Something came to my memory from childhood that I think speaks to this issue with Imus and Rutgers. When the Rolling Stones came out in 1971 with one of their signature hits "Brown Sugar", I remember to this day my parents hitting the roof over it. I also remember the first time I went around singing the lyrics, innocently enough for a small girl; I was prone to sing anything because I loved music; back then my tastes ran to the Jackson 5 mostly.
"Do you know what they are saying? Do you know they are talking about black women?" my mother intoned.
I remember standing there stunned, not fully comprehending what she meant, but I remembered the intervention to this day. More than that, I remembered the feeling and the tone. I also got the message from my parents, and I deduced quickly to take that out of my heavy rotation of radio favorites. Why? Here are the lyrics, according to lyrics365.com:
Brown Sugar(M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright
Hear him whip the women just around midnight
Brown sugar how come you taste so good?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should
Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin' where it's gonna stop
House boy knows that he's doing alright
You shoulda heard him just around midnight
Brown sugar how come you taste so good, now?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should, now
Ah, get along, brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, got me feelin' now, brown sugar just like a black girl should
I bet your mama was a tent show queen
Had all the boyfriends at sweet sixteen
I'm no schoolboy but I know what I like
You shoulda heard me just around midnight
Brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should, yeah
I said yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
How come you...how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
Just like a...just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, wooDoes the album this comes from "Sticky Fingers" have a Parental Advisory sticker? Is it edited or bleeped when it's played on classic rock stations? Is it banned anywhere?
The reason I bring this up is, I'm very disturbed by the black intelligentsia, Oprah, et al buying into the notion that the reason Don Imus said what he said 2 weeks ago is because of hip-hop. It's "our" fault. This seems to me like the victim of any form of abuse saying "I provoked it. I made them angry. etc." Now, before you think I'm letting hip-hop entirely off the hook, it is well documented that those who are abused will often turn and abuse others later in life. Hence we see more explicit, but no less harmful, lyrics out of 3-6 Mafia, Snoop, Eminem, etc. Now, Brown Sugar came out in 1971. Imus was on the radio then, hip-hop wasn't invented yet. So who do we blame for these heinous lyrics, Oprah? And this is just one example. The historical references of rape and beatings in this song are accurate, even for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the songs' writers. Also interesting when you consider the mothers of 2 of Jagger's daughters, including his eldest child are women of color - Marsha Hunt (Karis) and Bianca Jagger (Jade). By the way that's Karis Jagger standing next to her dad in the photo above when Mick was knighted, along with her grandfather and younger sister Elizabeth.
No doubt many people probably didn't know what the lyrics were outside 'Brown Sugar' in the chorus, because Mick doesn't enunciate too well on it. My question is, why are the black media, activists, and Oprah running to make Mr. Imus feel better by saying, "No, it's our fault."? Imus' pointing the finger at hip-hop is the media version of the 'devil made me do it' defense.
Back to my parents. When I was growing up, the lessons I learned on lyrics were:
1. Think for yourself. I wasn't allowed to bring vulgar music in the house. If something came on TV or the radio my parents' mantra was "You let that go in one ear and out the other, you understand?"
2. On the rare occasion I tried to sneak something objectionable in, and my parents caught me, I had to sit down and listen to it with them. THEN get a detailed explanation from them on what the song meant. Parents,trust me, any child or teen would rather be seen holding their mother's hand at the mall than have to sit down and listen to a record with their parents.
Hip-hop may be the latest culprit in vulgarity,disrespect of women, and disrespect of African-Americans, but society had a 370 year head start on it.