But why should others do what we should be doing for ourselves?
While the NFL is moving to outlaw the N-word, we have an out of control epidemic in our community of young people calling each other the N-word and fighting for the ability to use the derogatory language. Even some esteemed Black sports writers have defended use of the derogatory term in columns and in panel discussion, including a recent one hosted by ESPN.
For the second consecutive year, Young Money Cash Money Billionaires produced content during Black History Month that desecrated the images of our celebrated ancestors. All of the urban reality shows highlight stereotypical images of us fighting, usually for no justifiable reason, and Black women who end up being scandalous homewreckers.
Do you think these images do not play out in how people perceive our culture?
People are anticipating tension and confrontations when interacting with us. They are turning their noses up at the thought of what we might do. Turning down our business because of the probability of what might happen. How are they anticipating our moves when they never met us before? In fact, they have met us—on television, overhearing our conversations on the train, the music we produce, the disrespect we allow, the violence in our communities, the number of high school drop-outs, the outrageous AIDS rates, the nasty attitudes.
Do you need me to go on? Are you telling me that they have no right to feel some type of way about the behavior they are witnessing? No right to feel that they have to protect themselves and their family from what they believe to be a harm to their lives or livelihood?
Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that people should be able to arm themselves and get away with murder. However, I am saying we play a role, often a negative role, in how others look at us.
When do we arm ourselves with the tools and the skill sets that will prepare our families to survive and prosper generations in this society? Why don’t our topics of discussion extend beyond the latest episode of Scandal? To borrow from Jay-Z, What are we talking about? More importantly, what are we doing?
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock and even relatives of Mitt Romney have all adopted Black children. They are doing that while millions of Blacks, even those who can’t bear children, show no interest in providing loving homes to Black children stuck in orphanages or bouncing from one group home to another.
Meanwhile, we support all of the [you fill in the city] “Housewives” on TV, we buy CDs that insult Black women and we basically send a message to the world that we’re fine with how we are perceived and portrayed. But if we are going to demand respect from others, we must first command respect among ourselves.
That’s what we should be talking about.
(Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay)