October 09, 2006

Keepin’ It Real: The “Hip-Hop” Professor

The Sunday, October 8 number of The New York Times presents a special section on its op-ed page. In this feature, the Gray Lady asks a handful of left- and right-leaning pundits to weigh in on how their party can win the upcoming midterm elections.

As even diehard Republicans recognize, the Democrats have an awfully good chance of making electoral gains this year. First, the incumbent president’s party seldom fares well in midterm elections, as Bill Clinton can attest. In addition, despite some positive news about the economy and gas prices, the Republicans have a number of sincere political problems: Increased anger over the liberation of Iraq; Mark Foley’s sexual dalliances; &c.

The only question that remains, then, is how the Democratic Party would manage—once again—to take a delightfully winning situation and render it a big loser. We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” don’t happen to think that the Dems will do poorly in the midterm elections—but they sure might if they took the advice of some of their party’s prestigious pundits.

And this leads us back to The New York Times feature. Amongst the Democrats who contributed to this section, Michael Eric Dyson offers perhaps the most disputable—and dangerous—advice.

Maybe you know of Michael Eric Dyson: A religion professor at the University of Pennsylvania and simultaneously the host of a syndicated radio program (nice work if you can get it), Mr. Dyson seems much like Cornel West with a better haircut. A stalwart defender of the brutality associated with “hip-hop culture,” Mr. Dyson incessantly casts blacks as the victims of racism, thereby exonerating them of any bad behavior, regardless of the situation in question.

To this end, Mr. Dyson became a figure of controversy upon sharply criticizing Bill Cosby’s plea for the black underclass to act more responsibly. To Mr. Dyson, blacks qua blacks are always victims, and thus Mr. Cosby’s concern about pathological behavior was merely an example of “blaming the victim.”

Now, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” firmly believe that anti-black racism in this country remains a problem. But it is not, pace the very wealthy Mr. Dyson, such an incessant blight that blacks should feel free to blame all their problems on dastardly old whitey. Yet Mr. Dyson’s palaver shields American blacks from engaging in any much-needed soul-searching.

Accordingly, Mr. Dyson’s advice to Democrats is entirely predictable: Stop acting like ersatz liberals and veer toward the hard Left. Dyson says:

Senator Joe Lieberaman’s defeat in the Connecticut Democratic primary suggests that Democrats must stop hating who they are when they are at their best: politicians who help the vulnerable and the marginalized.

It is far from clear that this is what Ned Lamont’s primary victory suggests. After all, Connecticut is a very liberal state, and Senator Lieberman’s problems there may not reflect well on American politics nationwide. Let’s not forget, furthermore, that Senator Lieberman is currently ahead in the polls in Connecticut; whatever his primary woes, it appears that he may well end up victorious.

Even more obtuse is Mr. Dyson’s suggestion that Senator Lieberman does not care about “the vulnerable and the marginalized.” By this, Mr. Dyson surely means support for incessant taxpayer handouts to American blacks. Naturally, he doesn’t mean “the vulnerable and the marginalized” in Iraq: We’d wager that Mr. Dyson favors American withdrawal from Iraq—the very thing that will lead to further vulnerable and marginalized Iraqis living under a totalitarian Islamist government.

But surely Mr. Dyson’s peroration is the most absurd:

The Democrats should adopt the hip-hop mantra of authenticity: “Do you.”

We, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” are not major Democratic Party boosters, but we must say that we do not think the adoption of any “hip-hop mantra” is a good idea. Sure, “Do you”—whatever the heck that means—would sound awfully good coming from the tongue of Nancy Pelosi. (Can a more authentically “street” politician exist in America? We collectively think not.)

Even so, we think that Mr. Dyson’s proposition isn’t so much a call for Democratic Party authenticity as it is an attempt to demonstrate some authenticity of his own. One can note this penchant for out-of-place “hip-hop” phraseology in the work of Cornel West too. Both men—articulate pundits each—constantly feel the need to pepper their comments with bits of “hip-hoppery,” regardless of their appropriateness.

By this means, Messrs. Dyson and West seem to be saying: Offering articulate views on matters of national import is not authentically black; being an intellectual is not authentically black. As such, they must incessantly refer to aspects of black low culture to demonstrate their blackness to their audience.

Imagine if, say, a white politician constantly couched his political appeals with references to “The Jerry Springer Show.” What would this say about the self-conception of American whites?

Michael Eric Dyson’s demotic phraseology itself demonstrates some of the problems that plague the culture of many American blacks. But he doesn’t see it that way; it’s much easier to ask for taxpayer handouts.

Posted at October 9, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack