Saturday, May 14, 2011

NPR's shame

On NPR's website, they have an article from The New Republic about Common and the poetry reading a few days ago. It's one of the worst examples of irrationalism I've ever read.

New Republic: Backing Common At The White House

Furthermore, one could almost have predicted that the invited representative would be Common. He is one of the foundational "conscious" rappers who has eschewed the "gangsta" routine

So, on the one hand, this writer says Common is some kind of "conscious" rapper. But then, he goes on to say things like this.

Dig around in Common's oeuvre and you find that — get this — this black leftist bard of the black condition turns out to have some tribal affection for Black Panther sorts, despite their less-than-pristine criminal records. The Republicans' problem this time is Common's passing shout-out to Joanne Chesimard, an ex-Panther who was convicted of killing a New Jersey officer in a shoot-out and has long been under political asylum in Cuba. But this hardly means Common would warmly advise a young man to go assassinate some more cops, or that he applauds to hear of cops dying today.

Interesting that he calls it a "passing shout-out", as if that is suppose to make the just oh-so-cute and not all that important. In fact, it's a whole song called "A Song for Assata". Devoting a whole piece of music to this person adds up to a bit more than a "pasisng shout-out".

Adulation of the Panthers is hardly ideal, to be sure, based more on drama than action. But if it's wrong for the Obamas to have anyone over who sees a certain revolutionary heroism in the Black Panthers as people battling the more overt racism and police brutality of that historical period, then this would disqualify probably every second black writer or thinker in the United States, not to mention legions of ordinary citizens with Huey Newton T-shirts.


One can only imagine the outrage if, for example, the President had had a poet who gave tribute to, say, an abortion clinic bomber, rare as clinic bombers are.

More than that, this comment by the NPR/NR writer is one of the most racist statements I've read. Black poets are rappers are to be held to a different (lower) standard than other artists? It's ok for them to hold up cop-killers as heroes?

It reminds of a book store I once visited. They had a section which they called something like "African-American Literature". Looking more closely at that section, about everything there was, to put it bluntly, literarly smut--covers showing women dressed seductively and revealingly, men much the same. If one were to make a section about White Literature, and fill it with things like Harlequin Romances or things harder-core, one can see how distasteful this bookstore's section was.

Interesting: I presume Rove and Palin roll their eyes at those who see racism in Southerners celebrating their Civil War military heroes. We are to be "mature," stop being so hasty and reductionist, and understand that one can cheer for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee without being a racist. Okay — but then, we will not, either, condemn black people with a passing fellow-traveler feeling for the Panthers as advocates of murder.

I find it amusing that this argument was even made. I've seen recently on the news that one state wants to put out a license plate design that features a Confederate flag and a picture of Jefferson Davis. I think the charges of racism are already starting.

Battle lines drawn over Confederate flag plates

Critics, including the NAACP, contend that the Confederate emblem is a hurtful symbol and doesn't belong on state-issued license plates.

"On the one hand, I appreciate freedom of speech, but when we talk about government functions, we have the authority not to promote things considered offensive to the public," said Hilary Shelton, the NAACP senior vice president for advocacy and policy, and director of the Washington bureau.

Peter Carmichael, director of Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa., said the perception of the Confederate Army as rebel underdogs appeals strongly to people's emotions; however, it's not historically accurate to completely overlook slavery as the root cause of the war.

"The flag does have different meanings. It's unfair to just characterize it as a racist banner, but it's also unfair to characterize it as just heritage and no hate," he said.

That's actually different from the one I heard about recently, but it does show the kinds of arguments made for or against. At any rate, people are not expected to timidly kowtow when these kinds of things happen, which the NPR/NR writer seems to insinuate.

At the Obamas' poetry night, rap was treated, in a high-profile venue, for what it is. That is, not something that is going to turn the Capitol upside down, but poetry — like Jay-Z's work now sold between covers.

The fact that a rapper was invited to the poetry night is not the problem. The fact that one who supports violence against the police was invited is the problem.

This writer has not dealt honestly with the subject. He has tried to spin things to make it no big deal, and say that the protestors are the ones causing the problems. It is a shameful, distasteful article, one NPR should be ashamed of showing.

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