This past week, I was listening to an interview on Democracy Now with Professor Michael Eric Dyson, which also included a report on hip-hop by Mumia Abu-Jamal. The title of the lengthy interview was: "Professor and Preacher Michael Eric Dyson on Hip Hop & Politics, Don Imus, the "N"-word, and Bill Cosby". In the interview, the Georgetown Professor and popular writer Dyson defends the use of the n-word by blacks and opposes its usage by whites and others.
Dyson's arguments are strong and extremely Afro-American-Male-centric. He ridicules to some degree the attempts by those African-American leaders, like Julius Bond, who are telling black (and white) rappers and comedians to stop using the misogynist and race-degrading language of their forefathers.
Although the use and abuse of misogynist words and language in the black and white communities of the USA was the main focus of the discussion, I hope that the listeners and progressive readers are thoughtful enough to follow me in my fly-on-the-wall perspective from Kuwait on this on-going debate about the racism and women-demeaning or marginalizing language--& far-too-dominant in hip hop and other forms of art and expression these days.
More to the point, these particular words are the very form of so-called cultural imperialism which Americans are exporting around the globe on an hourly basis due to America's post-WWII hegemony in the area of culture, media, entertainment, and art.
Let me explain better this perspective on what I and other global educators see as one form of American culture and language being bandied about in this corner of the universe we know as planet EARTH. This planet has become a borderless domain and both language and culture bounce off satellites as easily as any car bounces off another on our dangerous highways of Kuwait.
That is, Kuwaitis and others in the Middle East can hear abusive and originally-hostile words and phrases like "n-word", "b*tch", and "mother-f*cker" appropriated by certain musicians on local radio, internet and TV. What are the chances of these words being miscomprehended or abused here?Very high!! Believe me!!
For example, recently I was listening one afternoon to Voice of America's (VOA) regional broadcast of American pop music-music which has become predominately rap in recent years. I know that people in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe as we in the Middle East do are a bit annoyed and offended by rap muzak's jargon. Typically, the callers on VOA's other call-in shows prefer less vulgar music. I have rarely heard anyone demand or request any obviously racially slurring music on any of the VOA's world-wide call in shows-and these callers represent every continent on the planet, save Antarctica..
However, on certain afternoons or mornings, when there are no call-in programs or news programs on the air, occasionally there have been fairly obscene lyrics in song after song-when the VOA has been trying to introduce what kind of popular music is currently being aired in the USA these days.
These series of representative pop songs included, for example, one female voice who in her song indicated over-and-over again asked to be "hump"ed. There was also a man calling all women mentioned in his song "bitches". Only the f-word hasn't been used too noticeably of late.
Finally, once again I recognized as I listened in dismay that I had a choice.
I chose to angrily turned off the radio and put on a CD of my own, which did not hurt my ears or leave one with the impression that no one in America or Kuwait these days is ever offended by someone else's use and abuse of language or misrepresentation of musical rhythms and culture.
It is nonsense to pretend otherwise--! Anyone in any society is offended by some usage of some word or another. Good parents and even bad parents raise their off-spring to become defensive at some slur or another. That is the REALITY OF THIS IMPERFECT WORLD!
There is certainly a reason that some fundamentalist in BOTH the Middle East and in the USA are teamed up and decrying some of the words played-WITHOUT MUCH INTROSPECTION-- hourly on American radio and MTV around the globe.
MISREPRESENTATION OF THE AMERICAN CULTURE IN POP
Why do I say "misrepresentation of culture" in those segments when the VOA is supposedly trying to present representative popular music?