Banner vs Reverend Al: We Need a Resolution

Reading David Banner’s smack down of Al Sharpton, Oprah Winfrey and the rest got me thinking about this whole ‘nigga’ and ‘ho’ controversy, and how petty it really is.

 

That’s not to say that the language of Hip-hop isn’t important—it is. Words signify ideas and ideas shape our reality, but likewise, in this issue, our words and emotions have become so convoluted that we have confused the vital issue: the destiny of blacks in America.

 

I disagree with a lot of what Banner says, but he’s absolutely correct when he makes the point that ending the use of the N-word isn’t going to change reality: a reality that is the legacy of the prior black generation. Editing ‘nigga’ won’t stop black men from acting ‘nigga-like’, and bleeping ‘ho’ won’t stop black women doing ‘ho-stuff’. Even if we got rid of the word ‘war’, we’d still have Bush.

 

Which brings me to my point, which is blacks need to create a new vision of reality where such words as ‘nigga’ and ‘ho’ become either obsolete or archaic. Look, for all his philandering, invading-Cuba ways, JFK laid it straight when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” And now it’s time to ask, “What can we do for ourselves?” Instead of finger pointing and saying, “f—k you” to each other we have to sit down and brainstorm, not about the implications of a word, but installing new words in our lexicon, like ‘industry’ and ‘self-reliance’. Because while we talk about the merits of the word ‘nigga’ and ‘ho’, Rommey and Clinton are deciding who’s going to be the new president, who’s going to be doing the same old shit.

 

Without a doubt blacks in America have reached a historical level of wealth and affluence, but beyond the money and the bling, seriously ponder what Hip-hop is in our generation. It stands currently as the most popular form of music in the world, shaping the minds of youth everywhere. But even greater than that, it stands as the most advanced form of poetry ever. (I’ll be discussing this in a future post). When you look at this, and the advancements of blacks all arenas through the lens of our racial narrative, you should be astonished. I mean you should be drop-your-jaw, live-action-Optimus Prime awed. Now with all this power, what can’t we do? Why limit ourselves?

 

The real tragedy of this whole N-word debate is that it isn’t even really about the word. Really it’s about our generational gap, where our elders are upset by not advancing quickly enough for them (and their criticism subsequently hinders us), while the younger generation is bogged down in our own despair, and anger at being criticized. But despair and anger isn’t an excuse for ignorance—it’s an excuse for courageous action and determined resolve. Our old excuses of “I’m a product of my environment” falls flat even in our own ears when we can turn on our televisions and watch Puffy jet skiing on the French Rivera, Oprah giving away cars to her audience, and Barack Obama running for president with an actual chance of winning. Sure, there’s still a distance there but ultimately their achievements have shown us that one of the central goals of the civil rights movement was achieved, which is that we now can grab a part of that ‘American dream’. We may not always succeed, but we can make an attempt, and that’s what matters.

 

What we need now are bigger dreams.

 

Imagine:

 

Jay, Russell, and Puffy pool their money together to build a car company—but not just any car company, a car company that makes a better product than the rest of the world. [And don’t roll your eyes and think Soul Plane when I say this, because that was only a comedy playing on the worse stereotypes of our race and Tom Arnold. Buckwheat, sitting on the fence eating watermelon, had more dignity.] The Roca-Farm-John car has better safety features, higher gas mileage, and lower hazardous emissions than the rest of the world. Hell, GM can’t seem to do it, so why not us? Not only that but the factories will be built around poor black neighborhoods, employing blacks and putting more money in their pockets while insuring their pensions, granting them a stock sharing program (so everyone gets a share in the success), and giving them health insurance. You can sell CDs right? So why not cars? You can battle for your dignity; now fight for your business. And imagine, they wouldn’t even need to make ads; they would only need music videos. Because what would be hotter than Jay doing the obligatory cruise down 125th street in a Beyonce 2012. And yes, it has more trunk space than any car in its class.

 

Imagine:

 

Cosby, Common, Kayne, and Oprah get together to from a series of low cost private schools—but not just any schools, they would be a specialized K-12 schools that focus their high school years on any subjects student’s choose whether it be physics, music, or dance. Furthermore, because of their connections they could have paid internships for their students working directly in the industry, laying the foundations for their professional careers. Yes, it’s a big dream, but again—why not?

 

And the list goes on and on. I’m sure you could tear apart my little ideas to shreds and come up with a million reasons why they would fail. So could I, but remember, the attempt is what matters. The idea of taking flight and soaring over the reality represents the best of humanity, but the American black has accomplished this with a profoundness that scholars will study for centuries. The equation, from slave? to freeman ? to ? is up to us to solve, and labels are merely tags. After all, like some of us Bush is a gangster, but whereas we dream about taking over the block, he dreams about taking over the world, and he who bets big, wins big. 

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