The Rev. Al Sharpton, assorted right-wing talking heads on network news channels, and a mishmash of baby boomers across the country have spent a large part of 2007 ranting ad infinitum about the degrading, misogynist lyrics in hip-hop music. The understandable argument being made is that words ords like b—– and h- denigrate our women. Understandable — but also hypocritical — not to mention grossly ineffective. This argument is ineffective because it ignores the greater problem; like treating symptoms while ignoring the sickness.
Evidence of that deeper sickness is on display in the sexual harassment charges levied against Isiah Thomas, coach and general manager for the New York Knicks. Accused by former colleague Anucha Browne Sanders of sexual harassment, Thomas, when questioned about an alleged incident when a white male executive referred to Sanders as a b—-, denied that the incident occurred, but added, “A white man calling a black woman a b… that is a problem for me.” When asked if he would have a problem if the executive in question were black, he said, “Not as much … I’m sorry to say. I do make a distinction.”
The fact that this statement has been virtually ignored by black media and the general public is the worst type of hypocrisy, the kind of hypocrisy that has continuously undermined the struggle of black people for equality. Where is the rage that exploded post-Imus — both at the crotchety old shock-jock and at rap music? Thomas, at 46- years-old, isn’t of the hip-hop generation. His outlook on gender relations is indicative of the myriad of subtle problems that exist between black men and women — a rift that existed long before hip-hop. There is blatant hypocrisy in attacking music and even a schmuck like Imus, and then ignoring Thomas’ statement. That hypocrisy erodes the credibility of the struggle for equality. ESPN.com’s Jamila Hill summed it thusly: “If we let Thomas off the hook, African Americans will have fallen into the same old trap: castigating white people for their racist behavior, but then giving a free pass to influential black people who are just as demeaning.” –todd williams