I recently saw Straight Outta Compton and LOVED it, personally it has rekindled my love of hip hop and I have been on a 3 day long binge on my favorite songs and albums. But of course not without some biting of my lower lip.
As a progressive, I do have to be real about the world of gangsta rap, something that I love because it describes the reality of our society in the most brutal of ways. While my white male privelage does prevent me from ever knowing what it is trully like to live and survive in places like Compton, what I can do is empathize with struggle. I feel my whole life has been nothing but struggle and my relation to hip hop and rap is derived exactly from that, a hardened expression of the struggle.
However as I said, as a progressive, one cannot listen to things like gangsta rap or NWA without being honest about the matters it deals with that are in fact not at all progressive, or are even anti progressive, such as the antiwomen, the homophobic, or even transphobic lyrics of people like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Eazy-E. The recent film has been appraised for telling the truth about the black male struggle of our culture, and in doing so reveals an intense disparity regarding these other issues.
The response and critisism is usually the same, and usually comes from the same people, self identified progressives who say they do support the black experience and struggle in america but then get angry with the whole black community because of the realities presented by groups like NWA, namely mysoginy and homophobia.
I am teacher, I have taught in Compton on several occasions and yes, the sexism, transphobia and homophobia there are so disgustingly rampant that its depressing and my attitutde has always been to be frustrated with the black community despite the fact I support it in so many ways, like reforming our police forces and investing into intercity education, but I would genuinely get angry with my students for purpetuating hateful, negative attitudes of people who are also oppressed by the structure of our society.
But after watching Straight Outta Compton, I realized something, it is pointless and racist to be mad at black people for transphobia or anti gay lyircs or mysoginy because it ignores the realities of what people in places like Compton are actually going through. Think of it like this, when you are dirt poor and you have to worry about whether or not the police will kill you, and your child, for doing nothing but being a different skin color, you aren’t thinking about anyones sexual liberation or gender equality, you are thinking about survival. When all you think about is survival you become hard, that is the reality of Straight Outta Compton. The reason there is not more understanding of issues like these in the ghettos is because the truth is it is a place of privelege to be able to liberate your identity, via gender or sexuality or otherwise, because you dont have to present yourself as hard to the world. To survive in a place like Compton you have to be hard to some degree. That doesnt mean you have to pack heat and go around gangbanging, but if you present yourself as anything but hard you make yourself a target, and when you are a target in the hood anything can happen.
Now I am not excusing the attitudes of artists like Cube or Snoop, but I am also not going to ignore the hypocrisy of so called white progressives who blame black communities for perpetuating a lack of understanding when they themselves perpetuate a lack of understanding to the struggles of living in the hood. Solidarity is a 2 way street, yes more people in the black community should acknowledge that people like Bruce Jenner, Laverne Cox, and the women of their community are just as oppressed. But those of us outside the black community must understand that when you are worried about police murdering you and protecting what you have, day in and day out, your mind isnt in a place to seek the liberation of others.
That being said, I’m going to bow out, read what Laverne Cox most recently posted on instagram, while blasting NWA, gangsta gangsta is at the top of the list! 😛 (actually, its Fuck the Police)
But remember, we must all be more understanding, and I do mean ALL OF US!