in the position of arbitrating whether the conversation should be over and then have dropped the mic in earnest outrage. Of everything in this thread and conversation, that strikes me as the stuntiest and most for show, and it's not great for stimulating the kinds of conversations I know you are generally into fostering.
posted by Errant at 1:08 PM on February 16, 2013 [24 favorites]


Inciedentally, on:

I can't think of a single blues song with lyrics that can compare with Dr Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit"

I was thinking immediately of Skip James' "Crow Jane":

I want to buy me a pistol,
Want me forty rounds of ball.
Gonna shoot Crow Jane, just to see her fall.


It's not as florid, but it's certainly quite... lady-unfriendly. Then you've got lyrics from other descendants of the blues (rhythm and blues > rock > hard rock > heavy metal) like:

I used to love her, but I had to kill her
I used to love her, but I had to kill her
I had to put her six feet under,
And I can still hear her complain.


I think it's a tough sell to argue that rap is both universally and uniquely hostile to women, if that's the case being argued...

On that florid language - back in 94, bell hooks (her again) wrote a piece - "Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?". In it, she mentions that she had been commissioned by Spin magazine to interview Ice Cube. When that interview turned into a civil discussion rather than the (she theorized) hoped-for drag-out battle between the feminist firebrand and the misogynist thug, it was cut heavily.
After this conversation, and talking with rappers and folks who listen to rap, it became clear that while black male sexism is a serious problem in our communities and in black music, some of the more misogynist lyrics were there to stir up controversy and appeal to audiences. Nowhere is this more evident that in Snoop Doggy Dogg's record "Doggystyle".

[...] When I see the pornographic cartoon that graces the cover of "Doggystyle," I do not think simply about the sexism and misogyny of young black men, I think about the sexist and misogynist politics of the powerful white adult men and women (and folks of color) who helped produce and market this album.
This is contrasted with the film "The Piano", which hooks saw as representing various racist and sexist ideologies, but which was decorously shot, artfully presented, and populated by largely white stars.
To take "gangsta rap" to task for its sexism and misogyny while critically accepting and perpetuating those expressions of that ideology which reflect bourgeois standards (no rawness, no vulgarity) is not to call for a transformation of the culture of patriarchy. [...] It is much easier to attack gangsta rap than to confront the culture that produces that need.
That feels like an interesting perspective - and a demonstration that one can criticize rap in ways which do not easily open one to accusations of making racist statements.

The other thing about "Bitches Ain't Shit" specifically is that it's a little more complicated than one might think. Dre's section begins:

I used to know a bitch named Eric Wright

That is, he is talking about Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E, and their ongoing legal battles, rather than a woman. In a similar fashion, Snoop Dogg's rap is at least as much about relationships between men than between men and women (the point of the story is that when he finds that she has been cheating on him during his stay in prison, and doing so with a relative and fellow gang member of his, he is stymied in his quest for revenge by the bonds of sodality). And, of course, the song ends with a female rapper, Jewell, stating her superiority as both a rapper and a lover over the men who have preceded her.

Obviously, it's still hardly unproblematic, and there is plenty to criticize in both the misogynistic and homophobic portrayal of Eazy-E and the bros-before-hoes homosociality between Snoop and Daz, let alone the raps by Daz and Kurupt, but it's notable that rappers often get less textual analysis and less benefit of the doubt than, say, The Beatles*.


*I'd rather see you dead, little girl
Than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
Or you won't know where I am

You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end of little girl

posted by running order squabble fest at 1:23 PM on February 16, 2013 [99 favorites]


Good and thoughtful comment running order squabble fest.
posted by leslies at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


wow, that bell hooks piece is amazing, thanks for linking it.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:25 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why can't we see more of gentlemen nerds dudes like this instead of idiotic rap 'artists'. NDT is The Man!

People! People! Why can't we compromise?
posted by mazola at 3:57 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


People! People! Why can't we compromise?
posted by mazola at 3:57 PM on February 16 [+] [!]


Great googly-moogly. I think I have now seen the god of the hipsters.

(and that was a pretty cool video).
posted by 4ster at 4:05 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's somebody in the this thread named 'Stagger Lee', and looking up his name will bring up dozens of really violent blues songs by both white and black musicians. The nastiest, most homophobic, sexist, and most gruesome version is written by an over-educated white man.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:28 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god did somebody finally link Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer? I was afraid that would happen.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The nastiest, most homophobic, sexist, and most gruesome version is written by an over-educated white man.

I'm a big fan of the Stagger Lee (also known as Stack-o-lee and other variants) ballads. I'd like to know exactly which one you're talking about here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:41 PM on February 16, 2013


The Nick Cave version.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:53 PM on February 16, 2013


But see, when white people do it, it's irony.
posted by muddgirl at 6:02 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


just a toss-away thought about rap music, but musing about what I know of Talib Kweli's work, that dude is like so positive, anti violence, pro peace and love. There's Lupe Fiasco "Bitch Bad," which is sorta silly but calls out the misogyny and violent images in rap. There's Mos Def and Talib Kweli's collaboration, where there's more focus on the positive

posted by angrycat at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole 'rap music is dangerous and evil and mysogonistic and sexist' narrative does a disservice to white music, too! I really doubt Led Zep or Cannibal Corpse or Nick Cave want to be thought of as 'safe'.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2013


There's somebody in the this thread named 'Stagger Lee', and looking up his name will bring up dozens of really violent blues songs by both white and black musicians. The nastiest, most homophobic, sexist, and most gruesome version is written by an over-educated white man.

I think you maybe need to read up on some of the history here, this seems like a massive and unjustified derail (not to mention uncalled for with respect to the mefi user with that name). But long story short, Nick Cave mostly didn't write those lyrics, they are drawn from a "prison toast" from a black inmate transcribed in the 60s, whether from some longer tradition or invented by that inmate I don't think we know.
posted by advil at 6:18 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


"White music," seriously? This is not how to improve the discussion.
posted by RogerB at 6:34 PM on February 16, 2013


I think you maybe need to read up on some of the history here, this seems like a massive and unjustified derail (not to mention uncalled for with respect to the mefi user with that name).

I know the history, and I love all the songs I've mentioned here. I was just using his name as a springboard.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:05 PM on February 16, 2013


I'm Indian American, does that mean I just have to listen to Queen?
posted by sweetkid at 7:14 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: “I was just using his name as a springboard.”

I don't think this is supposed to be a thread about music at all, is it?
posted by koeselitz at 7:17 PM on February 16, 2013


"White music," seriously? This is not how to improve the discussion.

Melanin challenged music?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 PM on February 16, 2013


Ah, c'mon, White Music is pretty good for a first album.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:05 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm driving in my car, I turn on the radio
I'm pulling you close, you just say no
You say you don't like it, but girl I know you're a liar
'cause when we kiss, fire
posted by Ad hominem at 9:12 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread now appears in the Oxford Unbridged Dictionary, next to the term 'Double Down'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:33 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Read as "Oxford Umbraged Dictionary"
posted by Drinky Die at 10:16 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I want to buy me a pistol,
Want me forty rounds of ball.
Gonna shoot Crow Jane, just to see her fall.

It's not as florid, but it's certainly quite... lady-unfriendly."

Wait, how is that specifically "lady-unfriendly"? Seems like the writer wants to shoot someone who happens to be a woman?
posted by averageamateur at 10:58 PM on February 16, 2013


"That's the reason I begged Crow Jane not to hold her head too high" is IMO the line in that song that indicates it's about domestic violence specifically.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:14 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


averageamateur: "Wait, how is that specifically 'lady-unfriendly'? Seems like the writer wants to shoot someone who happens to be a woman?"

It took me a while to realize this personally, but I've come to feel that that apparent arbitrariness of the gender of the victim in songs, books, and films doesn't have much to do with whether or not the media in question is (as we're calling it here) "lady-unfriendly." I mean that this stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum. Every story about a woman being murdered by a man is one more on the pile of stories about women being murdered by men; even in cases where the author of the story doesn't seem to have intended the gender to be important to the story, the cultural impact is the same - the trope is reinforced. The idea of women being murdered by men becomes more and more familiar to us, a story we know well; it becomes a normal idea, whether we'd like to admit that to ourselves or not.

That doesn't mean necessarily that stories about women being murdered by men should be banned, or that people who tell those stories are automatically evil sexists. What it does mean, I think, is that artists and writers have some responsibility to stay conscious of these stories that have been repeated over and over again, wearing us down until we accept terrible things as normal and acceptable - and they have some responsibility to temper their art with that awareness, to try to help us to see that there are other possibilities.

Because - no one just "happens to be a woman" in a story or a song. Gender is important, and people will notice it and draw conclusions based on it, even if the author or songwriter didn't realize it themselves.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 AM on February 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


Read as "Oxford Umbraged Dictionary"

Which would have been far superior to my pitiful misspelling of 'unabridged'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:55 AM on February 17, 2013


BlueHorse: What you said was prettily clumsily observed, and although I think your heart is in absolutely the right place on this, there was enough in there to make me feel you were stereotyping. It's something everyone does though; it's a pretty common mistake, and if there's any racism at play - it's an institutionalised racism.

That being said - you're not going to get anywhere with this callout. Did Pope Guilty, et-al call you a racist. Technically no, but subjectively yes. People on this site know that it's pretty easy to make someone feel like they've been called a racist when they haven't been called a racist. It happens enough, and the users that make these callouts either aren't learning from that mistake or they're doing it on purpose.

Users like Pope Guilty know what they are saying; they know how to bring the snark without overstepping the site mandated limits; and they know to aim their vitriol at the people who are on the "wrong" side of the argument. Frankly, you didn't stand a chance.

All this followup stuff about the "good negro", "what music is the worst", "the one black friend" is stuff that's designed to make you look bad, and more importantly make the eminence grise class of metafilter feel all the more smug and self righteous.

Take it on the chin. There's a tiny, articulate and sociopathic section of Metafilter that is cleverer than you or I; that delights in making other users feel like shit; and who are smart enough to always, always get away with it.
posted by zoo at 12:59 AM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


zoo, this followup stuff about the "good negro", "what music is the worst", and "the one black friend" isn't designed to make anyone feel bad. It's designed to inform the op of some context that makes her comments upsetting to some of us and of which she seems to be previously unaware. That's it.
posted by chrchr at 1:07 AM on February 17, 2013 [18 favorites]


Did zoo just call Pope Guilty et al trolls? Technically no, but subjectively yes. (Talk about smug and self righteous).
posted by jacalata at 1:26 AM on February 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


chrchr: Here's my problem with your heavily favorited comment. It starts off by making sense. An astronomer, being compared to a stereotype of black men??? Whu!!??. Must be racist, right? So far, so good. But it's a comment in a thread about a video in which NDT explicitly talks about his role as a black guy being on television and not being a stereotype.

You're ignoring context and you're taking a bad faith assumption of the motives of blue horse. I don't know your handle well enough to lump you in with the triadic minority that patrols metafilter for stuff to get angry about, but that comment is either stupid or deliberately aggressive.

Anyway - I'd normally be happy to roll about in the oncoming storm of snark and nitpicking, but ironically, I'm going to the zoo.
posted by zoo at 1:43 AM on February 17, 2013


Users like Pope Guilty know what they are saying; they know how to bring the snark without overstepping the site mandated limits; and they know to aim their vitriol at the people who are on the "wrong" side of the argument.

A nice, honest "Fuck Off" can be pretty refreshing sometimes.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:47 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone needs a hug. Even BlueHorse.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:58 AM on February 17, 2013


Bluehorse, your views about rap artists are... well, a bit dated. If you had made that comment 15 years ago, when almost all rap songs were self-aggrandizing ditties about "bitches and money" I would have been right behind you and sprinkled in some comments about how rap artists are the scum of the earth - because generally speaking, they were. However, the genre has evolved a lot since then. Listen to Jay-Z's "Forever Young" and the worst thing you can say about it is that it advocates occasional use of pot and calling attractive women "honeys." Or listen to any song by the Black-Eyed Peas and you will not hear a single swear word. I feel that your comment sounded slightly like you were living in a different time period.

That said, Pope Guilty could have expressed this in a different way. Calling you racist (and let's not kid ourselves, that's basically the effect he was going for) without any explanation of why he felt this way made his comment come off as subjective and mean-spirited.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:16 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Calling you racist (and let's not kid ourselves, that's basically the effect he was going for) without any explanation of why he felt this way made his comment come off as subjective and mean-spirited.

Pope Guilty did exactly, exactly, what many MeFites always say to do - he criticised the comment, and not the person. He said that the offending statement sounded racist, not that Bluehorse was a racist - just like the quintessential Jay Smooth advice.

Bluehorse took that defensively, instead of just accepting that they phrased something clumsily. This is all way overblown, and this 'callout' is frankly silly.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:58 AM on February 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think an earlier non-fighty explanation of why Bluehorse's comment was racist would have served everyone well.
posted by Area Man at 3:41 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, NdGT is not an actor. He is not portraying an intelligent and rational person. He is a SCIENTIST, who IS an intelligent and rational person.

Until this thread, I didn't know he was a real scientist. I just assumed he was another one of those famous TV nerds like Adam Savage or Wil Wheaton.

Is that racist? Or just nerdist?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:24 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did Pope Guilty, et-al call you a racist. Technically no, but subjectively yes.

Calling you racist (and let's not kid ourselves, that's basically the effect he was going for) without any explanation of why he felt this way made his comment come off as subjective and mean-spirited.

Without any explanation? Seriously? God I hate this "well sure he said this but we all know what he REALLY meant" shit. Pope Guilty was very precise in presenting the problem with BH's remark, and spelled it out calmly and politely. BH's response was incredibly defensive on the Blue, and then decided to take it on over here where a bunch of users who responded to her in good faith are subsequently told to fuck off.

But yes, clearly the problem is with the people who took the time to spell out what made BH's comparison extremely wrong-footed at best, for those people have committed the sin of making someone feel bad for something they said.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:31 AM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think an earlier non-fighty explanation of why Bluehorse's comment was racist would have served everyone well.

Dioridhe did just that, right at the top of this thread. As did carsonb. And ipsifendus. And scody. And, ye gods, probably a dozen others.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:37 AM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'll be honest; I think

Wow, holy shit, you don't have the first fucking idea what you're talking about and you're coming off as really racist here. Can you understand why?

(Pulling the some of my best friends card doesn't help either.)


DOES sound really shitty. It's obviously personal, it's condescending, it's patronizing, it's effectively calling a person a racist without stepping up to the plate and calling them a racist. Can you understand why I'm saying this? It's because saying that a person doesn't have the first fucking idea what they're talking about is immediately insulting -- because you're saying they're a moron -- and then following it up with "Can you understand why?" is kind of like tripping a person and then offering them a hand up, and then, as they look at you with blood streaming out of their nose, you softly saying, "Do you know why you fell? ...Just now, I mean?"

PG's comment is extraordinarily dickish if we presume that he does not think the person he is addressing realizes what they are saying is racist. If the person is speaking out of ignorance, who benefits from that person being spoken to so horribly? It certainly isn't the person being spoken to that way, who -- like most people -- is more likely to dig in her heels and spit at the person insulting her.

Conversely, if PG thinks that the person he is addressing really is a racist and is more or less fully cognizant of it, he's just being a passive-aggressive wiener here.

Either way, this style of argument seems to do more for Pope Guilty's self-esteem than it does for BH, who is unlikely to change anything about her attitudes (as seen here) in response to such discourse, and probably just thinks Pope Guilty is an asshole, and now thinks most of the site is an asshole because it agrees with him. So, well done. You've won the battle but lost the war, because what could have happened here is a patient explanation of why these attitudes are problematic -- and I certainly do agree with that -- that resulted in an actual positive change in attitudes, and instead what you got was a lot of chest-thumping and bullshit, so awesome, really, terrific work.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:50 AM on February 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


*sigh*
Fine, clarification.
99.99% of the rap I've heard.


If you happen to pop back in, BlueHorse (if I were you, I wouldn't really want to, but I'd find it hard to stay away), I'd like to know more about the .01% of rap that you do enjoy. Just because I'm a big rap fan.
posted by box at 6:02 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


So now it's a tone argument that criticisms weren't made nicely enough?

Wow. This thread really has it all.
posted by sonika at 6:35 AM on February 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


So now it's a tone argument that criticisms weren't made nicely enough?

"Tone argument" implies something a lot more nuanced than what I am looking at. To me, there isn't a lot of question that the guy jumped down her throat. People are saying that didn't happen; I think it's pretty plain that it did. Is that the most effective way of getting a person to see how what they're saying is problematic? I mean, I don't know, but it sure looks like it's not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:44 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you had made that comment 15 years ago, when almost all rap songs were self-aggrandizing ditties about "bitches and money" I would have been right behind you and sprinkled in some comments about how rap artists are the scum of the earth - because generally speaking, they were.

I don't think even this statement is accurate. Public Enemy was a ridiculously popular rap group talking about social consciousness in the mid-80s. Even within the gangster rap genre, not all music was about "bitches and money" - there are a lot of great activist songs and artists in the genre. This sort of generalization is rarely made about rock music, even though a lot of rock music is similarly, "Damn, I want to get with that hot girl."

Is that the most effective way of getting a person to see how what they're saying is problematic

OK, how do we prevent this? How do we nominate an Official You Done Wrong Representative to present a rational and unemotional argument that changes hearts and minds? I don't think it's doable, or even if we managed to do it would prevent the sorts of drama that always come from challenging someone's deeply-held (but usually unconscious) prejudices.
posted by muddgirl at 6:54 AM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


OK, how do we prevent this? How do we nominate an Official You Done Wrong Representative to present a rational and unemotional argument that changes hearts and minds?

You don't. I'm not interested in that, and I doubt anyone else is, either. But the general consensus here seems to be that PG handled this appropriately and even diplomatically, and that's hilarious to me; in the immortal words of the afore-mentioned Beastie Boys (one of their samples, anyhow), it reads to me like he concluded that the best way to approach this was to stick his dick in the mashed potatoes. Then, curiously, a number of people applauded him and effectively said he'd been fair and level-headed, when all he really did was take aim at the barrel containing a fish and shoot an incendiary grenade at it. I ask: Why? What the fuck good does that do? This is clearly someone who is amenable to amending any racist leanings, but who is -- I will guess -- maybe a generation or two older than most of us, and doesn't really get why what she's saying is a problem. PG himself sees that, but instead of explaining what the deal is, asks a rude and loaded question that gets exactly the kind of response I can easily imagine that PG himself would give if someone addressed him that way. So then it just turns into a stupid internet flexing thing instead of anything useful or positive. Do we really need a special appointee to step in and take over a conversation to avoid that? I should hope not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:09 AM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's not our job to make racists see the error of their ways and make them better people. Getting them to stop lobbing racist derails into threads is probably a sufficient outcome, in which case it really doesn't matter if PG was being shitty about doing it. It would have been better if everyone just flagged it and got it deleted, though.
posted by empath at 7:13 AM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Getting them to stop lobbing racist derails into threads is probably a sufficient outcome, in which case it really doesn't matter if PG was being shitty about doing it.

I sort of agree with this, more or less. I think it usually matters if someone is shitty about doing anything; in broad terms, it's good for us as people to just not be assholes when at all possible, and in specific terms, I like MeFi and don't want reading it to feel like Reddit. But basically, yeah, none of us is MLK over here, and that is fine. I just take exception to what PG did here being held up as some kind of exemplar of great and appropriate behavior. You can be on the right side of an issue and still be a jerkass, and that's how I read this thing.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:17 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


TBH, muddgirl, I imagine, or at least hope, that nobody here is thinking that wolfdreams01's statement was accurate. Or at least anyone who had heard of Public Enemy, or The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Or had seen "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air". It's another helicopter-view "good rap/bad rap" dichotomy.

averageamateur: Wait, how is that specifically "lady-unfriendly"? Seems like the writer wants to shoot someone who happens to be a woman?

Pretty much what Sidhedevil and Koeselitz said - it's worth listening to the song itself, but the social history of 20th century America would need to have been very different for Skip James to be singing this about a man, or indeed about a person who just happened, on a coin-toss, to be a woman.

(Compare Victoria Spivey's "Murder in the First Degree", a relatively unusual example of a blues song about a woman killing her unfaithful husband.)

As an aside, it's also worth noting that "Crow Jane", as sung by Skip James, is part of a tradition: the couplet about Crow Jane holding her head too high also occurs in Julius Daniels' contemporary "Crow Jane Blues", among other places, and these recordings are almost certainly drawing on unrecorded precedents from a performance tradition. Which is interesting in itself, because there's a traditional of callbacks and reference in African-American music which is often missed by confident commentators, and which means that these commentators are often missing a level of interpretation.

I'm reminded of tyllwin's mention of "99 Problems", above:

...I'm listening mostly to indie pop (I guess) or outright poppy stuff these days. Where are the equally problematic examples of misogyny there? What's equal even to a more rap-like track track that I actually like, say "99 problems?"

"I've got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" certainly sounds straightforwardly misogynistic. And it's possible that this is a question about "99 Problems" by Ice-T and Brother Marquis (of 2 Live Crew), but I'm assuming it's more likely to be a reference to the better-known "99 Problems" by Jay-Z, which picks up the repeated couplet from the earlier work but develops it in a very different way.

The Ice-T track is a straight list of women who are sexually available to him - he has 99 problems, but getting sex isn't one of them. Whereas the Jay-Z track plays with the idea of what the "bitch" that isn't a problem for him represents in different verses.

In the first verse, it's the "bitch" (complaint) by music critics, magazines and radio stations that he is nothing more than the stereotype of the misogynistic, materialistic rapper, which he sees as demonstrating the short-sightedness of privilege - which is where we came in with this MeTa and the comments which spawned it and to an extent also, to bring us up to date, kittens for breakfast's objection on the grounds of tone/approach:
Rap critics that say "he's Money, Cash, Hos"
I'm from the hood stupid, what type of facts are those?
If you grew up with holes in your zapatos
You'd celebrate the minute you was having dough.
In the second verse, the "bitch" is an actual dog - a sniffer dog from the NYPD's K-9 squad. A policeman stops Jay-Z (or rather, a semifictionalized version of 90s, drug-dealing Jay-Z) on the pretext of a routine speeding stop, and calls for a K-9 unit when Jay-Z refuses to allow him to search the car, but he cannot detain him for long enough for the dog to arrive.

Then, in the third verse, the "bitch" is specifically identified as not a woman, in a quatrain lifted directly from a track by UGK, ending:
This is not a ho in the sense of having a pussy
But a pussy having no goddamn sense, try and push me
Here, the "bitch" is a type of verbose but physically cowardly man who picks fights with Jay-Z to get attention and status, but runs to the Police ("yappin' to the captain") when things get real.

Again, none of this is unproblematic, but there's a lot of riffing, reference and destabilizing of the "rappers just talk about bitches and hos" trope, which might be missed on a cursory listen. Jay-Z may not be Neil deGrasse Tyson smart, but he also doesn't exactly fit the stereotype presented of rappers who "[can] hardly string a sentence [together] without ten obscenities, [..] constantly talk about sex, including rape, dis women and call them bitches and 'hos, and advocate killing, anarchy, and destruction". In fact, he is specifically critiquing the way that stereotype is placed upon him by ignorant commentators.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:18 AM on February 17, 2013 [61 favorites]


It's not our job to make racists see the error of their ways and make them better people.

So now we're just flat out calling her a racist?

The reason to explain things to people is that most people on MeFi are good people who would like to have it pointed out when they have a wrong/offensive idea. Maybe it's not "our job," but it's nice to give people the benefit of the doubt.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:39 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


> The reason to explain things to people is that most people on MeFi are good people who would like to have it pointed out when they have a wrong/offensive idea. Maybe it's not "our job," but it's nice to give people the benefit of the doubt.

This is very true, but if you want the benefit of the doubt it's best not to make a belligerent, spittle-flecked MeTa callout like this one. I feel bad for BlueHorse, she obviously felt ill used and lashed out in anger, as people do, but she's just going to have to learn from the experience. Yes, she's lamentably ignorant about rap and her initial comment was not well thought out, and yes, the reaction was over the top (people around here sure do like seeming less-racist/sexist-than-thou), but once she made this MeTa post she was guaranteed a whupping, and there's no point beating our breasts and wondering what's wrong with MetaFilter culture. MeFites are human and they don't react well to being told to F-off. If you take a stick to a wasps' nest, you're going to get stung.
posted by languagehat at 7:56 AM on February 17, 2013 [22 favorites]


"If you play with cats, you're going to get scratched." Cervantes.
posted by angrycat at 8:04 AM on February 17, 2013


So now we're just flat out calling her a racist?

1) Said totally racist thing.
2) Made but-my-$PERSONAL_RELATIONSHIP-is-black-how-could-I-be-racist argument.
3) Was hugely offended and made a fuck-you (seriously!?!) meta post about being called out on totally racist thing said because it was "innocuous."
4) Continued to be offended and made all kinds of snarky comments about it (cf "anti-semite" derail about Matisyahu) because the real offense is to be called racist, and not, you know, having said something that was racist.

So, yeah, I'm flat out calling her a racist. I wouldn't have from the initial comment, but all the supporting bits from her arguments just kept pushing further and further from well-meaning-but-said-racist-thing to just racist.

If being offended about being called out on a racist comment is the particular hill you choose to die on, don't be surprised when that's what people see in you.
posted by ndfine at 8:06 AM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


But the general consensus here seems to be that PG handled this appropriately and even diplomatically

That's not the impression I got from this Metatalk at all. PG has a right to react emotionally to a racist comment, as long as he does not personally attack BlueHorse, which he didn't ("you have no fucking idea what your talking about", while hurtful, is not actually a personal attack). Other people reacted much more dispassionately, contrary to the presented opinion that BlueHorse was 'piled on'. That's about the extent of the consensus, as far as I can tell.
posted by muddgirl at 8:09 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will plant my flag on the hill of "calling a comment 'racist' is not a personal insult".
posted by muddgirl at 8:11 AM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whereas the Jay-Z track plays with the idea of what the "bitch" that isn't a problem for him represents in different verses.

This is an interpretation that does not follow the lyrics at all. The problems he lists are explicitly not-bitches, as contrasted with the "girl problems" experienced by the person he's addressing. The framing device is: some guys have girl problems, but Jay-Z has real problems; let him tell you about them.

It's not at all problematizing the idea of what a "bitch" is. A bitch, in the song, is a woman -- and Jay-Z (or the persona he's assuming for the song, anyway) doesn't have problems with women. He has problems with rivals/cops/etc.
posted by palliser at 8:22 AM on February 17, 2013


In the future I think people should be required to run their call outs by one other mefite prior to posting. I can't remember one time when these things have gone the way the poster obviously desired. Why does metafilter refuse to give vindication!
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on February 17, 2013


Yes, Jay-Z. I liked the song before. I like it more now. Thanks. I need to read more music criticism like that.

I think wolfdreams01, though, may have put the finger on part of my issues though. My initial impressions of rap were formed years ago when "bitches and hos and money" rappers were the most public face of the genre. So, I wonder how much of my reaction is just stale knowledge, in the same way I might look at a picture of a dinosaur and call it a "brontosaurus" or list out nine planets...

Anyway, I know the music discussion is a derail, but it's seriously making me think.
posted by tyllwin at 8:37 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


but Jay-Z has real problems; let him tell you about them.

That's how I've always heard the song, too. But then, for me, running order squabble fest doesn't have to be definitively right. Just interesting and making me see potential layers.
posted by tyllwin at 8:40 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


tyllwin -- That "stale knowledge" assessment sounds plausible to me.

I don't know how old you are, but for me, as a white guy growing up during the 80s, it turns out a lot of my initial impressions of rap didn't come from the music itself but from the media-generated moral panic surrounding the music. In my nine-year-old head, rap and AIDS and Devil's Night (I grew up not far from Detroit) and the crack epidemic and domestic violence were basically a single situation, because that's how they were treated on the local news and in the adult conversations I overheard. And a lot of the stuff that I did hear first-hand was basically novelty records — stuff like 2 Live Crew, which was obviously-transgressive enough that a bunch of fourth-graders would go and pass around a bootleg cassette of it like it was a porn mag, but which wasn't otherwise particularly interesting or (it turns out) particularly important to the history of hip-hop.

So, I mean, your exposure to the music might have come in a different way. But yeah, if you were a white person in a white neighborhood during the golden age of hip-hop and getting your information from TV and the radio like most people did in those days, it was really easy to get a skewed view of things.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:59 AM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


That's how I've always heard the song, too. But then, for me, running order squabble fest doesn't have to be definitively right. Just interesting and making me see potential layers.

Agreed - I think both readings have valency, and can coexist. However, again, that reading (if you are having trouble with women, I sympathise, but although I have no trouble with women I do have all these problems you don't have) is affected by knowing that the couplet:

You're having girl problems? I feel bad for you, son.
I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one.


Is taken from Ice-T's "99 Problems", where the meaning is different again (if you are having trouble with women, I sympathise, but I am having no trouble with women at all, as evinced by this long list of the women I am having sex with).

I see Jay-Z's relationship with the track by Ice-T after which "99 Problems" is named and from which its verbal sting is taken as fundamentally playful - he's experimenting with different ways to twist the phrase. One of those is "although I have all these problems, I don't have girl problems" - which has the same sense but a different tenor from Ice-T's usage. However, it is interesting to notice that the three verses each play with an alternate interpretation of the word "bitch" (as a verb, an animal, and a common piece of rap vernacular meaning a less successfully manly man) - for which see also Dre making it clear that the "bitches" he is talking about in "Bitches ain't shit" include Eazy-E and Jerry Heller.

Jay-Z doesn't at any point, conversely, talk about how much women like him, or how much sex he is getting - if you are getting that impression from the phrase "I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one", you're getting it in part from the referential payload from Ice-T.

As an illustrative exercise, check the line directly before "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" in each verse - they are, in turn, Jay-Z telling a group of detractors that he isn't stupid, a police officer saying the K-9 unit is on the way, and Jay-Z again warning that if you challenge him thinking that he is "saccharine" (i.e. both "sweet" - uncombative - and also fake, as saccharin is a sugar substitute), you will find that there is "nothing sweet about how I hold my gun".

(The last repetition of the key phrase, of course, shows the rhetorical structure of repetition and variation often paraphrased as "the rule of three" - in the third use of the punchline, Jay-Z says "I've got 99 problems: being a bitch (sc. like the men who challenge me in the circumstances I have just described) ain't one". Which, again, is a challenge for the argument that he is purely using "bitch" as a derogatory term for "woman". Again, by no means unproblematic, but worth noting.)

All of which, IMHO, is not a derail - if it was I wouldn't be bringing it up. The existence of ambiguity is something which is often not acknowledged in criticism of rap, and part of BlueHorse's contention hangs on the idea that, uncritically and inarguably, rap music and rap artists are bad (at least in 99.9% of known cases) and therefore that it makes sense to lament the relative paucity of Neil deGrasse Tysons (in, if you want to accept the qualified or clarified stance, the media spotlight) compared with rap artists.

That contention in turn is based on the further postulate that rap artists are advocating for the disrespect of women, rape, murder and anarchy. Which then gets into the difference between "good African-American music" (the blues) and "bad African-American music" (rap), whether crudity and vulgarity are moral issues, and to what extent music predominantly made by African-Americans is inspected with the same or a different lens as other forms, like rock'n'roll or modern rock music.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:25 AM on February 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


The existence of ambiguity is something which is often not acknowledged in criticism of rap,

This reminds me of something I once read about the classification of "low art" and "high art," that ambiguity was necessary for the inclusion in "high art" and dominant cultures tended to view art produced by other cultures as unambiguous, and therefore primitive or "low." I can't find it now, which is very frustrating.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:34 AM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


"It took me a while to realize this personally, but I've come to feel that that apparent arbitrariness of the gender of the victim in songs, books, and films doesn't have much to do with whether or not the media in question is (as we're calling it here) "lady-unfriendly." I mean that this stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum. Every story about a woman being murdered by a man is one more on the pile of stories about women being murdered by men; even in cases where the author of the story doesn't seem to have intended the gender to be important to the story, the cultural impact is the same - the trope is reinforced. The idea of women being murdered by men becomes more and more familiar to us, a story we know well; it becomes a normal idea, whether we'd like to admit that to ourselves or not."

So what is the cultural impact, or "trope" being reinforced by Johnny Cash shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, or Rosemary shooting Big Jim in Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts"? I'm guessing it glorifies violence and therefore the songs should be shunned?
posted by averageamateur at 9:45 AM on February 17, 2013


i don't think anyone is arguing the old murder ballads should be shunned - i think people are saying popular music is problematic and it's been that way for a very long time - rap didn't invent the problem and it's disingenuous to hold them up to standards that rock/blues/pop/country aren't held up to. running order squabble feet says all this much better with their comment about ambiguity.
posted by nadawi at 10:05 AM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


For some reason I'm reminded of this famous, rather ancient clip. Frank Zappa comes on to argue against censorship and music ratings and this prehistoric proto-Fox crowd tries to turn it into making him defend the handful of cherrypicked rap lyrics that they've actually heard, almost certainly secondhand.

As far as I'm concerned there is absolutely no point in having a conversation about rap and its offshoots with someone who hasn't ever really listened to any on purpose. The only retort should be to offer them a list of songs and artists (preferably not itself cherrypicked solely to create the opposite impression, which is a bit dishonest in itself) and say "when you've listened to all of these then maybe we'll have something to talk about."
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:28 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


averageamateur: "So what is the cultural impact, or 'trope' being reinforced by Johnny Cash shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, or Rosemary shooting Big Jim in Dylan's 'Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts'? I'm guessing it glorifies violence and therefore the songs should be shunned?"

Well, there are a couple of things here. First of all, I specifically stated that I don't mean that songs or people should be banned, and I wasn't just being polite - I didn't secretly mean they should be "shunned." I meant that sexism and racism are things we ought to be aware of, and that that awareness needs to inform the art we create.

But, secondly, you chose two vastly different examples that pretty much illustrate my point here. Both distinctly seem to be informed by an awareness of the tropes they're engaging with. As far as I can tell, "Folsom Prison Blues" isn't a glorification of murder; it's a meditation on the tragedy of guilt and the burden guilty people carry. "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts" is one of those funny inversions that Dylan seems to have been interested in during the mid seventies, a woman's revenge song, and it could be argued that it's a specific reaction to stories where men hold power and take their revenge on women.

As I said above, the point isn't to eradicate certain kinds of stories or to shun their authors; it's to make sure we are aware of their impact. Since that's already the responsibility of the artist, all we're talking about here is engaging in an ongoing conversation where we can come to realize the impact sexism and racism have.

And, to return to the example we started talking about, "Crow Jane" is (I think) pretty clearly not a song where the victim is a random person whose womanhood is incidental. I mean, Skip James specifically says he murdered her because she "held her head too high." He makes it clear that he feels sad that she's dead, but he puts the blame down to her for not being subservient. Honestly, it's hard for me to think of a more striking instance of misogyny in a song; this is a pretty good example of what I mean, since it's easy to imagine how a woman hearing the song would see it as a threat: don't be defiant, don't be strong, because this is what men do to women who are strong. If you think I'm wrong in that reading of the tune, I'm happy to reconsider it; but this is how it sounds to me.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


So what is the cultural impact, or "trope" being reinforced by Johnny Cash shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die? I'm guessing it glorifies violence and therefore the song should be shunned?

Well, there's a tradition of songs about men who kill other men for questionable reasons - we've already mentioned Stagger Lee (the story of whom is told in many different ways, but who shot a man for snatching his hat, historically).

However, I'm not sure where you're coming from. I'm assuming that you're asking in good faith, in which case the simplest answer to the question you asked, and the guess you have made, is that Folsom Prison Blues pretty clearly doesn't glorify violence. Cash said that he went for that line because it was the dumbest, worst reason he could imagine for shooting a man.

As a result of that bad decision, and as a result of not listening to his mother, the character Cash is portraying is now in prison, listening to a train (representing freedom) which he can never catch:
But I know I had it comin',
I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin',
And that's what tortures me.
So, the answer to the question "what is the 'trope' being reinforced by Johnny Cash shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die?" - is that it's actually a couple of topoi rather than a trope, although the terms are often interchanged these days, and it's exemplified rather than reinforced.

Those topoi are "The singer laments too late not listening to good advice" and "the prisoner longs to be free". In American folk music, prisons and trains feature heavily in songs featuring these topoi, for fairly obvious reasons.

Its closest ancestor is probably "The Midnight Special Blues", in which the Midnight Special is the train that the singer hopes will "shine a light on me", in the course of taking him away from the jail he is in. This song has many different versions, but the best-known early version is probably the one performed by Leadbelly, which was recorded while he was serving time for stabbing a white man in Louisiana.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:45 AM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


Things I have learned from this thread: my frequent hyping of Ana Tijoux isn't just for threads about Earl Sandwiches. If you think all rap is uninventive and misogynistic, you have to check her out, as she is musically inventive, socially conscious, and has flow for days.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I've a huge problem with modern Gangsta Rap. Can't even listen to it any more. Part of that may be my lack of knowledge of the area, but your explanations of how it's not as damaging as other genres of music feel like apologism to me.

Interestingly, the song people are highlighting as being an example of problematical / bad rap (Ice-T's 99 Bitches) isn't a song I have a problem with. (Apart from the fact that it's pretty shit.) Not only is it a song that's 20 years old now, but I heard it on the Home Invasion album. As well as containing the sublime "That's how I'm living", the titular track pretty much sums up the Ice-T attitude of the time. I'd argue that within the context of the album, it's probably a more knowing song than it's given credit for.
posted by zoo at 11:30 AM on February 17, 2013


skip james RULES
.
posted by clavdivs at 12:04 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


You've won the battle but lost the war, because what could have happened here is a patient explanation of why these attitudes are problematic -- and I certainly do agree with that -- that resulted in an actual positive change in attitudes, and instead what you got was a lot of chest-thumping and bullshit, so awesome, really, terrific work.

As long as we're dealing in hypotheticals, what if, in response to Pope Guilty's original comment, BlueHorse had said, "Huh, I didn't realize that what I said was coming off that way, sorry about that, let me try again?" Then Pope Guilty's comment would have resulted in an actual positive change in attitudes, and it would have been awesome, terrific work.

The patient explanations are all in evidence, in that thread and in this one. The positive change in attitudes, though, have to come from somewhere else, and it's down to the person who even you agree needs such a change to make that change. Their refusal to do so does not mean the person communicating with them must obviously have gone about it in a bad way, and establishing the failure mode of discourse as an unchanged entrenched attitude seems like a good way to dismiss nearly all commentary as counterproductive.

The results of such a conversation are wildly unpredictable, especially in a public space, especially with strangers. So we necessarily have to concern ourselves with process instead, hence "Jay Smoothing" it. The problem here is that the Jay Smooth approach by no means guarantees civility or thoughtful reflection, because it's impossible to say whether someone will flip out the second they hear the word "racist" or "sexist" or similar. You hope not, but the presence of that flip-out doesn't and can't mean you fucked up in saying something, or all the power lies with the most emotional and least-considered reaction.

There isn't a best way to tell someone that what they said sounds racist, where best is defined as them thanking you for the information 100% of the time. I personally am less interested in making sure someone who said something kind of racist feels ok, and am more concerned with making sure that the people who are harmed by that racist statement know that other people see it too and think it's fucked up and not ok. So no, I don't think that's losing the war, I think that's probably just fighting a different, non-conversionary one.
posted by Errant at 12:13 PM on February 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't think it is wise to just ignore "bad" rap. Can we just ignore art that says something we don't want to hear? Do we ignore the decades of novels that influenced them? Do we ignore Iceberg Slim, the man who caused Ice-T to adopt his name. Do we ingnore Donald Goines, who's books are mined by rappers wanting to be film stars. Do we ignore Wahida Clark, a woman who seems to write exclusively about women being beaten to death by pimps? It would be easy to ignore any art that makes us uncomfortable. When Bob Beck wrote Pimp, we wasn't trolling or being cute, he was writing about the lives he and thousands of others lived, do we just ignore those experiences? When Goines wrote Dopefiend he really was a vet, returning from Vietnam addicted to heroin, can we just ignore that?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:25 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you had made that comment 15 years ago, when almost all rap songs were self-aggrandizing ditties about "bitches and money" ...

What?

Rakim and I beg to differ. See: "Eric B Is President" | 1986.
posted by ericb at 12:27 PM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


You can tell how old some mefites are by the fact that they think 1986 was somehow 15 years ago.
posted by zoo at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


The results of such a conversation are wildly unpredictable, especially in a public space, especially with strangers. So we necessarily have to concern ourselves with process instead, hence "Jay Smoothing" it. The problem here is that the Jay Smooth approach by no means guarantees civility or thoughtful reflection, because it's impossible to say whether someone will flip out the second they hear the word "racist" or "sexist" or similar.

Yeah, but no; let's go back to the tape for a thing that will never, ever, ever, I promise, lead to anything that is even kind of like some civility or thoughtful reflection:

Wow, holy shit, you don't have the first fucking idea what you're talking about and you're coming off as really racist here. Can you understand why?

Jay Smooth talks about drawing a distinction between what a person is and what a person does. This bullshit I am looking at right here says "you are coming off as really racist," which is effectively calling a person a racist. "Can you understand why?," had it been preceded by something along the lines of "That thing you said sounded really racist," as Jay Smooth prescribes, is the opening of a conversation; in this context, it's calling someone not just a racist, but a stupid racist, who can only maybe squirm out of her racism by admitting how fucking stupid she is. This is basically the Jay Smooth advice as interpreted by a nasty asshole, which Mr. Smooth seems very much not to be. But point being, this is only in the broadest of terms the approach of Jay Smooth.

I personally am less interested in making sure someone who said something kind of racist feels ok, and am more concerned with making sure that the people who are harmed by that racist statement know that other people see it too and think it's fucked up and not ok.

In a lot of contexts I would agree with you, but MeFi isn't one of them. Let's be real: When compared to the rest of the internet, MeFi is practically a fucking Arcadia, a place where not only is racist/sexist/anti-LGBT speech not tolerated, it basically doesn't exist, because we have like three resident trolls who pop off with that stuff and everyone else is almost always cool in that respect. So when someone says the kind of stuff BlueHorse did here, and frames it in a context that lets us know at least she thinks she's not racist, it seems to me you have either an opportunity to help someone out, or an opportunity to flip out on someone and get a lot of favorites and stuff. I'm not saying you have to try and help someone like BlueHorse see what's wrong with what she's saying -- that is, in a non-prickish, respectful way -- but I am saying that there's no real net positive gain for, like, the world at large by flipping out on someone who sounds naively racist in the context of a place where you know almost no one holds those views and there's no real risk of the tenor of the site being poisoned because someone one day expresses them, particularly in a kind of bumbling way. Attacking that person is easy, and not necessary, and not something that should be applauded.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:39 PM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


You can tell how old some mefites are by the fact that they think 1986 was somehow 15 years ago.

1986 = more than 15 years ago, i.e. during Wolfdreams01's dark age of rap. Unless possibly there was a kind of Atlantean golden age of rap, followed by a fall, followed by our current Age of Reason, but that feels like a lot to cram in.

Incidentally, a) the Ice-T track is called "99 Problems", although it is indeed on "Home Invasion", and b) it's not being highlighted as an example of bad/problematical rap, I think - that was "Bitches ain't shit" by Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, which was highlighted as such by Blue Horse. The Ice-T "99 Problems", I think, is just being brought in in reference to the Jay-Z track of the same name.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:12 PM on February 17, 2013


1986 = more than 15 years ago, i.e. during Wolfdreams01's dark age of rap. Unless possibly there was a kind of Atlantean golden age of rap, followed by a fall, followed by our current Age of Reason, but that feels like a lot to cram in.

I think people might want to argue that, though, with the 'Atlantean golden age' being pre-gangster rap. It fits into the 'all about bitches and money' thing. That way you can pretend your problem isn't with rap, but with 'bad' rap.
posted by hoyland at 1:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


So when someone says the kind of stuff BlueHorse did here, and frames it in a context that lets us know at least she thinks she's not racist

That strikes as something that I've been mulling over since this thread started. Clearly, in the original context BlueHorse was making what she thought was a positive statement, a complement to NDT that she problably not just thought wasn't racist, but actually progressive, an acknowledgement that not all Black men are like the stereotypes she mentioned.

We don't need to go into the reasons whuy her original remark was problematic and racist on its own again, just realise that racist remarks do not have to come from malice, but can be made by even the most well intentioned person.

Which is something we'd all need to keep in mind in situations like this, both the idea that while this is a racist remark, that doesn't make the person saying it necessarily evil and the idea that, holy shit, I can be oblivious and make racist comments as well out of sheer ignorance.

In think in a MeFi context there are few out and out racists here, but a huge mass of partially ignorant, usually well intentioned people, who now and then say something stupid. It's not a big deal, but we should own our stupidity when called upon, as well as be slightly more charitable when calling out other people's faux passes.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


be slightly more charitable when calling out other people's faux passes.

Like the fact the plural of faux pas is faux pas? Sorry. I couldn't resist.
posted by hoyland at 1:46 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is ironic is that the statement is essentially the same as what the Rhodes Scholar in the story said to NDT "the black community cannot afford to have a man of your intellect study astrophysics". Obviously some criticisms can only come from within.

WTF do I know, I like NDT and "bad" rap. We as a society have created the conditions where a significant portion of the population feels trapped. Abandoned to crumbling inner cities and schools with "get tough" and "zero tolerance" policies, told day after day they are "at risk" by teachers that are more jailers than educators. Least we can do is listen to their expressions of rage, even if we are just going to tell them how bad they are.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:48 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


O I got excited about this Jean Grae song where she raps about teenage abortion and all that comes with it -- great stuff
posted by angrycat at 1:49 PM on February 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think an issue as well is that racism is generally seen by white people as being something very abnormal and extraordinary and exceptionally terrible, whereas for many people of color it is everyday, quotidian, and often unremarkable. There's a sense many white people have -- I know I have felt this way -- that the real racists wear hoods and burn crosses and throw the n word around.

But they are not the real racists, whereas the rest of us are well-meaning people who should never have the word "racism" applied to our little gaffes. No, they're the vanguard of a still-profoundly present system of racism that for much of our history saturated every single element of American culture. We still live with that legacy, and were raised in it (I mean, I'm not especially old, and the year I was born was the year MLK was assassinated).

And so we accidentally pick up on racist aspects of our world, and there are many of them left, because white people are often blind to it, and white people still are the people who bear both the responsibility and the opportunity to dismantle them. And so it's hardly surprising when we unthinkingly participate in those racist aspects of culture, and the word for is is racism, and that's the right word, and we shouldn't be afraid to use it.

The trouble is, people hear it as a total condemnation of who they are, and think it means they are being compared to the KKK. And, truthfully, I don't think the issue is that we need to learn to be more circumspect in our speech for fear that people will overreact, but that instead we white people recognize that sometimes the word racism describes something very ordinary, and nobody is saying we're about to go out and burn a cross, but instead that there is some racially based presumption about somebody else that we accidentally absorbed and repeated.

It's hard, though, When I hear something antisemitic, it is hard for me not to make a series of assumptions about the person who said it is entirely uncharitable, and I suspect the same might be true for a person of color who hears something racist. And, for most of us, the last thing we want to be seen as is a racist, or think that we might be participating in something so incredibly awful. So it's really hard to say, whoops, was that racist? I didn't mean it that way. Let me rethink that, because I really don't want to participate in racism in any way.

But that seems to me to be the reaction we should lean toward, if it's at all possible. I don't think people throw around accusations of racism lightly -- as in this case, there is real reason to have the discussion. It's learning to react with equanimity that's the problem, especially when you feel like you're now seen as being the moral equivalent of a man in a hood.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2013 [29 favorites]


Let's parse Pope Guilty's comment, since it can be appreciated better if we break it down into its fundamental conversation elements.

Wow, holy shit,
(Meaningless swearing)

you don't have the first fucking idea what you're talking about
(Personal attack)

and you're coming off as really racist here.
(Subjective opinion without any explanation to elaborate on why Pope Guilty holds said opinion.)

Can you understand why?
(Either an extremely dumb question - given the lack of explanation noted above - or an attempt to be patronizing and talk down to Bluehorse.)

I think that Pope Guilty could have done a lot better if he had left off the meaningless swearing, the personal attack, and the dumb question/patronizing comment. I think in lieu of those three conversational elements, he could have instead simply included an explanation of why the comment was racist, which would logically support his subjective opinion. I humbly submit that this would have been a much more productive way to engage Bluehorse and would have enhanced the conversation instead of debasing it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


he could have instead simply included an explanation of why the comment was racist

Again, please notice that PG did exactly that after the initial remark was made, and before her response to him.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:02 PM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


If we're writing Pope Guilty/BlueHorse fanfiction, it would be useful also to have a crossover where they have to work through their problems in order to save New York from Hans Gruber. From my experience of mismatched-cop-duo buddy movies, it's adversity and a common enemy which really facilitate bonding.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:11 PM on February 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


(Which is to say, it feels like we already know at this point, on an individual level, how we feel about who was mean to whom when, and who was the injured party at what point. If X had done Y, Z might have happened. We will never know.

There's a side question about the best way to point out to someone that you think what they have said is racially offensive - and the problems associated with that. And there's some interesting discussion about how race issues get treated, in discussion of rap and elsewhere. But the argument about how rude X was to Y, and whether that was before or after actual Z happened feels pretty much played out. Some of these things are timestamped, and can be placed in a timeline if one wishes. Others are matters of personal opinion.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:33 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a concept of a golden age among people who write about rap, but it doesn't have a lot to do with gangsta rap specifically. The golden age begins with the explosion of creativity that begin around '86 with Eric B. and Rakim, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, et al. If you look closely there's practically no period before gangsta rap because the rap pioneers in the Bronx indeed had some gang involvement and there were many lyrics about criminal activity. Even just talking about West Coast gangsta rap, NWA and Ice-T released their first albums in '87 and '88. The golden age period ended in 1992 with the release of "The Chronic", not because there's anything wrong with "The Chronic" but it awakened the labels and the media in general to the commercial possibilities jn rap music. Before that it was a relatively unimportant genre whose artists enjoyed a great deal of creative freedom. "The Chronic" gave the industry a formula. Also, simultaneously, a series of legal cases set precedants that made sampling of the kind that Public Enemy and De La Soul practiced prohibitively expensive. Now, it could only be done by artists with big recording budgets. Rap as a whole split between the underground and commercial.

Really though it wasn't long before artists found ways to exploit all of this, with classic releases by Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, OutKast, etc coming in the next two or three years.
posted by chrchr at 2:36 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hans Gruber died in Los Angeles back in 1988 so would not pose much of a threat to New York. On the plus side, he did seem to encourage a racially diverse workforce but then he let himself down quite badly on gender balance.
posted by biffa at 2:58 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we're writing Pope Guilty/BlueHorse fanfiction, it would be useful also to have a crossover where they have to work through their problems in order to save New York from Hans Gruber. From my experience of mismatched-cop-duo buddy movies, it's adversity and a common enemy which really facilitate bonding.

Because what the world really needs are more movies where an uptight person learns to appreciate African-American culture through hokey jokes, a shared love of rap, and explosions.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:17 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I said what you wrote sounded racist. I didn't say you were racist. I can't see into your heart, I can only see what you choose to write and post.
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty racist.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:51 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the sheet, brings out the color in your lizard eyes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:16 PM on February 17, 2013


About "good rap" vs. "bad rap", Ad Hominem's sentiments align with mine exactly. The theme of rap music -- even though it may seem to be "bitches and hos and money" -- is the slow motion catastrophe that is race in the U.S. It takes some familiarity with the language and context to hear that in a given song, and I can't fault anyone for not wanting to invest their entertainment time studying primary documents of racial oppression or whatever, though what I hear when people say there is good and bad rap is "I will listen to people of color share their experiences on the condition that they don't say anything offensive." Really, though, there's a sense of triumph in this music that I find irresistible.

Regarding sex and money . . . Let's start with money. A wealthy black man is making a strong political statement just by existing. A rich stock broker buys a Bentley and nobody bats a eyelash or much less writes a letter to the editor about it. A rapper who brags about buying a Bentley earns a tongue lashing from Bill O'Reilly.

There's a bit at the beginning of "Native Son" where Bigger fantasizes about flying in an airplane, and now rappers are bragging about flying in private jets. Same thing. Private jets are for CEOs! A rapper on a private jet is subverting the social order.

About sex, man, the sexual prowess of the black man is a common racist trope. Is there an easier way for a black man to piss white people off than to brag about how great his sex life is? "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" deals with this extensively.

Basically, rap music at a given moment in history will be about what is most likely to make racists all head explodey. All of this will probably go away when MetaFilterites and Bill O'Reilly stop being outraged about it.
posted by chrchr at 5:36 PM on February 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm late to the party, but I felt compelled to chime in on the "blues lyrics don't have the misogyny of rap lyrics" thing because it was such a laughable idea.

Consider: "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" a Sun single by Pat Hare.

I don't think a lyrics sample is even needed after that title. But just in case you were gonna tilt at windmills and try to concoct some sort of cockamamie theory in which rap misogyny is somehow worse, I will only point out that Pat Hare died in prison, having been incarcerated for shooting his girlfriend dead.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:52 PM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty racist.

Everyone's a little bit racist
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


But isn't it going down the deep end of cultural relativism to say that there aren't huge, endemic, institutional problems with media that's targeted at mainstream black culture, especially with misogyny, homophobia, and race? We can remove ourselves from the problem by reframing it as class issues and governmental policy but, in the end, it is a wholly separate culture that has these problems with human rights.

Mainstream rap music does have problematic values and unless we forget the contentious debate surrounding the UDHR and the ones that go on in many emerging markets in terms of foreign aid and assistance, and we forge ahead as if cultural relativism is the only thing that we can possibly believe in, there will always be this problem that's central to this entire discussion that cannot be dealt with in the absolute terms that it's been dealt with above. Issues of individual rights against group rights against national rights and, soon, global ones made distinct by the impact of global warming and resources and religion. When you think this way, it's clear that the problem is a hugely muddied one, not the easy, reductive liberalish one above that is more concerned about presenting a picture of diversity on postcards and media without acknowledging the cultural barriers that do exist.

And you can't paint a picture of egalitarianism with indie/underground rap stars. I don't know how you don't see that as being part and parcel of the Good Negro stereotype. Popular acceptance of groups like Jurassic Five and Aesop Rock and even Kid Cudi originated from sources that appeal to a predominantly white, middle class demographic like Pitchfork. Sure, not all 'rap groups' are bad but that's more of a dig against a genre of music than it is a problem with race or culture. I can count myself among the many once-blooming, indie high school kids who thought it was cool and mature to listen to rap, but only the rap that talked about being nice to people and not the mainstream stuff or even the angry stuff that addressed police brutality. Sure, I can sympathize but I can't empathize, not ever having been truly subjected to the institutional and cultural pressures that coalesced into the music. We want to say that music binds all things, that makes us truly understand our fellow human beings but does it really? Are you really comfortable walking at night in places where people of a completely different demographic reside?

Utopian visions of colorless worlds are great but I don't think they deal with the actual issues. And no, I don't think BlueHorse was arguing for this, or had this kind of view, but I do think that this side of things, which is uglier and harder to deal with and most people don't concern themselves with because they don't have to in their day-to-day. This kind of stuff is generally ignored in favor of pat-yourself-on-the-back assurances that we are all the same kind of person deep down on the squishy insides and so long as we spring to the defense of these theoretical people we don't know that well, we will have done good.
posted by dubusadus at 6:54 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just want to mention Edith North Johnson's "Nickel's Worth of Liver." And a wholesale dismissal of gangsta rap implies ignorance of exemplars like Scarface or Gang Starr.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:54 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we're writing Pope Guilty/BlueHorse fanfiction, it would be useful also to have a crossover where they have to work through their problems in order to save New York from Hans Gruber. From my experience of mismatched-cop-duo buddy movies, it's adversity and a common enemy which really facilitate bonding.

He's a genetically engineered overambitious astronaut with nothing left to lose. She's a bloodthirsty out-of-work traffic cop who believes she is the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian queen. They Fight Crime!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:59 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


And you can't paint a picture of egalitarianism with indie/underground rap stars.

I don't know - I once did a pretty good gouache of a Spanish Colonial house with Jeru the Damaja, so I'm prepared to give it a shot.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:07 PM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, okay. I'm going to go do some pushups because this snarky thing is really pushing my buttons. Congrats, dude, you got me so hard.
posted by dubusadus at 7:11 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guarantee that this will not add to the discussion. But I will say it anyway. I hate most Country Western music. I think it sucks. OTOH there are a few songs that I like. I hate Rap and HipHop. But there are a few songs that I like. I have a certain taste in music. It does not mean that I hate white guys with trucks that lost their dogs and wives. Nor does it mean that I hate urban males that that speak instead of sing.

I love Frank Zappa. He has many songs that are misogynistic. And I still love the work that he does/did. As someone up the thread said, it may very well have to do with what we grew up listening to. I am sure that I am old and don't understand the music these days.

But just because I don't like it does not make me racist. It just makes me old. Sorry kids.
posted by Splunge at 7:17 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


But just because I don't like it does not make me racist.

No one said that it would or did. Read back through the thread; I don't think you've really caught the argument here.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:25 PM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have been called racist by people because I don't listen to rap before, though not here.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:26 PM on February 17, 2013


Gang Starr is gangsta rap? I'ma B. that S.
posted by box at 7:28 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rodeo Song

Eminem
posted by Splunge at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2013


I'ma B. that S.

Bite that Sabretooth?

Box that Sarlac?

Beat that Soundsystem?

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:39 PM on February 17, 2013


if someone wants to say "i don't like rap," that's fine, especially clarified like you did - saying that something just isn't what your ear is looking for is understandable and value neutral. really, you're saying "i don't like this" instead of "this is bad." the difference in those statements is huge.

if you say something like hey can hardly string a sentence without ten obscenities, they constantly talk about sex, including rape, dis women and call them bitches and 'hos, and advocate killing, anarchy, and destruction. Not exactly what I envision as a role model for any kid. - well, that's not so value neutral and you're instead pretending like you're judging it as objectively bad instead of something you don't like.
posted by nadawi at 7:40 PM on February 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


although, i will say that when i hear someone say "i don't like [entire genre of music]," i think often they haven't heard enough of whatever genre, and maybe haven't looked into the sub-genres. but, you're even past that, understanding that in a style you don't typically like there are things that you do enjoy.
posted by nadawi at 7:51 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gang Starr is gangsta rap? I'ma B. that S.

Yeah, I don't know what I'm talking about. I always thought it was, but I guess hardcore or underground ain't necessarily gangsta. Probably was always fooled by the name, or thematic similarities to stuff like Biggie and Mobb Deep.

I don't give much thought to genre-dicing, I just like what I like. And I think people shouldn't really decide to dislike something without giving it a chance. Mostly I wanted people to listen to a few cool songs. Like the way I threw in Yo! Majesty upthread, a propos of very little. I'm glad I didn't get snarky with it, or I would feel even more like a fool right now.

You win this round, box! But I'll be back!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:03 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone up the thread said, it may very well have to do with what we grew up listening to.

Me maybe. But I had Dylan's Blood on the Tracks on an 8-track in 1975. And never cared at all for "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts." But the 2004 cover version that I heard for the first time this afternoon? Straight into my iTunes beside the Jay-Z track.

I am sure that I am old and don't understand the music these days.

While I breathe, I hope.
posted by tyllwin at 8:08 PM on February 17, 2013


I thought I'd never like rap, but then I discovered that certain substances go good with rappers like A$sap Rockey (not Aesop Rock, who used to be one of the only rappers I liked) and Chief Keef.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:12 PM on February 17, 2013


(For those interested in delving further, Jay-Z discusses "99 Problems" in detail in this "Fresh Air" interview. Here's the transcript. In short, yes, he (or at least the narrator) had illegal goods in the trunk, and the bitch is the K9 -- and the confusion about the meaning/intent is deliberate.)
posted by argonauta at 8:19 PM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's the transcript

That transcript has a funny misheard lyric.

(Rapping) H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A. Fo' shizzle my nizzle used to dribble down in VA. Was herbin' em in the home of the Terrapins. Got it dirt cheap for them. Plus if they was short wit' cheese I would work wit' them. Boy and we got rid of that dirt for them. Wasn't born hustlers I was burpin' em.

He was birthing them. He is saying he was a mid level drug trafficker expanding into previously untouched territory in VA. Whenever a rapper from New York mentions selling drugs in the south they are giving a resume, they weren't selling on the corner, they were trafficking.

The JayZ mythology is ever changing, but this dovetails with the story in 99 problems. He says "the year is 94, in my trunk is raw" so he is moving uncut product.

I don't entirely buy that he driving kilos up and down the east coast, "birthin" new street dealers and customers. For one thing he already had a rap career in 1990. It doesn't really matter, Johnny Cash didn't really shoot a man in Reno either. They are parables, meant to illuminate a truth deeper than simple fact.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is what I grew up with.
posted by Splunge at 9:53 PM on February 17, 2013


And this.
posted by Splunge at 10:00 PM on February 17, 2013


I am so old. ::sigh::
posted by Splunge at 10:00 PM on February 17, 2013


I grew up with this.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:52 PM on February 17, 2013


Like the fact the plural of faux pas is faux pas?

I don't now what godawful language they speak were youre from, but here we speak English like Jesus and we pluralise words properly, not this weakass frenchified way were you cant tell the singular from the plural. Its passes.

Hippie.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:36 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never grew up.
posted by maxwelton at 2:17 AM on February 18, 2013


"Weakass frenchified way" is my new favorite phrase.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:31 AM on February 18, 2013


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "I grew up with this ."

I love that song. And you are a kid. No dis there.
posted by Splunge at 2:43 AM on February 18, 2013


Nothing beats this. Robot Parade.
posted by Splunge at 2:49 AM on February 18, 2013


Thanks to this thread, and wanting to know how the word would be pluralised, I have learned that 'ein Fauxpas' is valid in German.
posted by frimble at 3:48 AM on February 18, 2013


The nastiest, most homophobic, sexist, and most gruesome version is written by an over-educated white man.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:28 AM on February 17


My god, this site sometimes makes me facepalm so hard I give myself a nosebleed.
posted by Decani at 4:32 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

what I hear when people say there is good and bad rap is "I will listen to people of color share their experiences on the condition that they don't say anything offensive."
This sounds really disingenuous to me. The conditions of the incarcerated or the experiences of an isolated teenager with few resources and little support getting an abortion is pretty offensive. Public Enemy and Jean Grae depict these things to afflict the comfortable and to remind listeners of problems within the outside world. By contrast, songs about rape tend to glorify sexual assault and reinforce the wider societal belief that women are property with no sense of agency. On a personal level, this upsets me as a victim of sexual assault, and from a wider perspective it contributes to rape culture.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:08 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I heart me 99 problems, but I'm going to push back a little against the 'bitch is the k-9' thing. In the video in the chorus after the verse where he is pulled over, there's a couple of girls shakin' right as the phrase 99 bitches comes up. If the bitch is the k-9 then it seems that particular chorus would be the [montage of k-9s] not [montage of boobs and butt]. Also, there's a hella lot of dog fighting in that vid, which cheeses me off more than the boobs and butts.

Don't get me wrong, the song is a very good song, but I feel a little uneasy about J-Z sort of putting all the boob and butt emphasis under the carpet with a Fresh Air interview.

I don't know, maybe all the dog-fighting is supposed to represent the 'bitch.' But....that seems like a convoluted reading of the video.

(There's a lot to love about the video too, but there are problematic aspects, is what I'm saying)
posted by angrycat at 5:56 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


The nastiest, most homophobic, sexist, and most gruesome version is written by an over-educated white man.

Hey, I know that guy - you're talking about Al Paul O'Gist-Skapegoot, right? Yeah, that guy's such a douche. I honestly don't know why he's still allowed on Metafilter.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:09 AM on February 18, 2013


decani, wolfdreams01: The song being referenced is "Stagger Lee", by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which takes the traditionally murderous character of Stagger Lee and turns him into a spree killer, on the album "Murder Ballads". Cave amps up and riffs of a number of traditional murder ballads - for example, the Nick Cave "Crow Jane" has Crow Jane not murdered by her man, but sexually assaulted by a gang of men, whom she then tracks down and kills. (cf. Ice-T's "Big Gun").

That information is available about three posts down from the quoted statement, but if you miss that it's still OK to ask about this stuff - nobody will judge you, and it might save you from unnecessary facepalm injuries.

The conditions of the incarcerated or the experiences of an isolated teenager with few resources and little support getting an abortion is pretty offensive. Public Enemy and Jean Grae depict these things to afflict the comfortable and to remind listeners of problems within the outside world.

Public Enemy was seen as violent and dangerous at the time, though, and for many has been reformed (as politically conscious, "good" rap) as a stick to beat "bad" rap (hedonistic, disrespectful to women etc) with. And I think we've had plenty of examples in this thread where disrespect for women is seen as endemic when black artists seem to be expressing it, but not when white artists do, which is worth consideration.

I think it's also worth noting that when the [socially] good rap/bad rap dichotomy is being used by someone who actually knows a meaningful amount about rap in this thread, it is usually to highlight its uselessness or limitations - and by contrast the people who know least about the music are most likely to draw that line confidently.

Which is what chchr is doing in that quoted section, I think, and what bell hooks is doing in "Who Takes the Rap?" - pointing out that "bad" rap is a product of a culture of young black manhood under constant siege, and this should be considered, without letting it off the hook for its negative messages. Liking Talib Kweli or Common does not need to be an implicit condemnation of whatever we are identifying as "gangsta rap" this decade.

Plus, of course, the focus on "bad rap" allows quote-unquote good rappers to avoid being called on their own issues with women, which are often manifold...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:34 AM on February 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm going to push back a little against the 'bitch is the k-9' thing

there is absolutely nothing in the verse about getting pulled over that's about women. listen to the words. yes, the video has some ladies, he's purposefully playing with the meaning of the word and making it seem one way to people who just sing along at choruses and another for those who listen to the words of the song. he's purposefully giving the impression that it's about women, but that's not the reality of the lyrics. at its core, it's a song about word play, which is why i think at the end he laughs and says "you're crazy for this one rick [rubin, the producer]."
posted by nadawi at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


To nadawi's point,
[JAY-Z:] ...and that was the writer in me being provocative, because that's what rap should be as well, you know, at times. That was really directed to all the people who hear buzzwords in rap music. They hear bitch or ho or something and immediately dismiss everything else that, you know, takes place. And everything has to be put in context. And when you put it in context, you realize that I wasn't calling any female, besides the female dog, a bitch on this song.

GROSS: And is that in spite of the opening part that says: If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you, son. I've got 99 problems but the bitch ain't one.

JAY-Z: Yeah, that was to lead the listener down the wrong path if you were looking for that sort of thing.
posted by argonauta at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jay-z's radio edits are hilarious, a good 1/2 of the words of Big Pimpin' are changed. Changing bitch to mama is pretty egregious. He'd probably like to forget that song ever happened. His Barclays Center Documentary shows his new incarnation as real estate mogul who narrowly escaped the streets. It does show him practicing some version of a track he did with Memphis Bleek Murda Murda Marcyville
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2013


Yeah, but the video doesn't support that construction very well. Unless J-Z is doing some Joycean thing where one needs extra-textual stuff to figure out what's going on. Also, in the context of the song, J-Z ends up in jail anyway, so isn't the K-9 a problem after all? Due respect to other inerps.
posted by angrycat at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2013


Hey, I know that guy - you're talking about Al Paul O'Gist-Skapegoot, right? Yeah, that guy's such a douche. I honestly don't know why he's still allowed on Metafilter.

There was clearly a musician being referenced by CiS, but thanks for the input - all this music talk got us distracted from the recurring theme of persecution complex.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:54 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


jay-z doesn't end up in jail, that's another dude. in the video he gets killed. i don't think he's saying he's suicidal. videos often aren't straight narratives of the song. there are 4 seconds of girls dancing, there's more time in the video where guys are break dancing and jay-z is walking through the record shop, two other things that aren't related to the song directly. there are some straight narrative flashes (the pull over scene, his face on an ad above the subway entrance) but the rest of the video just seems to be showing his perception of where he grew up, the apartments, and dancing, and, yes, dog fighting, and stunting, and basketball. oh, and rick rubin and vincent gallo walking down the street - yet another thing that isn't related to the song.
posted by nadawi at 10:09 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like day in the life of Jay-z. First he is hanging out at Marcy. We see Gallo and Rubin,wearing a fur coat, meeting on the corner, looking strangely suspicious. Next we see Rubin and Jay hanging out doing bro stuff, checking out some records, doing some starsky and hutch moves under the el, getting pulled over by cops in Red Hook or something. After that we have some typical Brooklyn scenes,people doing tricks on motorcycles, little kids, a hasid, and some old guy wearing straw chaps dancing in the subway. Rubin and Gallo are back, striding purposefully down the street, it is clear that this was earlier in the day. The Fruit of Islam show up to do a little precision step dancing at marcy. Then we see why Rick and Jay were in Red Hook, it looks like there are cars lined up there for the purposes of procuring prostitutes, Jay and Rubin, in his fur coat, may be there to engage in some nefarious activities. Perhaps Rubin intends to "strongarm a ho" as the lyrics suggest. Then a bunch of fighting, which lands people in jail, where they go into withdrawl. After all that Jay is off to perform at the hip hop/dog fighting show at a motorcycle club HQ. Seems like a full day.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:53 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are a couple other details that are kinda cool. In the first part of the video, at Marcy, Jay is wearing an Adidas track suit and there is a kid with a huge boom box, both of which would be period appropriate for the 80s when he lived there. When the cops pull them over, Jay is wearing a Carhartt jacket and hat, which would be period appropriate for 1994. FOI appearing in a rap video is also period appropriate for around 94.

I gotta get a hobby.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:57 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Seems like you already have one.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Contrary to how it seems I'm not really a Jay-Z fan. I haven't really paid much more than passing attention to rap in a while.

I do have one more pop-up video style factoid about Jay-Z. Rick Rubin isn't the only Jay-Z producer to appear in his videos. Check out a young Kanye West at the end of Izzo
posted by Ad hominem at 1:56 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


GROSS: And is that in spite of the opening part that says: If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you, son. I've got 99 problems but the bitch ain't one.

What's the "but" for? It connects "bitch" to "girl," putting the lie to backfill that he "wasn't calling any female, besides the female dog, a bitch on this song."

and for pooping silly
posted by palliser at 3:01 PM on February 18, 2013


To introduce my community college students to poetry this week, we're gonna paraphrase the Jean Grae "My Story" I linked above but I'll be well interested to hear what the kids say about "99 Problems."
posted by angrycat at 3:20 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I would totally believe the "it's not about a woman really!" if it weren't for the line directly before it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:23 PM on February 18, 2013

Public Enemy was seen as violent and dangerous at the time, though
I could be wrong here, but weren't they seen as dangerous because of their anti-Semitism, both real (Professor Griff's statements) and perceived (Chuck D's support of the Palestinian people)?
posted by pxe2000 at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2013


in middle america it seemed like they were feared for being militant/uppity - more a race riot fear than any specific feelings about antisemitism - there was plenty of that in my neck of the woods so it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow i don't think.
posted by nadawi at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah the S1W scared the shit out of people. It was awesome.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:45 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now you've done it. And things were getting so friendly.
posted by naoko at 4:47 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ha, I dunno. What I found really striking about it was seeing a bunch of uptight suburbanites freaking out at the sight of Public Enemy, a lot of people I went to high school with going so far as to believe they were violent and militant, while ignoring their lyrical content - content that was largely dealing with real and pressing racial issues, providing information, encouraging free thought. They were about the least violent musical group of any genre at the time, as far as I can remember. And everyone I knew who talked about rap wet themselves at their name. It was unbelievable.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:55 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there's a bit more than perceived anti-semitism in Chuck D.'s lyrics. I will refer you to Welcome to the Terrordome, released in the wake of the group's flip-flopping response to Griff's anti-semitic comments:


Crucifixion ain't no fiction
So-called chosen frozen
Apology made to whoever pleases
Still they got me like Jesus

posted by chrchr at 4:57 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I would totally believe the "it's not about a woman really!" if it weren't for the line directly before it.

Although that's not a line Jay-Z wrote, so where that puts the true intent of the author is probably further complicated...

(pxe2000 - interesting point. It certainly didn't help, is my somewhat uninformed read, but there were people worrying about these implacably angry black men before "Fear of a Black Planet/Do The Right Thing", which was when that really blew up - as nadawi says, there are plenty of people who don't like Jewish people who also don't like rappers. Also, the relationship between Israel and US conservatives was somewhat different in the late 80s, between the end of the Reagan administration and the first Gulf War. But that's sort of before my time...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:58 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


pxe2000: “I could be wrong here, but weren't they seen as dangerous because of their anti-Semitism, both real (Professor Griff's statements) and perceived (Chuck D's support of the Palestinian people)?”

I don't think that's the case at all. I really don't believe suburban America had any idea about Professor Griff's antisemitism or the rest of the group's prevaricating about said antisemitism; I base that on the fact that I, a middle American high school kid who thought they were the coolest thing ever in the 90s, remember hearing about the antisemitism thing somewhere online around 1998 and being stupefied because it was something I had no idea about. They were seen as dangerous because they projected black-power fundamentalism and rage, and people find that threatening. And, well, that was kind of the goal of Public Enemy, I think. They took a militant posture.
posted by koeselitz at 5:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


the "if you're having girl problems" line is a direct quote of the ice-t song. jay-z specifically wanted people to think he was making the same song, and then to make a different song, flipping the script, as it were.

but, it doesn't matter really because even if that line was him saying how much he hates women, it hardly makes him unique in popular music, rap or otherwise. which is sort of the point - people get hung up on a word or a line or a song or an artist and decide that rap is to blame for the misbehaving youth, but john mayer and katy perry and the beatles all get a pass because they don't scare people.
posted by nadawi at 5:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


Now you've done it. And things were getting so friendly.

I actually meant this in response to I/P getting introduced to yet another MeTa thread, but I was too slow - oops.
posted by naoko at 5:17 PM on February 18, 2013


...which neatly loops us back to the topic. And makes an interesting point. Knowing or not, motivated by concern for the fabric of society or not, there is a kind of socially sanctioned putting down of successful black people through criticism of the moral qualities of music stars, and concern for the impact of their (often misunderstood or not actually listened to) songs on the youth.

(I am reminded of this thread, where some absolutely astonishing things were imagined about the lyrical content of the Beyoncé song Single Ladies and the moral qualities of Beyoncé herself.)

So... Looking back at the original thread, BlueHorse did two distinct things.

The first was comparing Neil deGrasse Tyson with rap artists, in a way which was disparaging to the latter group. That was critiqued for one reason. Then, in explaining why she made that comparison, she expanded upon her understanding of what rappers are and do. Both of these things are... awkward, but they are so for different if connected reasons. However, both can be addressed by talking more about the cultural and social values of rappers, and how they fit into American musical traditions more generally.

I don't know if BlueHorse is still reading this, but I hope she is - because, in a way, a lot of cognitive work is potentially being done for her, here, in identifying ambiguities within rap and the way it is presented and discussed.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:26 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


(That in response to nadawi rather than naoko - the interpolated becomes the interpolator!)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:27 PM on February 18, 2013


PE wasn't really the most "militant" or the most shocking. I linked Lakim Shabazz and X-Clan and I think some of Paris' 5 percenter stuff at one point. I know I've linked The Watts Prophets,who were not exactly militant but were in some ways more shocking, and they were 20 years earlier.

One thing that always struck me, was that you could never tell who would suddenly bust out with a kill whitey song. One I remember in particular was A Day In The Life, off Diamond D's album Stunts Blunts and Hip Hop. In the middle of the song was the line. "we jumped in the geo tracker, and in it we get much blacker, driving around town running down crackers". The verse was by Sadat X or Lord Jamar, but still, you are listening to an album about smoking blunts and suddenly it's about running people down in your geo tracker. The strangest part is why a geo tracker? Was that the only car that rhymed?
posted by Ad hominem at 6:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Aw, frig. I'm sorry about introducing I/P into yet another MeTa thread. In my defense, when PE were first becoming popular, they got a lot more attention out here (Boston and points north) because of the anti-Semitic content of their lyrics. There is a relatively large and vocal Jewish population out here, as well as an active alternative press and music writers who would have been attentive to these issues. There's also the possibility that the objection to the anti-Semitic content could have been a smokescreen for many of the other issues people would have had to PE. When running order squabble fest brought up that PE were seen as dangerous in their earlier years, this controversy was the first thing that sprung to mind.

FWIW, a few boys in my seventh-grade art class brought a walkman with the first NWA album to class, and the album never got confiscated.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:12 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah but the radicalism in rap was by no means limited to black artists. Check out Blood of Abraham on Easy-E's label. Also, I don't remember what they were called but last time I saw Dead Prez they were touring with a Palestinian hip hop group.
posted by chrchr at 6:34 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's not that they were the most militant, it's that they were they symbol for the most militant on mtv and in scare sermons. the reality of what specific rap songs say/mean and the motivations of those who create them don't seem to matter much to the detractors. it's all about the illusion of a boogeyman.
posted by nadawi at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


most militant on mtv

You are certainly right about that. Most people didn't get Video Music Box with Ralph McDaniels or even Pump It Up with Dee Barnes.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:02 PM on February 18, 2013


Hey remember when Public Enemy made a video about plotting the assassination of the governor of Arizona? They apologized when Coretta Scott King pointed out that her husband was a pacifist and this was a lousy way to honor his memory. (I really like that song though).
posted by chrchr at 8:17 PM on February 18, 2013


PE's infamous slam of Elvis was also kind of misguided. Chuck D revised his stance later.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:17 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


They apologized when Coretta Scott King pointed out that her husband was a pacifist and this was a lousy way to honor his memory.

I hope she also found the time to point out that, while carbombs and assault rifles were inappropriate iconography when honoring the legacy of Dr King, the nunchuks were just silly.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:39 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


That link under "misguided" is FPP worthy.
posted by absalom at 7:07 AM on February 19, 2013


A timely Racialicious post about the messages in rap...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


showbiz_liz - that's a great article. i so wish i could read the original paper.
posted by nadawi at 8:43 AM on February 19, 2013


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