In response to THIS POST
African-American History Month draws to a close in just a few days and, it seems, that Alexander Billet has already forgotten the lessons he was supposed to learn. The black community in America and around the world is beautiful, dynamic, nuanced and multi-faceted. It is not, as Alexander's above referenced post asserts, some sort of simplistic caricature of a people defined only by slavery and bass-heavy music.
Alexander Billet's post is patronizing, paternalistic, insulting and viciously racist.
He envisions himself some sort of Dr. King Schultz riding in
The very assertion that hip-hop is the essence of the African-American experience is pig-headed and indicative of Mr. Billet's disgustingly myopic view of the black community.
According to Alexander, hip-hop is "a music and style that gestated in reaction to the willful neglect and apartheid treatment of African-Americans and people of color." If we ignore the fact (no easy task) that this sentence indicates America as an apartheid state (there are not a lot of African-Americans in South Africa - just Africans), what we can not ignore is that hip-hop was not born from that racist form of government. By doing so, Alexander is conflating the entirety of African-American existence into two events - one theme. To do so is to dehumanize a race that is so much more. While it is true that a portion of hip-hop is dedicated to raising the masses, speaking truth to power and being the "CNN of the Ghetto", most of it is not. For every Chuck D reporting live from the Terrordome, you have a Fat Boy singing about cheesecake, a Li'l Wayne waving his red flag, a DJ Khaled yelling non-sequiturs, an Action Bronson talking about hookers in Poughkeepsi, new dances being danced, new slang being invented, a Queen Latifah rhyming about women's rights regardless of skin color or a Tim Dog (bringing it back) reppin' New York City for no good reason.
The beauty of hip-hop is that it is so varied and, so often, meaningless. By assigning it only one role or insinuating meaning where there is none is to act as if judge of what that role should be or arbiter of that meaning. Telling a people what they should or should not be, limiting their expression and experience and speaking on their behalf is paternalistic and culturally colonizing. Alexander Billet, by having the chutzpah to believe he knows what is and what is not hip-hop, is no better than Rudyard Kipling.
Worse yet, he then attempts to ghettoize the African-American community. In his mind, hip-hop is only for black people and, specifically, only for the downtrodden among them. By asserting a racial dependance on this art form, he invalidates the entire movement. Hip-hop is not a song or a pose. Hip-hop is a movement that has grown into one of, if not the, largest, most powerful artistic voices in the world. To relegate it simply to the poor, blacks of Alexander's provincial imagination is to discredit its transcendent power and universal message. More outrageous is his seeming belief that only blacks should practice hip-hop. Are there now race specific job descriptions? Should only Jews be accountants? Only Irishmen be cops? Alexander Billet needs to leave his racism behind and realize that he can not strip boundaries by the creation of more.
Consider Gaza. After Israel gifted Gaza to the "Palestinians", the Gazans second move was to close the border to all Israelis and most Jews. (Their first move was to rain rocket fire down upon innocent Israelis. Their third was to elect a terrorist organization as their leadership. Fourth was to outlaw homosexuality). This is a direct and indisputable form of racism and apartheid. I pray that Alexander speak out against this actual practice of apartheid and not simply wield the word as a weapon used to cut away at the proud history of African-Americans nor to pervert their artistic vision into his own personal slave fantasy.
I also pray that Alexander put down his calls for boycott. When coming from a place of support for the apartheid, terrorist regime of Gaza, such calls ring hollow and can be seen for what they truly are - censorship. Hip-hop has a long and sad history of oppression. It has been misappropriated by marketers, co-opted by virulently self-serving intellectual colonists such as Mr. Billet and kicked and shunted out of mainstream society for so long. Mr. Billet seeks to limit it growth even further, to squash it under the guise of self-preservation. You can not hear one's true voice if you make them shut their mouth. Unless, of course, in Alex's case when you attempt to become that voice.
I must wonder if Mr. Billet's naming of some awful "Palestinian" rappers is not just a marketing attempt. In hip-hop, all that matters is skill. And, the acts for which Alex shills have none. Unless, of course, he was to get this article of his published somewhere, create a fictional racial conflict and cash in. Hmmmm...
Hip-hop never grew from apartheid conditions. And, fortunately, today, hip-hop is not merely a passive aggressive stance against racism. That war is long over. As Jay-Z said many years ago: "this ain't black and white, my nigger, we off that...tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls." As Game said "Fuck Jesse Jackson because it ain't about race now." Alex is no Jesse Jackson - he never attempted to truly lead his people. He is no Rush Limbaugh - he never had one ounce of that man's political acumen. Yet, somehow, Alex manages to squeeze the evil, hateful racism out of both and find a way to insult all people, especially those seeking harmony through creation, music and non-violent means.
Even Lupe Fiasco, Alex's poster boy (and 9/11 Truther with a trilogy of songs called "American Terrorist") has declared, in the very same song quoted by Mr. Billet: "Murdering is not Islam." I strongly suggest that Mr. Bellit take Lupe's message to the Gaza for which he stands and tell them that the murder of their own people, the slaughter of Israelis, the use of their own children as human shields is not acceptable.
The black community is rich and varied. It is indeed stained by slavery and forever traumatized by bigotry but it is also proud, full of great success - lawyers, doctors, world leaders, one current American President. Greater than all that, it is human. The black world is about the everyday man, the father who wakes up every morning to go to work to put food on his family's table, the young lady who struggles with calculus, the rapper, the octogenarian, all of us. None of this is because of or even despite of racism. It is regardless of it - the black community transcends its past, rises above towards it future and can not be summarized by one angry man with a anti-Semitic ax to grind. Maybe Alexander Billet is, after all, the Dr. King Schultz of his own bloody imagination - a mercenary out for his own good, stoking hatred and attempting to use the black man for his own evil ends.