NewBlackMan (in Exile): Blaming Hip-Hop for Hate Rock?

Blaming Hip-Hop for Hate Rock?

David J. Leonard & C. Richard King | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Little says more about the state of racism and the centrality of the white racial frame in the USA today than the rapidity with which pundits transformed a conversation about white power, racialized violence, and hate rock into a critique of hip-hop. Indeed, a number of discussions of the spree killing at the Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee, echoing broader political currents, reference the evils of hip-hop as both a defense and a scapegoat.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in The New Republic, John McWhorter rehearsed this well worn conversation to turn the killings into another referendum on hip-hop. “It has been fashionable,” he asserts, “to speculate on whether the White Power music he [Wade Michael Page] listened to helped stoke him into the senseless murders he committed…such speculations,” he suggests are both “incoherent” and “pointless—and they are marked, above all, by a cloying air of self-congratulation.” To “prove” his point, he invoked the tried and tested “hip-hop” comparison as if it represented mainstream rap, failing to note, of course, that he is specifically talking about a small subset of hip-hop music):

A comparison with another musical genre helps put the debate into relief. Indeed, in assessing White Power music’s influence on Page, it helps to acknowledge that rap music—savored by people of all colors, ranging in age from “youth” to middle-aged—has its own tendency to celebrate the indefensible. Some practitioners casually boast about hurting women—whether attacking a partner during intercourse (Cam’ron, “Boy, Boy”), or kicking a woman in the stomach to make her abort (Joe Budden, “Confessions II”) and, of course, all varieties of maiming and murder.

However, nasty as all of this is, and whatever one might say about its implications for the street culture that produced it, it’s all symptom rather than cause. Those who listen to rap—including myself—are not passively consuming its message, but actively seeking it as a release. Indeed, last I heard, the enlightened take on rap lyrics is that their violence must be taken not as counsel but as poetry, poses of strength from disenfranchised people—“Black Noise” as Brown’s Tricia Rose calls it. Other academics, priding themselves on their connection with the music, crown the makers of violent rap as “Prophets of the Hood” (Imani Perry, Princeton) or “Hoodlums” (William Van Deburg, University of Wisconsin), the latter meant as an arch compliment to men celebrated for speaking truth to power.

And there is more than a little bit of truth to this treatment of rap’s violent strain. It is, indeed, an attitude that functions as a response to the frustrations of everyday life. In that light, rapademics have been fond of noting that old-time “toasts” among black people had their violent strains as well. Despite the prevalent anxieties in the 1990s about the social consequences of rap music, evidence that the music causes actual violence never actually surfaced.

These arguments are as tired as they are simplistic; the failure to see any difference between rap music and hate rock is absurd on every level. Yet, they keep getting published. Yet another failure to account for white supremacy. Importantly, invoking the purported ills associated hip hop simultaneously recycles dangerous stereotypes about blacks and lets whites off the hook. Indeed, it encourages white readers to misrecognize the force of white racism and dissociate themselves from deeper structural arrangements, while essentially giving a pass to the violence, antipathy, and dehumanization at the core of white power music specifically, and white power thinking more generally. It is as if McWhorter would like to conclude: there are haters everywhere, stop picking on isolated whites who do bad things and pay attention to the ubiquitous threat of black pathology.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Blaming Hip-Hop for Hate Rock?.

White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

Dr. David J. Leonard: White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

by David Leonard and Richard King

While we learn more hourly about the recent shooting spree targeting Sikhs in Wisconsin, to properly understand it, one must understand white power today, which is no longer about cross burnings and white robes. This is especially important since the media appear ill-equipped, if not unable, to talk about white supremacists.

Rather than reflecting on the deathly consequences of white supremacy, rather than look at the burgeoning white nationalist movement, rather than look at the recruiting efforts from white supremacist organizations within the military, the narrative has already been in overdrive to individualize and contextualize, to describe this murderous rampage as a “senseless act.” Yet, as noted by Rinku Sen in Colorlines, these murders “are neither senseless nor random, and the vast majority of such incidents here involve white men. Racism holds a terrible logic, for a concept with no grounding whatsoever in science or morality, yet too many white people don’t see any pattern.”  Equally powerful, Harsha Walia reminds readers to break down the walls between extreme and mainstream, between individual and societal, between civilian and military, to look at this violence not as yet another instance of a bad apple but yet another of the rotten tree(s):

The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of colour face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions.

To our minds, if this properly projects the arc of media coverage, until the next trauma or panic, we fear we will have lost real occasion to put into dialogue two key elements of Page’s biography: he was a white supremacist and he was a veteran.

According to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Wade Michael Page has a long association with white power. In 2000, he allegedly made purchases from the National Alliance, a once prominent white supremacist groups. He also appears in pictures in front of a Nazi flag.

Several websites have shown pictures of Page’s left bicep revealing a “Celtic cross” with the number 14 on top of it. Both are common white power symbols: the former with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, while the latter references the “14 Words,” a key phrase coined by David Lane, a founding member of the Aryan inspired terrorist group the Order: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” It represents the core of contemporary white nationalist ideology, emphasizing the importance of the white race protecting its future, one they believe to be imperiled by multiculturalism, immigration, integration, homosexuality, and globalization. The focus on the family and the protection of progeny underscores the entanglements of race, gender, and sexuality in the white power subculture today.

Page was a member of multiple hate rock groups named End Apathy and Definitive Hate. Its album “Violent Victory” contains a picture of a white hand, tattoo with the letters “HFFH” (“Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins”) punching a black male in the face. According to its website, the Hammerskins is “a leaderless group of men and women who have adopted the White Power Skinhead lifestyle… the Hammerskin brotherhood is way of achieving goals which we have all set for ourselves… summed up with one phrase consisting of 14 words.”

While many took comfort in the election of Barack Obama, it, along with the intensification of globalization and worsening economics, has sparked a rise in skinhead, neo-Nazi, and other white supremacists groups in the United States and around the world. According to a report from the SPLC, which has tracked such groups for more than a quarter-century, while more than 1,000 hate groups were identified in 2011, up from roughly 600 in 2000, militia and patriot groups numbered 1,274, up more than 450 from the year before.

Continue reading @ Dr. David J. Leonard: White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree.