In case you haven't figured it out, most of my posts here are really essays. They aren't as interactive or as immediate as blog posts tend to be, but I'll always be a writer first, blogger second.
But when I found myself passing the five hundred word mark while replying to a comment by one of my readers, it was obvious that this needed to become a post of its own. Danielle, who says she is a new reader of Brown Man Thinking Hard, had a few things to say about yesterday's post, "When Will BET Pull Its Jeans Up?". It seems we saw eye to eye on several areas, but she was not in agreement with me about the way I categorized some of the artists who performed on the BET Awards show.
- "I guess, my point is why can't they wear and pierce what they want."
They can wear what they want.
But we as African Americans have no business celebrating the choices of these people, who are essentially counterculture performers, as if their existence is central to OUR culture, the same way mainstream America doesn't celebrate heavy metal or goth music as if it is central to the mainstream ethos.
I can still recite "Rappers Delight" or parts of "The Real Roxanne" verbatim. I actually owned a record by King Tim the Third, who was on the radio, at least in the South, before the Sugar Hill Gang. And if the lyrics and the beat hit me the right way, I can get into some of the stuff I hear on the radio even today.
But if I did the equivalent of what these chumps do as a writer, you would want me tarred and feathered.
- "When I decide to have children, tats, piercing, and baggy pants won't be allowed in my house, but these artists have that right....they have the right to dress however they like. I guess my question really is do you think they reflect poorly on the African American race?"
If you won't allow these things in your own house, I think you've answered your own question.
The Resident Diva is now eighteen, and is starting to learn, for the first time in her life, what freedom really is. The freedom to choose to display whatever you want on your body, or the kinds of clothes you wear, she has found out, directly impacts the freedom she really wants, which is her freedom to ride around Atlanta.
The restaurant manager at the place where she began working recently has dramatized what we've been saying all along - weird or loud fingernail colors, funky hairdos, and big ass earrings are reasons for immediate termination at his shop.
And since her freedom of choice needs to be bankrolled, unless she chooses to stay in the house all summer with no cash, she has quickly changed her ways without complaint.
If wearing a dashiki means you are relegated to making half of what you think you should be paid in your field, then put that shit in a picture frame and hang it on your wall. You can look at it when you get home. Does this mean that being proud of your heritage is wrong? Not in the least.
But if America was afrocentric - I don't mean this having a black president stuff, but AFROCENTRIC, as in central to the core of what it means to be an American citizen - many of US would still be stuck on stupid. Still killing each other over nothing. Still standing on the outside watching THEIR OWN PEOPLE, the ones of us with good sense, rack up all the goodies they figured they'd be buying "when their album dropped."
This stuff on the outside, though, as delectable and as enjoyable as it can be, is just window dressing. Owning a pair of Ferragamos doesn't make me like John McCain any more than having tattoos and piercings makes a teenager like Lil' Wayne.
The problem 99.9% of the teenagers who aren't in a studio eight hours a day (I'm being generous to Mr. Wayne here, but most professional musicians are hitting the bricks hard) have is the same problem the Resident Diva has - the people who are manning the gates that are between them and the lives they want make judgments based on THEIR OWN worldview, not on the stuff they were supposed to learn from the rainbow coloring book they filled in during the obligatory diversity seminar they attended.
Selling our children a bill of goods by telling them they can have their cake and eat it too is the worst kind of child abuse. The only thing I see when I look at Lil' Wayne is Flavor Flav. I know, I know, "this guy is different", "this guy has more money than Flav did", "this guy is bigger than Flav was" - all I know is, Mike Tyson had several hundred million slip through his hands, and all he's got left is that damn tattoo over his eye and child support bills.
I'm working on a book, called "Recarving Our Cultural Totem Pole", which is centered around this very subject. Entertainment is necessary, but it needs to slide down a few notches on our metaphorical totem poles, so that we can put the things back on top that belong there, like our new president, and the positive, community BUILDING initiatives he tirelessly promotes.