Boston State of Mind: Media’s Defense of White Terrorism

Let’s get right to this. The events that transpired/are transpiring in Boston are tragic. The Marathon bombing could be an entire post on its own. As a person who went to college in Boston, Marathon Monday evokes an amazing, celebratory feeling that is tough to convey. We look forward to it every year. It’s a huge deal. That being said, although I currently live in DC, I’ve followed the events very closely. With friends still in Boston, I’m deeply invested.

Media coverage of national tragedies has always rubbed me the wrong way. There is usually at least one or two comments that seem insensitive or just downright offensive. The main issue I see, however, is the need to separate “us” from “them”. “Us”, being a category I don’t even fit into, represents the White [1] heterosexual Christian normative. “Them” being the caricature of other races/religions/ideologies they employ to trigger a fear response.

Proof? I say “terrorist”. You think Arab or Muslim person[2]

I say “armed gunman” you think troubled White man.

I say “robber” you think young Black guy.

This happens unabashedly and often without mass criticism.[3] At best, that is wildly irresponsible “journalism”. At the worst, it’s using mainstream media as a soapbox to maintain White hetero Christian purity. That’s an issue. Tell me, if you will, the religion of these people:

Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), Christopher Dorner, Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold (Columbine), Timothy McVeigh, Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech).

Right. The very coverage of these people is radically different. When “we” can, “we” label any act of violence on a major level as terrorism and work hard to uncover their extremist radical ideas. Bin Laden, Saddam. But when the media sadly cannot find a way to demonize the “other’, non-White, not Christian American standard of purity and innocence, they feel the need to ease their cognitive dissonance by finding logic in the illogical.

First of all, on a very rational level, when someone shoots small children, or high schoolers, or anyone for that matter, that is an event void of logic. Trying to find the logic is a Sisyphean effort. But, the media does it. I could go into extreme detail and link to news archives but on a very basic level you could just do a simple comparison of Wikipedia pages. Look on the pages of those people mentioned above and tell me which ones have a mention or entire sections devoted to their “psychological analysis”. For my lazier compadres, do a ctrl + F search for the prefix “psych”. You know which pages don’t have any mention? Chis Dorner. Bin Laden. Saddam. Why? 1. Angry Black Man. 2. Muslim. 3. Muslim. So, no further assessment needed. [4] This is called microinvalidation. “Microinvalidations are characterized by communications that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color.”[5]

This is why when Black people commit crimes, there is rarely an incentive or motivation for the media, or us as consumers of mainstream media, to wonder “why”. There is a this proclivity to assume he/she as a person of color had means and motives and that’s all the evidence we need. Dave Chappelle handles this brilliantly, by the way.[6] Meanwhile:

I know the media wants to really emphasize the Russian background of the suspects so that they won’t be viewed as White but does anybody read anymore? Is geography still being taught in schools or do we just tell kids to download google maps and keep it moving? You know that word we use when we’re trying to sound politically correct instead of saying “white folks”? Right. Caucasian. Know where that term comes from? Being from the Caucasus region. Know what’s located in that region?  Russia. More specifically? Chechnya. There goes that effort to rid them of their whiteness. Meanwhile CNN is busy creating imaginary connections between the suspects and islamic extremism, TMZ completely comes out of left field with “Deadly Bombing Suspect Heavy Into Hip Hop“. Like, that really happened. Because when all else fails, blame Hip Hop. Always.

This isn’t to take away anything from the tragedy of Boston. This isn’t even to help explain the situation and alleviate some fear. It’s just a friendly nudge to remind everyone to be observant of to what we tie fear to. The bombing/shootings do not become any less tragic or scary because the skin color or belief system of the assailant changed. Ask yourself, what do you fear? Why?


Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. Which seriously is the most ridiculous racial nomenclature we have.
  2. Do you see how ridiculous that is? Imagine if you thought “American or Catholic person” was a completely reasonable description of someone.
  3. Your tweets don’t count. Find a new method of activism.
  4. Sigh.
  5. Source
  6. It may not seem like it at first. Watch the whole video. Dave is sincerely a genius.

Bitch Bad

Man. My blog titles have been super inappropriate lately. The next one will be less risqué hopefully.

Anyway. I was driving today and as anyone who has ever spent any time in a car with me will know, I cannot take off until I have the perfect song playing. That’s not necessarily important to the story. But I typed it. And I’m not a fan of editing. So I’m shuffling through songs and Lupe Fiasco’s “Bitch Bad” comes on.  I heard it a little while back and hadn’t listened to it since. But because the a/c in my car is currently not working (one of the many reasons my car is nicknamed Kim K) I didn’t have all day to sit there and shuffle through songs. Thus, “Bitch Bad” was the soundtrack to my ride.

While driving I drafted about three different blogs in my head. One was about misogyny in rap but nobody wants to read that. And I didn’t feel like typing what had been said a thousand times. The second was about whether we[1] should stop using the word bitch, but much like the nigga/nigger/Monday debate, nobody listens to me when it comes to language reappropriation so I figured I’d save some keystrokes there as well. What I landed on as a good topic was does the glorification of bitch (as both a term and a concept) diminish black relationships? Is it that serious? Now, now. What’s important to note here is that this is about the upcoming generation. You may be just fine with the word bitch and have no reservations about whether that is a compliment or an insult to you. Others may not be so fortunate.

Now imagine there’s a shorty maybe five maybe fo’
Ridin’ round with his mama listenin’ to the radio
And a song comes on and a not far from being born
Doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong
Now I ain’t tryna make it too complex
But let’s just say shorty has an underdeveloped context
About the perception of women these days

So Lupe starts the narrative with a little boy about four or five years old. He’s “not far from being born” so he’s super young and still figuring the world out. He’s a tabula rasa in terms of the  socioeconomic pitfalls and stereotypes of Black women (or as the kids are saying these days, he’s Ray Charles to the bullsh*t). He’s riding in the car with his mom and a song comes on.

His mama sings along and this what she say,
“Because I’m a bad bitch. And I’m bad, bitch
Somethin’ else and far above average”
And maybe other rhyming words like cabbage and savage and baby carriage
And other things that match it

His mom sings along to this song while mindlessly saying, ‘I’m a bad bitch”. For those not familiar, this is a common term in music and overall life these days. Trina has declared herself the Baddest Bitch. Nicki Minaj is Barbie, bitch who once went on a repetitive rant where for about eight bars she just states “I’ma bad bitch”.

2 Chainz recently provided bad bitches with a birthday song, “It’s your birthday, it’s your birthday/ Bad bitch contest, you in first place“. Iggy Azalea only hits the club with “bad bitches“. Kanye once rapped, “Can I have a bad bitch without no flaws/
Come to meet me without no drawers?” So there’s that. Miguel croons on a Nas song that he wants, “Bad bitches, champagne wishes”. It’s not just the 2 Chainz and Waka Flockas of the music world. Trey Songz muses, “I’m on a bad bitch diet / You niggas should try it” Teen Soap Opera star Aubrey Graham even once festively stated, “I ain’t Santa, I got something for these bad bitches too“. Oh Drake. Then there’s Wale’s song “Illest Bitch” which is actually a pretty empowering song (and perhaps the greatest example of the attempted reappropriation of the word bitch).

Couple of things are happening here
First he’s relating the word ‘bitch’ with his mama, comma
And because she’s relating to herself
His most important source of help
And mental health
He may skew respect for dishonor

This unsuspecting child hears his mom, the person who provides his entire world for him, referring to herself as ‘bad bitch’. Naturally, he bestows the connotation of ‘caring, nurturing, together individual’ as ‘bad bitch’. Keep in mind, this is today. This ‘bad bitch’ trend is in today’s music. And kids are out here having kids so there are certainly more than a few children who experience this reality.

Bitch bad, woman good
Lady better. They misunderstood
Bitch bad. Woman good.
Lady better. They misunderstood.

According to Lupe, the term ‘bitch’ is bad. ‘Woman’ is a little better. ‘Lady’ is the best. The child misunderstands what this term means when he rationalizes it in his young mind. Also, the women who deem themselves ‘bad bitches’ are misunderstood in society. They just want to be the most attractive woman (not just physically).

Now imagine a group of little girls nine through twelve
On the internet watching videos listening to songs by themselves
It doesn’t really matter if they have parental clearance
They understand the internet better than their parents

So now we have young ladies watching music videos and listening to their iTunes.  Lupe takes the time to note here that this isn’t about good or bad parenting. That’s not the blame he’s trying to cast. Even the best parents cannot guard their children from the wild ways within the world wide web.

Now being the internet, the content’s probably uncensored
They’re young so they’re malleable, and probably unmentored
A complicated combination maybe with no relevance
Until their intelligence meets their favorite singer’s preference
“Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches
That’s all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches bad bitches”

These girls are on the internet looking at these explicit videos and songs and they’re very impressionable, as girls are at that age.  They probably also aren’t being mentored, which could make a world of difference. Or it could not. We’ll never know. (A complicated combination maybe with no relevance.) Even if they get past the lyrics and message of their favorite rapper, what about their favorite singer? Once this Trey Songz-esque voice starts to croon about bad bitches, will that change their thoughts? If all day a little girl hears a singer saying his ideal woman is a bad bitch this and a bad bitch that, are we to assume she can go through this critical stage of her life unaffected?

Now let’s say that they’re less concerned with him
And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims
Ah, the plot thickens
High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim
Reality check: I’m not trippin’
They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch

Ok. Let’s make the dangerous assumption that this little girl can get past the lyrics and even the source. Now she’s watching the video and she sees the women that are cast in the video. They’re tall, with long hair, big butts, they’re thin, and probably have a lighter skin color but that’s a different conversation. These young girls aren’t developed enough to pick apart the video and say, “That’s a weave, heels make her tall, booty implants are all the rage these days, and lipo is real”. That’s an exaggeration. Even if the women are 100% real, the girls aren’t capable of saying, “That’s cool but that doesn’t have to be me because it’s not realistic”.

Unfortunately all they internalize is I want a guy like [X Rapper/Singer] and guys like [X Rapper/Singer] apparently want [Created Image Personified by X Model/Actress]. Oh the damage being done to that young girl’s psyche.

Sure enough, in this little world
The little boy meets one of those little girls

This is where it becomes an even bigger problem. If “hurt people hurt people” what do “children who have had entire definitions and perceptions skewed due to the music they unconsciously internalized and have therefore projected into their relationships” do to each other[2]?

And he thinks she a bad bitch and she thinks she a bad bitch
He thinks disrespectfully, she thinks of that sexually

They’re both saying the same thing but the meaning has gotten lost. The now grown up boy from the first verse is saying this girl is bad (as in horrible) at being a bitch. His mom was a bitch and she was awesome. This girl is not at all like his mom. He’s not meaning it to be a compliment. Meanwhile, she thinks he’s complimenting her on her looks.

On the other hand, in opposition to Lupe’s narrative, I don’t think men today who say “that’s a bad bitch” are saying it disrespectfully. I think some are trying to say, “that’s a woman who is gorgeous”.[3]

Bad mean good to her, she really nice and smart
But bad mean bad to him, bitch don’t play your part
But bitch still bad to her if you say it the wrong way
But she think she a bitch, what a double entendre

Being called a “bad bitch” is good to her because she has her life together and that term reflects that in her mind. But in his mind, it’s an insult. This causes Her to chase Him thinking He likes Her and then Her turning bitter when He doesn’t reciprocate and thus a long life of unrequited love[4]. Meanwhile, this same girl will let her friends say, “Hey bitch!” and allow men in clubs to say, “Damn that’s a bad bitch!” but if the wrong person says it in the wrong way, “Look, bitch, what you won’t do is…” then she’s going to take it as an insult.  How confusing.

So the argument is this: is it that serious? Although it’s been proven time and again that the psyche of young boys and girls can be significant in their overall development (check out this little known Brown v Board situation. It cited psychological research as evidence for why segregation is horrible), does stating that one wants a “bad bitch” over a “good woman” really change the fact that one wants a woman who is together financially, spiritually, academically, aesthetically, and any other adverb that is appealing?

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. By “we” I mean you
  2. They go on Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta
  3. That’s not a compliment to me, but I have seen this go over well
  4. And the unfortunate acquisition of the phrase “n*ggas ain’t sh*t”