Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Its the Nappy, Not The Ho

In commenting on the Imus "nappy-headed hos" controversy, several conservative commentators have argued that what Imus said is no worse than what black hip hop artists say in their songs. They are part right. But, that is because they are focused on the least controversial part of the Imus comment.

It is no surprise that black rappers refer to women as "hos" and "bitches." And "tricks." And, in the case of R. Kelley, women remind him of his "jeep" that he wants to ride and his "bank account" because he wants to spend them. For me, women only remind me of my bank account when I realize how much I've spent on them.

Regardless, my point is that black male rappers did not create misogyny. They just express their misogyny more publicly. For every black male rapper that has called a woman a "bitch" or "ho" in a song, I can find you 10 white dudes who do that all the time privately. And, frankly, I can find you 10 women of all kind of races who say that all the time too.

The truth is that while the sexist part of the phrase was terrible, the "nappy" part was the truly offensive part of it. The word "ho" goes to a controllable form of behavior. If you want to stop being a "ho," you could just stop sleeping around. Or stop being a woman, I suppose (and you can do that for cheap in Brazil, I hear.)

Using the word "nappy" is basically a way of saying that someone is intrisically ugly because of their blackness. That these amazing women were some sort of animals because of their dark skin and the texture of their hair. Animal, subhuman hos. That is some deeply ingrained, loathesome racism.

Conservatives seeking to downplay and marginalize racism -- either because they are racist or are tired of being reminded that racism exists -- are trying to obscure the racial element of the Imus comment. It is a non sequitur. Some white people are not still racist because black male rappers say "nigga" or "bitch" or "ho." They are because they are. I am actually impressed when they either don't notice or ignore the irony that they are trying to blame black people for their racism.


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