Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
University of California, San Diego chancellor Marye Anne Fox, the president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, UCSD student leaders, and a bevy of civil rights leaders, and black and minority California lawmakers leaped over each other to lambaste the now infamous Compton Cookout at UCSD as racially insulting, insensitive, and demeaning. On February 24, days after the furor broke, UCSD officials held a campus racial sensitivity teach-in to quell racial tensions on the campus.
The Compton cookout, of course, was the bone headed stunt by a handful of white and non white students at an off campus to mock, poke fun at, and revel in what’s presumed to be the sway and swagger of ghetto life. There’s a problem, actually, two problems with this. The air head students couldn’t conjure this up from whole cloth. They aren’t that imaginative. They lifted the wording for the invitation for the cookout from the online urbandictionary web site. The site has parlayed an online commercial empire out of irreverent lampooning of slang words and phrases, and then hustling some slang laced products at a pretty penny. There are nine Compton cookout mugs, banners, tee shirts and mouse pads scrawled with inscriptions and jive talk on the items, some with a hefty price tag. There’s also evidence that the UCSD racial spoofery is not isolated, that students at other campuses have had their own versions of Compton Cookouts.
“Naw, `hoe’ is short for honey.” (Dr. Dre, “Housewife”)
That’s the minor problem. The bigger problem is that urbandictionary, as the UCSD students, couldn’t conjure up the Compton Cookout inanity from whole cloth either. They’ve had overgenerous help from the endless parade of gangster rappers, some black filmmakers, and comedians continue to routinely reduce young black women to “stuff,” “bitches” and “hoes.” Their contempt reinforces the slut image of black women and sends the message that violence, mistreatment and verbal abuse of black women are socially acceptable. Despite lawsuits, protests and boycotts by women’s groups, gangster-themed films and rap music still top the popularity charts. Hollywood and music companies rake in small fortunes off them, and so do a few rappers.
“Bitch choose with me” (50 Cent, “P.I.M.P”)
The verbal demeaning of black women and the pile on of stereotypes of young black males as gang bangers, drive by shooters and dope dealers has made them the scapegoats for many of the crisis social problems in American society.
Some blacks cite a litany of excuses, such as poverty, broken homes and abuse, to excuse the sexual abuse and violence (both physical and rhetorical) by top black male artists. These explanations for the misdeeds of rappers and singers are phony and self-serving. The ones who have landed hard on a court docket are anything but hard-core, dysfunctional, poverty types. The daunting puzzle, then, remains why so many blacks storm the barricades in fury against a handful of harebrained students at a college, but are stone silent, or utter only the feeblest of protests, when blacks bash and trash. Or even worse, tacitly condone their verbal abuse. There are two reasons for that.
“Watch Your Bitches” (Beanie Sigel “The Reason”)
Blacks have been the ancient target of racial stereotypes, negative typecasting, and mockery. This has made them hypersensitive to any real or perceived racial slight from whites. That’s totally understandable, and civil-rights leaders are right to criticize the Don Imus’s, the Rush Limbaughs, and the legion of celebrities, politicians and public figures for their racial gaffes, slips or broadsides.
But many also fear that to publicly criticize other blacks for their racial attitudes, such disagreements will be gleefully twisted, mangled and distorted into a fresh round of black-bashing by whites. This is a lame reason for not speaking out, and speaking out loudly, against blacks who either out of ignorance or for profit, or both, routinely commercialize racial and gender trash talk.
Such failure fuels the suspicion that blacks, and especially black leaders, are more than willing to play the race card, and call white people bigots, when it serves their interests, but will circle the wagons and defend any black who comes under fire for bigotry—or anything else, for that matter.
“Can U Control Yo Hoe” ( Snoop Dogg, “R&G: Rhythm and Gangsta: The Masterpiece”)
The same standard of racial accountability must apply whether the racial and gender offender is a Snoop Dog or UCSD students. When it doesn’t, that’s a double standard, and that always translates into hypocrisy. The UCSD officials, lawmakers, and civil rights leaders were right to condemn the students for their blatant racial insult. However, be mindful that urbandictionary and the offending UCSD students aren’t the only cooks who prepared the Compton cookout racial insult stew.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).