Earlier this month, a white writer named Justin Ross wrote an editorial in The Washington Post calling out white people who buy CDs and basically invest in rap music that is both sexist and racist, and often particularly demeaning toward black women. His argument is not new but it is well-articulated. Here's the beginning of the piece:
Ross notes that the white audience is comfortable listening to stories about "crime against black people, drugs being sold in black neighborhoods, black people being killed."
When it comes to sexism and racism in hip-hop, I'm part of the problem.
Let me explain. I love hip-hop -- have ever since it first came on the scene when I was in elementary school. Over the years, I've bought hundreds of tapes, CDs and downloads, gone to countless rap concerts, even worn my favorite artists' clothing lines. We used to think of hip-hop as just a black thing, but it's not. The largest share of rap music sales in America goes to white listeners. That would be me.So I'm not just sounding off when I say this: It's time for a boycott of all rap music that stereotypes African Americans or insults and degrades women. And in particular, the people who need to be doing the boycotting are white fans like myself.
In the current debate over whether hip-hop has become degrading to women and harmful to race relations, I've heard quite a bit from black activists, some of whom have fought for years against the sort of lyrics I'm writing about, and I've gotten several earfuls from black rap artists. But I haven't heard a peep from the white fans who essentially underwrite the industry by purchasing more than 70 percent of the rap music in this country, according to Mediamark Research Inc. I don't presume to tell any artist, studio executive or record label what to record or not record. But I will presume to ask young white customers: Why are we buying this stuff?
I also wonder what would happen if rap artists started talking about selling dope in the suburbs, or shooting white people or beating down white men. Would rap's comfortable white fans continue to consume it? I suspect the record companies wouldn't even sell it. Like the majority of people who buy rap music, the majority of people who get rich off it are white. That sort of thing might hit a little too close to home for hip-hop's fans and profiteers.
Much of this argument also extends to middle and upper class people of color in addition to white people. Together, we are all funding degrading music. Are you buying the big new CDs that came out this month? Why or why not? What influenced your decision? If not, what are you listening to right now? If you are listening to the new Kanye or 50 CD, what do you think of it?
Get the whole editorial here. Of course, if you don't want to log in, you can always go to Bugmenot and put in www.washingtonpost.com. Thanks to Racialicious for bringing the editorial to my attention. Stop by there to read some thoughtful comments.