Friday, April 17, 2009

Rise up Hip Hop Nation, Wise Up: Confronting's time to Man UP!

While I discuss hyper-masculinity and homophobia in my classes, I never really planned to write a blog about it because race and class are the issues I am most familiar with, and honestly, most concerned about. But, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Two events lead me to write this blog now: 1) A discussion in one of my classes and 2) the suicide of an 11 year old boy this past week. He was a victim of anti-gay bullying.

11-Year-Old Hangs Himself after Enduring Daily Anti-Gay Bullying


While many have rightfully recognized the tragedy of his unnecessary death, few still have addressed the root of it: homophobia that permeates our faiths and our societies. Kids do not learn anti-gay rhetoric in a vacuum...they learn it from their families, peers, media, and culture...and hip hop is as guilty as the dominant culture that birthed it.

In my classes, I show Byron Hurt's video: Beyond Beats and Rhymes which I highly recommend all view. Here is an excerpt:

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes

I have known for a long time how serious our society's pathology is because it plays out in sexual violence and hate crimes. Our community's issues with masculinity also play out in silence and uncomfortable conversations with black men about deep feelings, or in hip hop culture's hyper masculine and homophobic lyrics and imagery. While not unique to hip hop, hip hop is more often than not, a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

Like I wrote in the blog last year about Prop 8, the homophobia in our community is not all about religion, or sexuality for that is also rooted in deep issues with masculinity that stem from a history of oppression, and Hurt's documentary does a decent job of deconstructing many of those issues.

As a self-identified follower of Christ, I am always willing to debate faith and homosexuality with any that want. I understand their convictions but disagree with their interpretations. While I know I will not change minds that are rooted in strong beliefs and convictions, I challenge both their knowledge of history (and the Bible in particular), and their hypocrisy, which Jesus spoke clearly about on many occasions. In using the Bible to condemn homosexuality with fervor, but ignore, or even take part in any number of "sins" (to all my fornicators, adulterers, divorcees, as well as cheeseburger and shrimp eaters), they lose validity. As well, if a literal reading of the Bible is done (despite its missing chapters...and possibly manipulated ones?..thanks to power and politics of past empires including the Catholic Church), then the issue of most concern is poverty, which is referenced thousands of times in the Bible, not a handful like homosexuality.

We know the Bible was used to justify the enslavement of Africans and the conquering of indigenous peoples to save them from their "savage" natures. It has been manipulated throughout history, and continues to be...

But a recent conversation with a student taught me the extent that some (not all) of certain religious convictions will go to defend their homophobia (which I am convinced is really a mask for masculinity issues). When I posed this question to my class: which would you prefer: 1) a child grow up loved in a nurturing and safe home with gay parents or 2) a child grow up abused in a violent and unsafe home with heterosexual parents, most students chose the first option, despite their religious convictions...but one student chose the second choice, feeling that it was better for the child to be abused than having loving parents that were gay.

Many in the class were shocked. I was too and I do not shock easily. But what did this really mean? What scared him so much about other people's sexuality that his faith in his own salvation did not transcend that fear?

I don't think it was about his faith or any honest belief that homosexuality would destroy the world. I think it was his own fears, burdens and pain. Alive...but not able to truly live...being here in the world...but feeling gone.

Around the boys I play my part rough
Keep myself tough enough
Never to cry
Never to die

How did I get so far gone
Where do I belong
And where in the world did I ever go wrong
If I took the time to replace
What my mind erased
I still feel as if I'm here but I'm gone

Lauryn Hill and Curtis Mayfield - Here But I'm Gone

If we as a people do not reconcile with these burdens, they will continue to destroy us. We hide behind a number of masks: addictions, scapegoats, bravado, and hate. In hip hop, youth culture finds its voice. Hip hop has the power to be a voice that heals our youth or continues to foster hurts. The choice is ours. But we first have to begin the dialogue. Here are two videos an emcee named Melange Lavonne offers to do just that:

Gay Bash By Mélange Lavonne

I've Got You By Mélange Lavonne

Man Up Hip's time to heal and embrace the man in huMANity. Peace.


Diane B. said...

Thank you Tina :) You do a wonderful job of weaving these intersecting issues into a informative and concise article. I will be passing on!

chibou said...

i know i'm hella late on posting a comment to ur blogs and before i feel ur wrath (LOL) i thought i'd chime in ;)

i appreciate u discussing how issues with masculinity have played themselves out not only with homophobia but (and i'll take it a step further) with men on the D.L., as well (but that's another blog...)

i LOVE the piece re: the hypocrisy of quoting the bible on the sin of homosexuality yet conveniently ignoring what it says re: the long list of other sins (of course ur humor rings thru as always in how u gave a shout to the various sinners out

SPEAK ON missing chapters/possibly manipulated ones/use of bible to justify the ills of a mathematician, it amazes me how people fail to realize/acknowledge/admit that ANYONE can interpret ANYTHING (i.e., data, words, images, etc.) to suit any argument.

it's all about choice...we can choose to think critically and to be enlightened or we can continue to hide behind the mask of ignorance...

"Ignorance is bliss because real knowledge is long as you can say, 'I don't know,' you have an excuse not to do anything"
~Omar Tyree on the commonality of people who don't seek out information

to those clutching onto their convenient interpretations of the bible for dear life...challenging our belief systems does not have to mean throwing out the baby with the bath water. dig deep within and reflect on whether or not God's word includes intolerance and hatred. and when u find that answer, don't be silent...follow tina's lead ;) SPEAK ON IT!!!

Anonymous said...

I am very curious about how you can claim to care about race and class if you don't - or are unable to - see that gender and sexuality inform racial and class-based identities and practices for everybody, including members of this presumed hip-hop nation. Reading the post, and then looking at the title "Man UP!" I realize that you still don't quite get it. This black child hung himself because he was being tortured for not appearing to be on the upward path (cause MAN is up and GAY is down for the kids who tortured him, and even in your formulation here; after all, directions have long been assigned specific normative values in western contexts) and not following the appropriate gendered script for accomplishing the appropriate black masculine identity.

Even religious arguments do not transcend race, class and gender. Some betrayals/sins will be seen as worse than others in a social context where Black people who already see themselves as having more difficulty attaining normative standards than others believe they need to do whatever it takes to preserve the normative ideals, even at significant costs to themselves. That student who decided it was best that a child remain in an abused situation with straight parents was saying a variant of what Black social workers said many years ago ie it was better for a black child to be raised by black parents, period, suggesting that if you rank order oppression, race does and should matter more than anything else. That kind of thinking is what allows black people, including those who, by their inaction, allow these kinds of things to happen to children, to ignore the ways in which homophobia and perverse commitment to gender identities that serve as little more than prisons is part of the accomplishment of racial identities for black men and women. You should consider reading the work of sociologists who do think intersectionally rather than just give lip service to such approaches.

Tina said...

Thanks Diane for reading and passing on! Much appreciated :-)

Monica, this is REAL TALK and I appreciate the insight you offer here. thanks for sharing and adding important ideas to the dialogue.

Longbench, I appreciate your comments but feel you misunderstand me and who I am trying to reach. There is nothing I disagree with in your comment. I do believe, however, that when people are not willing to engage folks where they are at we lose the opportunity to teach and build. This is why there is such a division now between the sociologists that you refer to and the communities they analyze. It takes that understanding to bridge that divide.
I have read and am grateful to Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins etc. for helping our understanding of lived experiences, intersectionalities.

Your language is of academia, scholarship and certain theoretical bends (to quote: "Man is Up, Gay is down")...which I know well. But I am talking to hip hop. And I used Man Up purposely to take a hip hop expression and flip it like hip hop does with language...ending the piece as Man in huMANity...Where I am coming from may not be where you're at, but it's no less valid. That goes for all. And when we honestly get that, we'll be able to unity.

chibou said...

very well done, T...that was nothing sort of inspirational...

Jeff Lee said...

I wrote a long time ago, most likely in an essay for you, that a lot of things are made/created/presented for control and usually in a social/political/economic context. After reading chibou's comment, feel like it should be added to the statement that this is usually done in people's own image/goals and the world suddenly seems like it's a war between promoting beneficiaries to a human or group of humans vs the loss of those attributes.

I actually believe the promotion of love/heterosexuality/fairy tales where the princess finds a prince and lives happily ever after/etc to be a good example of the doubleedgedsword nature of this struggle: on one hand, human procreation/survival is promoted (lets face it, society probably wouldn't be as into it as it is now such as finding the love of their life/dating/intimacy if it wasn't everywhere we went)while, on another hand, it causes the death of this guy.

I personally feel that although these feelings are rooted deep in our history (and with the media/church/etc being a neautral, [yet often not smart enough to know the consequences of their actions] DEFINER of these, these traditions are even harder to break), social ideals should be tweaked and constantly reevaluated accordingly to the newer times/needs of mankind

Ashley Turner said...

Thank you for the article regarding the 11 year old boy, Professor! I would not have known about it otherwise. Rather than reiterate the comments of my fellow readers, I am going to digress and go completely off topic (because I don't know where else to post this).

I would LOVE to hear about your opinions regarding the Swine Flu. It’s not quite hip hop and may be out of place on this blog (unless you manage to tie in commentary on Barack and his 1.5 billion proposal), but I am mostly interested due to the recent news of possible outbreaks in your hometown, including the 1week closure of Pollard High School. Call me passive, but I am filing Swine Flu away with Anthrax and Y2K. Anyway, I think you should blog about it =]

I’ll end with this “joke” I received via text today: It was once said that a Black man would be president ‘when pigs fly’ and indeed 100 days into Obama’s presidency… Swine Flu!

Tina said...

Hey Ashley!

Great to hear from you! thanks for the comment and idea...i just posted a couple thoughts on this "swine flu" hype - look for that new post!