Racism is perhaps the most wretched of humanity’s glitches. Racism is disgusting and appalling – unless committed by an African-American. The broad array of issues and situations in which the term is implicated today is incalculable and still growing. I believe we may still have too narrow a conception of what racism is and the abundance of ways it presents itself in today’s popular culture.
The success of “Borat” appeared to many to be an indication that America’s neurotic infatuation with everything “politically correct” might just be on its way out. I think not. Instead, political correctness has undergone only the slightest modification that has done little to ease racism’s societal ills, but has succeeded in making it less recognizable. Racism’s altered remains mean that language and portrayals that American societal values have deemed offensive, appalling, racist or anti-Semitic, have become completely acceptable – even comical – so long as the target of the ignorance is the same as the offender. This is a dangerous evolution in that it concedes truth to these ill-conceived and often damaging stereotypes and gross generalizations.
The success and proliferation of movies like “How High” and “Friday After Next” encourage viewers to adopt a less-than-flattering perception of African-Americans. In this perception, women are “hos” and homosexuality is a product of abundant prison rapes. “Slappin’ a bitch” is one of the most frequently uttered phrases in popular hip-hop and gangster rap. The irony these obscene racial caricatures could never be witnessed in any production not produced by African-Americans without a Katrina-sized storm of controversy should not go unnoticed.
In our capitalist system, it is apparent that these images and the representation of the black culture as crime-ridden and largely uneducated are profitable, and thus, the counter-productive cycle continues. Blacks portray particular images – usually involving an abundance of weed-smoking and the despicable treatment of women – in popular movies and hip hop culture, and whites buy and buy into, the images that are constructed in these products. This cycle is unfortunate and potentially irreversible without a cooperative, concerted effort and strong leadership that encourages change. Literary and political genius Shelby Steele acknowledges that, “in today’s black community, a leader is only a real black if he’s angry at white America.” The effort must have its foundation in understanding and acknowledging cultural differences and seek to celebrate those differences that make other cultures so rich and the contributions of each to society so significant. It must also address those differences, many of them circumstantial, that may stifle the progress of a particular group.
Productive discourse is the first hurdle in promoting a healthier and less racially divided society, and perhaps the hurdle most difficult to overcome. The structure of the nation’s political landscape is a very different kind of capitalism than that which governs the market. Here, racial tolerance and the promotion – even if through artificial means – of diversity are of the highest value, and the incentives to avoid discussion on topics that consort with controversy are substantial. Because this separation from controversy is such a political commodity and because its possession mandates that the negative images in popular culture are completely ignored and methodically denied, an honest dialogue on the subject is unlikely.
In politics, all African-Americans are the victims of “white privilege,” and all racist policies – such as affirmative action – are derivatives of “white guilt.” Political correctness is the natural upshot of this “guilt” and utilized as a way to address the stigma of whites as “racists” that history has imposed. Steele asserts that affirmative action is indeed a “stunning cruelty,” that it “allows whites to effectively take credit for our [African-Americans] advancement. It stigmatizes all blacks, and it’s not voluntary.”
If any person or group wishes to inhibit the creation of a negative label or misguided perception of them, they cannot indulge in speech or behaviors that promote that label. Girls referring to one another as “sluts” and “bitches” signals their tacit acceptance – and indeed endorsement – of the use of those terms to define them. The favored “running of the Jew” recently featured in “Borat” is unfortunate, if hilarious, in its similar approval of the unwitting amusement of the Jew-hatred the character exemplifies.
Daily Nexus columnist Courtney Stevens refuses to “slap a bitch.”