Make Jay Z concert an N-word-free zone?
WE ALL know about Riley Cooper and his racist comment and his upcoming area tour to talk about what he learned from the counseling he received regarding his use of the N-word at a local concert.
Mayor Nutter was particularly incensed by Cooper. He felt that the Eagles' punishment of a fine, apology and counseling was akin to paying a parking ticket. Nutter also said, "I recognize that the private sector is very different than the public sector in terms of rules and procedures, but I would note that in our government, if an executive branch 'at-will' employee, somewhat similar to Mr. Cooper's status with the Eagles, made such comments, I would insist on a suspension at a minimum and would seriously have to evaluate terminating such an individual from employment with the city."
My question for the mayor is: Are Jay Z and the other entertainers he is bringing to Philadelphia for his second Made in America concert "at-will" employees?
I ask this because Jay Z and the other "entertainers" are serial users of the N-word in their acts. As Phil Mushnick, of the New York Post, noted, "Jay Z has done more to return the N-word to mainstream dialogue than any 10,000 white racists working as one."
So, the question I ask is: Will the mayor rule that the concert will be an N-word-free zone, or else?
You will hear the argument that Jay Z and many of the serial N-word exploiters are African-American and that that gives them a cultural/racial/poetic license to use the word to make big bucks . . . I'm sorry, I meant to say to advance and chronicle society. I dispute this argument, but I'll put it aside for a moment.
Mr. Mayor, do they also have this special license to call women bitches and whores? Do they also have a license to slur gays in both English and Spanish? Will this concert feature these slurs?
Mr. Mayor, how will these entertainers approach the issue of gun violence? As Mushnick, of the New York Post, notes, "Jay Z has written and recorded so many odes to street murder that it's hard to keep track. Glocks, Tecs, chrome, 9-millimeters, AK-47s. He has sung love songs to guns for over 15 years. They're not cautionary tales of lament from the mean streets; they're boasts, threats. Here's one of many:
"I keep a banger in the ankle, one in the hip. Two in the stash, one come up when I shift. I keep one under the chair where I sit. I even got a gun in the hair in the bun of my bitch."
Boy, that last line is a great two-fer.
However, the language is only the surface part of the problem. Tricia Rose, author of Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America, says, "More than any other genre in the history of black music, commercially celebrated hip-hop swagger depends on a brand of manhood that consistently defines black women as disrespected objects. And fans of all racial background, but especially young white males, who make up the bulk of U.S. consumers, eat it up."
If you think this is an issue for just one political party, think again. The late C. Delores Tucker was a leading civil-rights advocate in Philadelphia. I admired her greatly for the courageous stand she took against gangsta rap for glorifying violence. I interviewed her several times and was stunned that many people in the Democratic Party and the African-American community criticized her for taking a stand. Tipper Gore, another leading Democratic figure from the 1980s and '90s, received the same criticism for daring to condemn music lyrics that were vulgar and violent.
I raised my questions about bringing these "artists" to town while publicly bringing Riley Cooper on a tour to continue his rehabilitation to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who is charged with setting up the Cooper tour. The D.A. started by telling me that the whole controversy was a "teachable moment."
When I raised the issues that my research had raised about Jay Z and the other entertainers, he agreed that they were out of bounds and, as a dad, he was offended. He also promised to relay these concerns to Mayor Nutter. I take him at his word that he has done so, but I see no signs that the mayor will make any public statements that the upcoming concert is no place for hateful slurs and paeans to a "gangsta" lifestyle heavily invested in guns and gun violence.
If the mayor won't say anything, maybe all those who were appalled by Riley Cooper will weigh in. Maybe the media will look past the glitz and glamour of Jay Z and use the concert as a "teachable moment" to talk about all the issues I've raised in the column. I will be happy to give a platform to any women's groups, gay groups, anti-gun-violence groups or anti-racism groups that want to explore these issues.
Standing up to Riley Cooper is a good thing. Standing up to an industry that profits off slurs and guns is a harder thing. Who would like to be first to join me?
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on WPHT-1210 AM Radio. Contact Dom at www.domgiordano.com.