Entertainment Magazine

Racism, Rap and Why White America Does Not Want to Think About Them

Posted on the 25 February 2015 by Candornews @CandorNews

Image from  http://www.fondospantallaone.com

Image from http://www.fondospantallaone.com

Fox News is known to make thoughtless and harmful statements on contemporary American politics and culture, and this week it was Geraldo Rivera’s turn to spurn controversy over the popular news network. In an interview, he discussed his strong feelings against the hip-hop genre, claiming that it has “done more damage to black and brown people than racism in the last 10 years.” He mentioned in the same interview his friendship with African-American rap mogul Russell Simmons, which Simmons denied exists, and also justified his claim by stating that hip-hop artists push African-Americans and Latinos from “mainstream” America, encouraging them to sag their pants and wear tattoos all over their body.

This was not the first time Geraldo Rivera has made nonsensical comments against the African-American community. In discussing the Trayvon Martin case, he believed that the black male’s hoodie was “as much responsible for [his] death as George Zimmerman.” Although he loves to point out that he grew up in New York City and is Puerto Rican, he does not understand the racism that minority group’s face in the United States, how that has affected African-American culture as a result, and, most importantly, why his statements are nothing more than explicitly racist sentiments from a privileged, indoctrinated member of white American society.

Contrary to what Rivera believes, hip-hop did not begin with images of sagging pants, tattoos, drugs and violence. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the genre had its start, groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, N.W.A, and Public Enemy made songs that were filled with social commentary, delving into the issues of racism and gang violence that plagued hundreds of African-American urban communities in the latter half of the 20th century and worsened during the cocaine influx of the Reagan Era.

However, the notion that socially aware hip-hop does not exist anymore is also false. All of rapper Kendrick Lamar’s music is meaningful and deals with issues of police violence and African-American pride and self-respect, from both his albums and his new single “The Blacker the Berry” only two weeks old. Emcee J. Cole’s album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, released only three months ago, discusses the social ills that limit the financial success of blacks in America while also discussing how new white artists like Iggy Azalea and Macklemore have stolen hip-hop in the same way that Elvis stole the blues and rock n’ roll in the forties and fifties. Some hip-hop artists, like Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli make some of the most socially-tinged lyrics of all time in the genre, and have been producing music for over two decades. Obviously, it is absurd to believe that these artists, who are some of the most popular rappers in the world, are a negative influence on the younger generation of American minorities, and only proves that Rivera only based his opinions on a select few hip-hop artists that he specifically chose to slander the black community.

This is not to say, though, that gangster rap, which Rivera is concerned about, has no place in the genre. On the contrary, it is socially aware, albeit in an indirect manner. When Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and Rick Ross rap about their financial success and material wealth, they discuss what they and the black community desires: wealth. It is not hard to realize that, in a country that has established laws in order to limit the freedoms and financial success of African-Americans, blacks have come to value the financial security that has been out of their reach since they arrived in this so-called “Land of the Free.” Hip-hop, just like the blues, is simply the outlet through which blacks could voice their feelings on unequal lack of opportunity in this country. Also, with non-black artists like Iggy Azalea, Pitbull, and LMFAO taking over the image of financial wealth and materialism in their own music (This is something Rivera innocently neglects to talk about during his rant); rap based on materialistic gains is slowly becoming a genre for all groups and not only African-Americans.

Although this type of musical assimilation into white American culture may validate the importance of black America’s contribution to society, in many other ways it limits the solidarity and pride in black culture. African-American rappers such as Azealia Banks have openly criticized white artists for stealing hip-hop, as shown through her tweets and the amount of Grammys given to white rappers. However, the way Banks phrases her social critiques are not necessarily correct.  If one were to believe Azealia, then all rock and blues music made by white artists should be discarded on the basis that they originate from the blues, a genre created by African-Americans as a means of voicing their qualms and sorrows in a Jim Crow America. This idea is clearly nonsensical, since it would require throwing away whole sub-genres of excellent, influential music. In fact, the true problem facing hip-hop now is that Caucasian artists are not giving respect to the black artists before them that established the genre, nor are they assisting the African-American community in dealing with the legal and cultural chains that America has placed them in. Nobody has a problem with Eminem because he has clearly stated that he was influenced and inspired by great emcees like Rakim and Nas, while Iggy Azalea never gives credit to the people that created the genre of music that she is profiting from. This issue is exacerbated when racial tensions rise in America after a Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown incident, and, while Eminem voices his support for the protests in Ferguson, Azalea chooses to ignore the issue rather than help, a bold statement made by someone who owes all of her success to those very same African-American communities that are plagued with racial tension and hatred.

Sadly, nothing mentioned thus far will ever enlighten the minds of people like Geraldo Rivera. They do not see the nuances of the hip-hop concern, and do not understand the plight and racism that indirectly led to its creation. Instead, they blame the one last vestige of truly black culture as the reason why African-Americans, victims of societal maltreatment, are still impacted by racism today. Although African-Americans are not completely innocent (Black gang members are still guilty of the murder and drug dealing they do), white America must also understand and actively change what their forefathers did in this country to imprison the black community in a system that lacks social ladders for minorities while also promoting the self-hatred which sparks the exorbitant amount of illegal activity in black communities. Granted, it is a tough pill to swallow, and many would rather pull a Geraldo Rivera in an attempt to free themselves from guilt. However, if he truly wanted to improve hip-hop, he would start with the African-American communities around the country that created it instead of falsely accusing them of the moral degradation that he has clearly shown in his statements to be guiltier of.

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