By the end of this week I believe that a magical transformation is going to take place. Certain African-Americans, who speak of improving our situation and claim to be in favor of respect and dignity for the women in our community, are going to support “Straight Outta Compton” when it is released on Friday August 14th, 2015. The much-anticipated biopic is based on the story of the controversial gangsta rap group NWA.
Even before news of the deeply colorist casting call for actresses in the film emerged, I had no plans of supporting the project. Now, I realize that the men in my community are free to defame degrade women like me. I’m aware that over the last twenty-five years a section of them have attained fame and wealth partially through assassinating the image of African-American women.Their apologists will invoke freedom of speech and creative expression when taken to task for misogynoir. I’ve learned not to waste time attempting to convince such people of my humanity. The wiser-and less stressful-course of action is to withdraw support and solidarity from the genre, artists and its’ supporters.
In a previous blog series(which you can begin reading here) I discussed my coming of age experiences with the hip-hop of my era. At the time NWA gained popularity I had never heard of them. In 1988 I was eight years old. My stepfather was a hip-hop head. I don’t know if he listened to NWA in particular. Whether he was a fan or not, he had the sense and decency to not bring such music into our home. Five years later, I would nod my head along and recite the lyrics to songs from artists spawned by NWA, such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube. Over time the values of my elders and my desire for respect would triumph over the anything goes mentality of my peers. Buying music and supporting artists who pushed such harmful ideas about my demographic-while claiming to be an empowered Black woman-was a contradiction that I couldn’t reconcile. I could be loyal to these artists or to African-American women, but not to both.
Thankfully I am not alone in my stance. In a piece for the Huffington Post the brilliant and insightful Sikivu Hutchinson addresses the subject of misogynoir in hip-hop and violence against African American women:
As an educator and mentor I work daily with young black girls who silently cope with the trauma and PTSD of sexual and physical violence in the very same South Los Angeles communities “immortalized” in N.W.A.’s hyper-masculinist terroristically sexist oeuvre. Inundated with multi-platinum misogynist hip hop and rap, these girls have grown up with the pervasive message that violence against black women and girls is normal, natural, and justifiable.
You can read Hutchinson’s article in its entirety here.
Another individual whose input I value on this subject is author and commentator Lenon Honor. Honor has a documentary on NWA in the works. In the meantime he has produced and uploaded three videos to YouTube which look at NWA’s discography quickly. I enjoyed parts II and III, as it is refreshing to hear an African-American man call out this negativity:
My role as the mother of a prepubescent African-American girl has only reinforced my opposition to such content. I have not forgotten the 1990s and the bitter debates about sexism in hip-hop that raged at the time. So I find it amusing to see the historical revisionism that is now taking place in regards to NWA. What is less amusing to me is seeing African-American girls and women share their excitement over the film. I have already witnessed AA women beef with those of us who bring up the level of violence NWA members directed at African-American women. The call to show support to our ‘brothers’ (even when said brothers are hurting us) is a call that I am now deaf to. When it comes to expressing unity with African-American males who defame me and the African-American women who enable them I am straight outta solidarity.