January 01, 2003
rock-n-roll racists
...Eminem has proved his staying power as rock & roll's biggest pain in the ass, at a time when most music is trying its damnedest to be dull. -ROB SHEFFIELD (RS 911 - Dec. 12, 2002)
This little sentence in Rolling Stone's People of the Year 2002 caught my eyes and then caused them to roll skyward--not because of the cliched overwrought phrasing (is music trying its "damdest" to be dull?), but because it brought racism to my full attention again.

I bolded rock -n-roll because Eminem has nothing to do with rock-n-roll whatsoever. He's a rapper, an emcee, a hip-hop guy whatever. It's not rock. It's not rock-n-roll. It's rap.

The reason I make the distinction is because the only reason I can figure that Rolling Stone associates him with rock-n-roll is that Eminem is white. I may be wrong, but I've have seen very few instances where Jay-Z, Busta Rymes, Mos Def or even Dr. Dre were described as belonging to rock-n-roll at all... which is as it should be. Because they belong to the same genre of music as Eminem. Even though they are black, and he's white.

Sort of the same way that Chuck Berry and Little Richard belong to the same genre as Elvis, even though they are black and he is white.

Of course, I'm not trying to compare Eminem to Elvis. Another story there, and not to favorable to Eminem.

The reason I bring it up is that in my opinion this wink-wink racism is what creates the ideological space for greater crimes of bigotry to continue unabated in our society.

I hear them all the time, unchallenged-- blacks have good rhythm, whites can't dance, asians are studious, blah blah blah. With the exception the relatively bland but still negative ones I hear about whites*, most are the positive stereotypes that originate from the same places as the negative ones. It's just now people voice the positive and are demure with the negative.

But I posit that where the one is, the other can not be far. There are very few things that I feel comfortable being dogmatic about, but the mental virus of racism has demonstrated to me dogmas use: as an antibiotic for the brain. I hold that you can not defeat racism until you have convinced yourself that race itself does not exist, and that it is as equally false as it is convenient.

Eminem is a rapper, an emcee. He doesn't do rock...from the few songs I've heard him sing, he would really suck as a rock-n-roller. That's fine for him, because he can rap and write really well. The same way as I can play rock drums fine, but pretty much suck as a classical percussionist.

It's just two different things. Neither of which have anything to do with the color of anybody's skin. Or shouldn't, anyway.

* Whites (European-Americans) are the only ethnic group I'm aware of that can be insulted publicly by anybody without real fear of negative repercussion--an unfortunate byproduct of holding social and political power I guess, especially for those whites who hold neither. An interesting corollary is that you can only make fun of "whites." Once you start straying into specific ethnic territory you're asking for trouble.

Posted by illovich at January 01, 2003 06:41 PM
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