Monday, April 23, 2007

An important dialogue

So as I was leaving school today (albeit with a splitting headache)
Two of my colleagues got into a discussion about rap music and introduced some interesting opinions to me.

I come from the place or an opinion that words are extremely powerful, and when used incorrectly can cause irrevocable damage. I feel especially strong about hurtful or hate-filled words, the "n" word, b-ches, "hos," words that have bee intentionally used to degrade a person. I don't tolerate these words in my classroom and I don't really think they should be used in any way shape or form. Even if they are being used to "re-claim" a word for a groups own use. I think that people may hear the word and not understand its message and allow its hateful message to propagate. I am extremely strict in the classroom with these words, and I have difficulty getting my message across to my students. ( as I seem to be struggling here). I think that a hateful word is a hateful word, no matter who uses it.

Now this has become a hotly contested topic after don Imus was asked to leave the radio station he worked for-- and even more contested as Oprah brought the spotlight to rap music.
I agree with Oprah in a number of ways:
1) Racism and Sexism is a prevalent problem in Contemporary American Society and it needs to be confronted
2) Hip Hop, in using sexist and racist lyrics is contributing to this problem.
but I don't think its the only problem.

Let me go back to that conversation. These two other young teachers (of whom are both minorities), who are much better versed in Hip hop than I am, didn't completely agree that music needs to change. They believe that hip hop is an art form and art exists as its own medium, as to say, artists should be allowed to say what they want and it doesn't matter what Oprah says. They also said that using the n-word is part of an urban dialogue and it has nothing to do with hate or slavery, it is part of being an urban American.
Mark, one of the teachers said, "Rappers aren't raised to be role Models, they might drop out of school, they don't realize how widespread their message could become."
"And it usually doesn't become a problem until wealthy kids start listening to it."

They made some interesting points and made me think about art and the integrity of it. I still am pretty firm on my beliefs, but realize that my beliefs come from a place of white privilege, and that I might not see the whole picture.

It also got me thinking about the messages I let out as a teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Besides re-claiming, another great reason to use racist/sexist/homophobic language is to point out how f-ed up people who use it "for real" are. Stay with me here... Words should not and cannot be completely banned from use in all cases. As you are probably aware, I think using these words in certain circumstances can be appropriate and even useful.

    Humor is a great way to point out the absurdity of a word like "fag". (I've actually been meaning to talk to you about this because I might have been a little intoxicated when I got into it the other week.) I think it is acceptable to use words like "fag" (or "faggy" or "fagiliciousness") as a joke. Not a joke in the "Dude, you're a fag!" kind of way, but in the way that queer or queer-conscious friends can say to one another not to dance like (dress like, behave like, or talk like) a fag (or a whore or a bitch or a dyke or a slut or a jew -- just to name the most popular examples from my friendship group). The joke part is that it is very well known in the group that to do whatever like any of the aforementioned would be a great thing because we are proud to be all of those things.

    This type of humor is the step that comes after re-claiming. Once there is an established understanding in a group that you have re-claimed certain identities (slut/fag/bitch) then what is sure to follow are tongue-in-cheek jokes about how bad those things are. No, "Dude, you're a fag!" is not acceptable in most circles but I reserve the right to address my scantily-clad (and proud!) best friend as a "dirty, dirty whore" with a wink, a nudge, and the knowledge that it is just a joke.