Hip Hop Fridays: Not Thru Our Eyes: The Failures of Hip-hop and U.S. Foreign Policy
“Look thru my eyes to see what I see/Do as I do and be what I be/
Walk in my shoes and it’ll hurt your feet…”
—DMX, Look Thru My Eyes (1998)
For the last few years I’ve been following world events, most recently: the
civil and political dramas in Venezuela and Chile, the genocides in Rwanda,
the Ivory Coast and the Congo, the G7/WTO summit-related riots, the hell
that breaks loose every week in Afghanistan, Palestine, North Korea, etc.
And throughout, one thing has been painfully absent: us.
Now when I say “us” I mean the people who live in those communities. No
matter what channel I watch, no matter what newspaper I read, or talk radio
station I tune into, the viewpoint and those giving it are almost
exclusively White and western. The reporters, anchors, analysts, pundits,
etc. are never from the communities involved, have no connection to those
communities, yet somehow they’ve been anointed as legit representatives of
AIDS is ravaging sub-Saharan Africa yet America doesn’t talk to Africans
about the problem; instead we consult “experts” from Europe and the US.
There’s election fraud in the Ukraine, but we don’t hear from Ukrainians, we
consult homegrown political analysts. Haiti and the Sudan suffer civil wars
but we can’t get anyone darker than a suntan to explain it to us. And with
all that’s going on in the Middle East, the American and Western media,
which are as biased as any, ignores everyone in that region and declares
Al-Jazeera (the Middle East’s most-watched news channel) a “terrorist
propaganda outfit” with no journalistic credibility whatsoever. Simply put,
the only worldview that matters to America is America’s.
And this solves problems, how?
Look, I’m from Chicago; when I wanna know what’s good in Bed-Stuy, I talk to
the residents of Bed-Stuy. More importantly, I let them speak for
themselves and tell me what their problems are. When I want to know what’s
good in the UK I go talk to native UKers and listen to their view. When I
want to know how to end the drug wars and gang violence in Brazil’s favelas
(projects), I don’t take the word of disconnected Portuguese intellectuals
who only kick on Brazil’s beaches from a distance like Snoop and Pharrell. I
go up to those Favelas and talk with the kids, and the adults, and the cops
who’ve made their lives there. Why? Because they know their communities
better than any foreign analyst does. The dumbest kid in Iraq knows more
about Iraq than any Westerner PhD who “studies” Iraq.
But for some stupid reason US media works the exact opposite. From coast to
coast the American media is still whiter than a December snowstorm in
Vermont. Their idea of fair and balanced insights is lily-white usually
pro-Bush think tanks (Cato Institute, Carnegie Institute, the Brookings
Institution, Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation, Centre for
Strategic and International Studies, etc.) spitting the same whitewashed,
westernized worldview. Besides Farai Chideya (popandpolitics.com), Muhammad
Ali Hasan (muslimsforbush.com) and occasionally, Dr. Susan Rice, I can’t
name a person of color that our media even pretends to listen to on foreign
policy and world events. And while Dr. Condoleezza Rice (and Colin Powell
before her) is the “face of American foreign policy”, once you look behind
that face, you’ll see the body of a much bigger machine at work. Same
applies to hip-hop.
The face of hip-hop may well be media darlings like Russell Simmons, 50
Cent, Wendy Williams, Tourè, P. Diddy, Michael Eric Dyson, Queen Latifah,
Snoop Dogg, etc. but hip-hop (or what passes for hip-hop) is controlled and
shaped by an 80% white and non-black consumer base and a 90% white-owned
marketing, manufacturing, retail and media base. So when the world sees
hip-hop, they see us thru the eyes of Viacom, Clear Channel and Rolling
Stone magazine. When the world sees Americans of color (suntans don’t
count), it’s thru the eyes of Sony, News Corp., NBC Universal, Westwood One,
Radio One, Condè Nast, Bertelsmann, GE, Tele-Communications, and Time
Warner. (They and other companies along with military outfits such as The
Carlyle Group, Bechtel, etc. not only control 90% of all we see, hear and
read, but they also pull political strings behind the scenes to influence
our elections and our foreign policy agenda.) And make no mistake; these
companies are fueled by support from that above-mentioned consumer base.
And it’s this consumer/corporate view of hip-hop that gets exported
nationwide and worldwide. And because hip-hop is the new face of American
culture, the world sees Black folks (especially those under 40) as niggers,
hoes, pimps, thugs and commodities to be used for entertainment, sports, war
and sex. They see us as responsible for the lack or morality, civility and
unity in America. Many foreign nations think America will conquer their
governments, put a Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and a Krispy Kreme on every corner
and turn their sons and daughters into materialistic, education-hating
thugs, pimps, babymammas and hoes.
Conversely, Americans have been breast-fed by the powers-that-be to see the
world as one big “them.” We see Africans, Middle Easterners and such as
dark-skinned godless foreigners out to get us—just as we once saw Native
Americans. We see all Hispanics as “Mexican” or “illegals.” We believe that
Britain and Israel are our only “friends.” We hate France, Canada and the
U.N.—mainly because Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller tell us to. We believe
the only culture that matters is America’s and the only language the Earth’s
6 billion people should speak is English.
MLK, Jr. once noted, “An eye for an eye means we all go blind.” For the last
4 years countless soldiers and officials have complained that our biggest
problem in the war is our lack of intelligence about our enemy and about the
countries we’re supposedly trying to help. Throughout history the greatest
source of racism and bigotry has been people’s lack of intelligence about one
another. So in my opinion the solution, or at least a large part of the
solution, is increasingly obvious.
As people of all countries, races and cultures we must learn to see the
world thru each other’s eyes and not just our own. We have to start walking
in each other’s shoes and not just our own. But more importantly we have to
start demanding that our governments, corporations and our respective
dominant societies recognize that world cannot revolve solely around their
biased views of it. Until we do we will remain blind, crippled and crazy and
at the mercy of those who want to keep us divided, fighting, and conquered.
Hadji Williams is author of KNOCK THE HUSTLE: HOW TO SAVE YOUR JOB AND YOUR
LIFE FROM CORPORATE AMERICA, hiphop’s first success guide for business,
culture and life.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
read excerpts and order: www.knockthehustle.com
Friday, December 10, 2004