Originally published at The Well Versed
When dealing with irrational people, rational discourse is not a proper weapon in battle. There are three types of people in the world: Those who are with you regardless, those who are against you regardless, and the middle—those who can be swayed by a persuasive argument.
The “controversy” surrounding the Obama White House’s decision to invite Common to a poetry event is now threatening to reach some absurd level of a fever pitch. In all honesty, I wanted to ignore what I thought would be a non story, but as a long time Hip Hop fan, I’d be remiss to let “journalists” with little to no ties to the culture write this narrative entirely.
Let’s be clear, Hip Hop fans know how foolish this argument is. Common may have been rough around the edges in the beginning of his career, but starring in movies with Queen Latifah and walking around in funny clothes (yes, I’m channeling the Electric Circus era here) hardly makes one gangster or thuggish or whatever synonym conservatives are using these days.
There are those on the right who will use this as one more blunt object to bludgeon the White House with. I’m not talking to them either and offer only four letters to those: “S-T-F-U” (you only get half a bar, word to Jay-Z).
This one is for the middle. And it’s my hope that well meaning Hip Hop fans will share this via whatever social networking site is at their disposal.
As news came over the blogosphere that Obama had invited a controversial, “vile rapper” to appear at “Celebration of American Poetry,” I thought the White House had temporarily gone insane and invited Lil Wayne to kick a hot sixteen to some impressionable young children. Instead, I was greeted to images of Common raked over the coals over a poem spit a couple years ago on Def Poetry, that nobody but the staunchest of Hip Hop heads, Common fans, and poetry enthusiasts watched or cared about.
Always dedicated to the facts, Fox News ran a story on the matter which contained the following journalistic gems:
“Common is not known as a gangsta rapper, but some of his songs and poems feature violent imagery. In one poem, he called for the metaphorical burning of President George W. Bush — a ‘burning Bush’.”
Oh, and the lead for this story: “A musician with ties to President Obama’s former controversial pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.”
Kudos to Fox for at least having the intelligence to recognize a metaphor, where other “news” outlets accused Common of literally advocating setting former President Bush on fire. As for the rest of this: I.Just.Can’t.
This is a monumentally stupid, baseless and manufactured controversy.
However, I’m a firm believer in teachable moments which brings us to the outrage of the New Jersey Police Department. The Boys in Blue aren’t outraged over the Bush line, but over one particular song in Com’s catalog, “A Song For Assata.”
“A Song For Assata” recounts the story of Black Panther Assata Shakur who was acquitted three times (yes, three times) before being convicted of the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. Shakur eventually escaped from prison and lives in Cuba after receiving asylum from Fidel Castro.
New Jersey State Sen. Anthony Bucco called on Obama to apologize for the invite in a statement.
“President Obama must apologize to the New Jersey State Police for inviting a rap singer who praises the assassin of a New Jersey State Trooper to the White House,” Bucco said. “The president should realize, especially after May 1, the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform who protect us all, both at home and abroad. I am especially outraged that the rapper finds the controversy over his lyrics amusing. The murder of a trooper is not a laughing matter.”
Folks, it would be too easy to dismiss Fox News due to their low no standards of journalism. The involvement of the New Jersey State Police warrants further examination.
Instead of the New Jersey State Police asking for an apology, they should be the ones apologizing, on behalf of New Jersey and perhaps law enforcement officials nationwide.
How about an apology for Cointelpro? For the systematic targeting of civil rights leaders during the Civil Rights Movement.
How about an apology for all the people—of all races—shot and killed unjustly at the hands of the police? Some as young as seven.
The only thing outrageous about this story is the hubris exhibited on the part of the New Jersey State Police Department, State Sen. Bucco and those that would support them. That anybody would have the audacity to not prostrate and kiss the ass of law enforcement—racial profiling, beatings and shootings be damned—is apparently a foreign concept. The fact that these folks are baffled as to why people might be critical—or even hostile—to law enforcement is the real controversy here.
I can dismiss Fox News and other pundits for stirring up controversy for page views and TV ratings. I shudder to think that people sworn to protect us and make decisions that affect us all hold views that are divorced from history and present day reality.