FNV In Today's Issue: July 13 2000
*Da Brat Hits The Silver Screen'
*Master P Hooks Up With Ginuwine
*Props To the Beasties and Rage Against The Machine
*The White Boy Shuffle by Yvonne Byonno
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Props to Da Brat who is set to star in her first major movie. She has been tapped by the producers of 'All That Glitters' which is an autobiographical sketch of songstress Mariah Carey. Da Brat will play opposite Mariah in the role of her best friend Louise. She begins filming at the end of this month in the city of Toronto which is rapidly becoming not only the next big Hip Hop hot spot but also one of the hottest movie outlets in North America..
While Da Brat is getting her feet wet, she may want to keep a look out for Rap/movie mogul Master P. He is in the process of shooting a film called '911'. He's tapped the shoulder of singing heartthrob Ginuwine to star. Apparently P was so impressed with Ginuwine's acting ability that he added more lines to his dialogue. Who knows, if Da Brat does well in her film, she may have a future with Master P and his budding film empire :-)
Props to The Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine. When they touch down at a city near you for their 'Rhyme & Reason 2000' tour, not only will you see a concert that is likely to be politically charged, but they will be benefiting several charities with concert proceeds. The groups will donate $1 dollar for each ticket sold to the Milarepa Fund which is an organization founded by the Beasties in 1994. It's mission is to help bring about non-violent social change. Rage Against the Machine plan to donate money to the Rage Against the Machine Foundation which is a distribution arm for a variety of charities and causes they support.. Major props to these groups for really 'keeping it real'.
The Other day we mentioned how it was uncovered by the NY Post that Russell Simmons had not voted in an election since 1992. It was an embarrassing bit of irony since he is heading Rap The Vote has been trying to politicize many within the Hip Hop nation. In response he released the following statement...
I, like many others in the hip hop community, have felt alienated, disenfranchised and misrepresented by this nations politicians and the political process in general. Unfortunately, millions of people continue to be mistrustful and disillusioned by the candidates for public office, and a judicial and governmental process that systematically erodes any faith of
representation, justice and equality for minorities in our nation.
Yes, there have been times when I havent voted, but what I have come to realize in the past several years, especially under the Giuliani administration, is that not voting contributes to our problems. That is why, through "Rap The Vote" and "Redeem the Dream", I have committed myself to aggressively registering one million young voters by next November.
The White Boy Shuffle...by Yvonne Byonno..
For many who may still not know, rap music continues to outsell other genres of American music. Since Americans of African descent comprise about 12% percent of the nation's population, this means that the vast majority of documented rap music buyers are white teenagers. Although white rapper Eminem, has struck platinum with his sophomore album, "The Marshall Mathers LP," and with fellow recording artists like Kid Rock, and the group, Limp Bizkit peppering their rock music with rap, the genre itself is still heavily influenced by the Black and Latino ghettos of America. For idealists, white kids buying rap music represents a level of racial understanding and acceptance unknown to their parents. However for realists, this phenomenon is nothing more than the re-emergence of the White Negro. True cross-racial engagement necessitates meaningful interaction; and buying a CD or dressing "hip-hop" is not a meaningful substitute. Writer Norman Mailer coined the term "White Negro" in his 1957 essay of the same name when he stated,
"So there was a new breed of adventurers&Mac183; who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man's code to fit their facts. The hipster has absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro, and for all practical purposes could be considered a White Negro."
Critics of the day aptly pointed out that hipsters adhered to an idea of "black" which itself was based on racial stereotypes. Ned Polsky wrote, "Even in the world of the hipster, the Negro remains essentially what Ralph Ellison called him --- an invisible man. The White Negro accepts the real Negro not as a human being in his totality, but as the bringer of a highly specified and restricted 'cultural dowry;' to use Mailer's phrase. In doing so he creates an inverted form of the n*gger in his place." In effect, the White Negro can only enjoy African-American culture [and exploit it financially] as long as the African-American is deemed by society as different, strange, or exotic. The co-opting of African-American characteristics is an act of rebellion against mainstream values. Therefore, if African-Americans ever become regarded as an integral part of mainstream society, they would lose the primitive allure that the White Negro attempts to emulate.
Billy Wimsatt, a "hip-hop" journalist and activist, was profiled recently in the New York Times series on race as an indicative of the updated White Negro hipster http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/race/070600kleinfield-hiphop.html. Wimsatt is a white boy who doggedly claims an affinity towards Black people and an allegiance to hip-hop culture. Wimsatt was looking to escape from the arid confines of his predominately white private school and his upper middle class existence; finding his release in rap music and hip-hop culture. Having had little or no interaction with poor (or even middle class) Blacks heretofore, he nevertheless romanticized the pathology of ghetto life and submerged himself into the Black world of "hip-hop." Soon thereafter, Wimsatt asked his parents to transfer him to a largely Black public school. According to the Times article, Wimsatt "increasingly disconnected from a white culture that he equated with false desires." At the Black public school, Wimsatt noticed that the "cool" kids wore fat sneaker laces, gold jewelry, and did graffiti. Shortly thereafter, like a bad cliché, Wimsatt began break dancing on the streets and tagging trains with Black and Latino friends using the street moniker, "Upski."
For Wimsatt and other White Negroes, Blackness is really more of a projection of their beliefs about Black people rather than a true understanding about the humanity of African-Americans. The appeal of rap music and hip-hop culture to the new White Negroes has little to do with African-Americans or their culture. The major interest of these white teenagers is living on the edge. For whites brought up in suburbia or in affluent, homogenous urban neighborhoods, the biggest, nastiest, lustiest, most uninhibited edge they can find in their nearly all white experience is dressing "black", talking "black," and walking "black;" even as their "black" is a distorted MTV version.
Although Wimsatt has attempted to enlighten other whites about Black people and race relations, it has been within the context of his own unrealized prejudices, ignorance and class privilege. Wimsatt's white girlfriend reportedly witnesses changes in his speech and mannerisms depending on whether the person whom Wimsatt is speaking with is Black or white. With Blacks, Wimsatt talks "black" and/or adopts "black" mannerisms. These affectations show that Wimsatt primarily identifies "black" with a particular set of lower socio-economic characteristics i.e., Ebonics, the pimp walk and flashy clothes; at best it is a one-dimensional view of an entire race. Based on Wimsatt's definition of Blackness, he would have little in common with an educated, well-spoken, middle class African-American, since he or she would not conform to his racial precepts.
While claiming "he felt Black in every respect but skin color," Wimsatt, the white man, still ruminates his fears about meeting a "shabbily dressed Black man on the street," and whether or not Blacks are less intelligent than whites. This self-proclaimed champion for racial equality, by his own account, did not act when he discovered that he had been paid twice as much as a Black friend at the same speaking engagement. Wimsatt chose neither to tell the friend of the disparity in fees, nor to confront the school that had booked them both. At best Wimsatt is a confused white boy searching for an identity, at worse he is an opportunist. Like Samuel Carter in Wallace Thurman's roman `a clef, "Infants Of The Spring," Wimsatt may be using his whiteness among Blacks to further his own self-serving agenda. Samuel Carter was intent on becoming a martyr for a radical movement and took up the "Black cause" when he was not advancing quickly enough with the white ones.
" He entered the lists to an arena in which his mediocrity was overlooked because he had assumed the role of a belligerent latter-day abolitionist. He became a white hope, battling for the cause of the American Negro. As a reward for all his vigorous crusading, Samuel soon found himself vociferously acclaimed by Negroes. And what made his role eminently satisfying was the vilification and abuse visited upon him by certain cliques of his fellow whites. At last Samuel had become a martyr."
Billy Wimsatt, the earnest activist for Black justice, the writer of anti-white diatribes at Oberlin College, the proponent for the preservation of a "black" dominance in rap music and hip-hop culture, and the spokesperson for racial harmony, unfortunately sounds remarkably like Samuel Carter. In this country's ongoing dialogue about racial equality, the White Negro is just as reactionary as the bigot. While the bigot openly espouses the inherent inferiority of Blacks, the White Negro cloaks his biases with noblesse oblige, aiding, but not empowering the underclass. The danger of the White Negro is that he is almost indistinguishable from the politically progressive white person. The true difference however, is that the former pays lip service to change, but in reality reinforces the status quo, while the latter actually works towards substantive systemic change. The mindset of the White Negro becomes evident when the White Negro extols aberrational social behavior as "authentically" Black, rather than encouraging self-examination, education and community advancement. Case in point was the film,
Black and White," released earlier this year by middle aged, white director, James Tobak. Tobak supposedly sought to explore the fascination among affluent white teenagers for hip -hop culture and by extension, the lure of Black sexuality. The film, "Black and White," is essentially a conceptual meélange of the movies "Kids," & "Jungle Fever," with the essay, "The White Negro."
"Black and White" opens with a graphic meénage `a trios scene set in Central Park between a Black male and two white girls. The initial shot focuses too long on the gropes, grinds and flushed pink flush; a rap song that alludes slyly to "daddy's little girl" accompanies these images. Standing guard over the trio is a second, armed Black man. The sum total of Black men in this film is reduced to sexuality and violence. Moreover, despite Tobak's avant-garde pretenses, his White Negro tendencies are revealed by his real take on rap music and hip-hop sub-culture. Tobak justifies his use of criminality and violence in his film by saying, "You can't make a movie about hip-hop without dealing with murder." This ignorant attitude presupposes that hip-hop is another Black pathology rather than a vibrant, albeit controversial cultural expression. Older Black intellectuals like Stanley Crouch and Henry Louis Gates, hailed this movie as realistic and creative. However these critics have no involvement with rap music and the hip-hop aesthete, and therefore were not credible commentators. Hence, this "innovative, ground-breaking film" amounted to little more than a regurgitation of the same racial stereotypes. Unsurprisingly, the film was a sensation in white circles, but made no impact at all on the hip-hop demographic.
It is perfectly valid for a white artist to explore the exploitation and co-modification of Black men by using rap music and hip-hop culture, unless the artist is merely perpetrating the exact dominate culture myths; this was the case with the film "Black and White." The White Negro can be reformed if he or she is willing to acknowledge how little they really know about Black people and their lives. From a point of unfamiliarity, the white person opens him or herself up to actually learning about people of color rather than rehashing past generalizations, or imbuing black life with starry-eyed sentimentality. The problem with the White Negro is that he or she is already an expert on Blacks, leaving him or her no room to receive additional [or conflicting] information about them. Furthermore, unlike the White Negro who insists on speaking to African-Americans with slang or Ebonics, the truly progressive white person will approach African-Americans in the same manner and voice that he or she uses with anyone else; for this person Blackness would not automatically be equated with jive talking "hipness."
The "Hip-Hop Nation," a term once reserved for African-American and Latino youth, has been expanded to include all races and ethnicities. While the gesture may be both politic and profitable, it negates the protest and social commentary that is the basis for rap music and hip-hop culture. Rap music and Hip-Hop culture developed in great part to address the feelings of disenfranchisement experienced by Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Americans and Latinos in America. While whites and other ethnic groups are not exempt from experiencing problems and disillusionment, people of African extraction and Latinos by and large continue to occupy the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, comprise the majority of the prison population, and confront racial discrimination that impacts employment, housing and educational opportunities.
While many whites were offended with the late 1980s slogan, "It's a Black Thing, You Wouldn't Understand" that proliferated on Black college campuses, to a great extent it is true. While Americans of African descent and Latinos must be familiar with the customs, history and values of white Americans in order to succeed in this country, the converse is not true. White Americans can do extremely well in America with little or no interaction with, or knowledge of people of color. By reducing the "Hip-Hop Nation" to a modern day version of Kumbaya, whites are never forced to look beyond the Black style and language that they have adapted to explore the existences of African-Americans as real people. Moreover when youth fades, White Negroes will shed their hip-hop personas and assume their places in white society with their biases about African-Americans as "different" largely in tact.
Whites and some African-Americans mistakenly believe that deep racial chasms can be eliminated solely through music. Unfortunately, African-American culture cannot be taught in a two-minute video or at the door of Phat Farm, FUBU, Mecca, or Karl Kani. As rap artist KRS-One says, "we've got white boys calling themselves n*ggers" and in this twisted admiration, white boys are simply seeing Black men as mythologized bodies, overflowing with sexual prowess and privy to a secret code of insider rhythms. Rap music alone does not force white youth to explore the reasons and circumstances behind a rap artist's choice of lyrical content, clothing or demeanor --- they simply emulate it because it is Black and therefore, dangerous and hip. Like their predecessors, these new White Negroes are still objectifying African-Americans to fulfill their own emotional needs and fantasies about primitives. They continue to rationalize it when these exotics warrant different, if not inferior, treatment from whites. The racial divide will be bridged when white people can begin to see Blacks as real, complex human beings rather than as vehicles to express their own sexual and social rebellion.
Yvonne Bynoe is a columnist for politicallyblack.com. Her column appears on Wednesday. For comments she can be reached at mailto:email@example.com
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