End double standard on woman bashing

The Baltimore Sun

"Can U Control Yo Hoe" - so asks the high priest of gangster rap, Snoop Dogg, on his CD R&G;: (Rhythm and Gangsta): The Masterpiece.

In "Housewife" on his CD 2001, Dr. Dre says, "Naw, 'hoe' is short for honey."

Rapper Beanie Sigel says "Watch Your Bitches" on his 2001 album The Reason. Just a light sampling of how gangster rappers, some black filmmakers and comedians routinely reduce young black women to "stuff," "bitches" and "hoes." Their contempt reinforces the slut image of black women and sends the message that violence, mistreatment and verbal abuse of black women are socially acceptable.

Despite lawsuits, protests and boycotts by women's groups, gangster-themed films and rap music continue to soar in popularity. Now enter shock-jock Don Imus, the latest white guy to be transformed into a racially and gender-incorrect punching bag, for his epithets against the Rutgers University women's basketball team. He, of course, has been verbally mugged, battered, abused and fired from his radio and TV show. Mr. Imus has genuflected - no, groveled - to the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights leaders and the Rutgers team, begging forgiveness.

Mr. Imus certainly deserves the kick in the shins he's getting. But again, he is the softest of soft targets. The same can't be said for the black rap shock-jocks. They made Mr. Imus possible. They gave him the rapper's bad-housekeeping seal of approval to bash and trash black women. In many ways, their artistic degradation has had even more damaging consequences for young black women.

Homicide now ranks as one of the leading causes of death of young black females. A black woman is far more likely to be raped than a white woman and slightly more likely to be the victim of domestic violence than a white woman.

Who are the assailants? Not white racist cops or Klan nightriders, but black males. The media play their own roles, often magnifying and sensationalizing crimes by black men against white women but ignoring or downplaying crimes against black women.

What's even more galling is that some blacks cite a litany of excuses, such as poverty, broken homes and abuse, to excuse the sexual abuse and violence (both physical and rhetorical) by top black male artists. These explanations are phony and self-serving. The ones who have landed hard on a court docket are anything but hard-core, dysfunctional, poverty types. P. Diddy, who predated R. Kelly as the poster boy for extramusical malevolence, is college-educated and hails from a middle-class home. He typifies the fraud that these artists are up-from-the-ghetto, self-made men.

The daunting puzzle, then, remains why so many blacks storm the barricades in fury against a Michael Richards or a Don Imus but are stone silent, or utter only the feeblest of protests, when blacks bash and trash. Or even worse, tacitly condone their verbal abuse.

There are two reasons for that.

Blacks have been the ancient target of racial stereotypes, negative typecasting, and mockery. This has made them hypersensitive to any real or perceived racial slight from whites. That's totally understandable, and civil rights leaders are right to criticize celebrities, politicians and public figures for their racial gaffes, slips or broadsides.

The second reason is that blacks fear that if they publicly criticize other blacks for their racial attitudes, such disagreements will be gleefully twisted, mangled and distorted into a fresh round of black-bashing by whites. But that's a lame reason for not speaking out, and loudly, against blacks who, either out of ignorance or for profit or both, routinely commercialize racial and gender trash talk.

Such failure fuels the suspicion that blacks, and especially black leaders, are more than willing to play the race card and call white people bigots when it serves their interests, but will circle the wagons and defend any black person who comes under fire for bigotry. The same standard of racial accountability must apply whether the racial and gender offender is an Imus or a 50 Cent. When it doesn't, that's a double standard, and that always translates into hypocrisy. Mr. Imus got his trash-talk pass yanked. Now let's yank it from blacks who do the same or worse.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a political analyst and author of the forthcoming "The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics."

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