Why stop with gangsta rap? Other works await flames offend, too

October 07, 1995|By GREGORY KANE

I like rap music. I even like gangsta rap. You've been warned in case you choose to read further.

I like the driving beat and in-your-face lyrics. I like the funky rhythms that take me back to the days of James Brown -- every rapper should genuflect when his name is mentioned -- and the flow of the lyrics as they syncopate with the beat.

Do the misogynistic and violent lyrics of gangsta rap bother me? Yes, they do, in much the same way that the violence, sexism and Arab-bashing in Arnold Schwarzenegger's "True Lies" bothered me. In the same way that the scurrilous references to African-Americans in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" bothered me. In the same way that the current spate of "the black man as brute" literature popular with black feminist authors bothers me.

So what's wrong with the picture of C. Delores Tucker, a self-professed liberal Democrat and head of the National Congress of Black Women, teaming with conservative William Bennett to jackboot Time Warner into selling its share in gangsta rap company Interscope Records last week? What's wrong is that "True Lies," "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs" and books like J. California Cooper's "A Piece of Mine" -- in which every black male character is a woman-beater -- are not included in their clarion call for banning.

Ms. Tucker has railed against the "pornographic filth" of gangsta rap lyrics, apparently oblivious to the fact that the pornography industry is a billion-dollar-a-year industry dominated by white males. She, along with fellow jackboots Bennett and presidential candidate Bob Dole, have singled out young black males as the scapegoats for everything that is wrong in America.

Anybody shocked? Don't be. Young black men are the most feared and despised element of society. Perfect scapegoats. So go after them. Censor their chosen art form. Leave the Quentin Tarantinos, the Arnold Schwarzeneggers, the Sylvester Stallones and the Bruce Willises to depict as much racism, sexism, violence and havoc in their films as they wish. The Tucker-Bennett-Dole jackboot trio is very selective in its outrage.

I'm a bit of a jackboot myself, but I'm an equal opportunity jackboot. Any banning efforts should be across the board. Either everyone's artistic freedom is curtailed, or no one's is. I happened to like "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," the negative references to blacks and women and Mr. Tarantino's overuse of the n-word notwithstanding. His dialogue crackled with realism, leading me to believe that Tarantino is one of the few Hollywood directors and screenwriters to have actually talked with normal working folks in the last 10 years.

But not everyone might feel that way. So while we're banning gangsta rap, let's ban Quentin Tarantino films too. Add Arnold's, Stallone's and Brucie's to the list. Heck, their films aren't as good as Tarantino's anyway.

With as many films as Hollywood has produced, I'm sure most of them have offended somebody in one way on another. Put "Birth of a Nation" on the list. I didn't particularly care for Rhett Butler's reference to blacks as "mindless darkies" in "Gone With The Wind," so put that on the list too.

But "Menace II Society," the brilliant debut film of Allen and Albert Hughes, has stereotypical images of African-Americans. Trash it. "The Searchers," John Ford's epic work starring John Wayne that has been hailed by some directors as the greatest American film ever, puts Native Americans in a bad light. It goes in after "Menace."

By the time all the film-banning is done, the only one left will be Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space," pegged as the worst of all time. But we'll feel safer.

Fire up the wood for a book-burning and toss in "The Color Purple," "Waiting To Exhale," "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf" and Ms. Cooper's book. Black men have been portrayed as negatively in these works as black women have in gangsta rap lyrics. True, the women give their message in language that is less crude. But the message is essentially the same.

Let's not stop there. Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" also contains the n-word. Into the flames it goes. Toss Richard Wright's "Native Son" on the fire. Bigger Thomas, the main character in the book, murders a young white woman and his black girlfriend. Tucker, with her opposition to art that depicts violence against women, should personally heave in a couple of hundred copies.

Sinclair Lewis' brilliant satire "Kingsblood Royal" -- in which he lampoons racism -- earned him a 150-page dossier compiled by the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover, one of the darlings of the American right. Since we all know conservatives are never wrong, throw this book in the flames too.

Ain't totalitarianism grand?

Jackboot Tucker swooned in ecstasy after Time Warner executives caved in, stuck their tails between their pathetic legs and headed for the hills. Once her euphoria ends, she would do well to read Vibe magazine's Joan Morgan, who attacked Tucker in the October issue for giving aid and comfort to jackboots. Gangsta rap, Morgan noted, is a byproduct of sexism. Not its cause.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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