You know, there are a few rappers who are always good for an eyebrow-raising, debatable, no-they-didn’t-really-say that comment or two. The shiny crown, in my humble opinion, has to go to that champion of controversy Kanye West, who’s been making jaws drop and heads shake in headline-making succession for years. Hot on his undiplomatic heels, vying for the spot of runner-up next to Lil’ Wayne and 50 Cent, is Clifford Harris, who is usually a friend in my head. But some things he said in the past week or so have made me put him on time out.
His Vibe interview has been drenched in drama because he admitted to finding Tracy Morgan’s whole spiel about homosexuality hilarious, and he said as much during the course of the question-and-answering. The fallout from it, he said, was un-American, and gay folks who had been offended were being too sensitive. He certainly isn’t the first person we’ve heard express that thought because it is, as most of us know, the sordid song of the insulter basically telling the insultee to get over it. Factor in the bravado of hip-hop generation males, who generally go out of their way to prove they couldn’t possibly be anybody’s L, G, B or T by being disrespectful, and this was bound to be a hot story.
But then he went on TMZ—of all places—to clarify his comments and ended up stepping in verbal poo poo again. When Harvey Levin asked if he thought that Black folks should have the same suck-it-up attitude about inflammatory comments, T.I. agreed. Black people can be too sensitive, he said. (And woe be damned if you so happen to be Black and gay. Guess you better keep Kleenex on hand at all times.)
I beg to differ with Clifford. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite—Black people aren’t sensitive enough. And if we do manage to get the fires of outrage brewing, they never, ever stay lit for very long.
When Diddy spit “got Asian women who’ll change my linen after I done blazed and hit ‘em,” the Korean, Japanese and Chinese massive mobilized, you hear me? They were on it, fired up—and ready to fire the Didster up, too—until they got an apology from him and a censored omission of that line from the song. But we’ve been bitches and tricks en masse, nappy-headed hoe’d and uppity Black woman’d by public figures, politically mollywhopped and culturally exploited, but we know how to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Sure, we get temporarily ruffled and we might break out the NAACP big guns and march on something or go on Larry King in a huff or hold a vigil—Black folks love a candlelight vigil—but eventually, we’re back to our regularly scheduled program until it happens all over again.
T.I. says the only exception to our aloofness should be when someone calls us the N word. That’s crossing the line, in his opinion. But folks call us stuff a heck of a lot more hurtful—like inmates and dropouts—and when we react, if we react at all, our passion doesn’t stay lit. So no, T.I., Black people are not too sensitive. Far from it. If we were too sensitive, we wouldn’t keep having the same cyclical incidents and issues to react to.
I’m not sure if it’s because we can be so disconnected from our history that we find it hard to be deeply impacted by the things that should offend and insult us. Our community is brimming with folks who are Black by happenstance. They don’t give a conscious thought to what it means to be in this skin, the experiences that we have on a shared level as members of the same community, no matter where in the country—even the Diaspora—they’re based in. They just Black. On their skin, not in their soul. So as far as I can tell, it’s impossible for folks who wake up everyday and live life without tying themselves to their heritage to feel some kind of way when someone slanders their people or even does subtle things that make the N-word look passé, like pass them over for a promotion or assume they’re inarticulate because they have an “isha” or “ika” at the end of their name.
One thing I can say about T.I., though: at least the man says what’s on his mind. In this age of political correctness and feigned diplomacy, Celebrityville is churning out super-cautious, super-placid interviewees in almost assembly-line fashion. An authentic thought is rare and I’m thankful for it, even if it did make me furrow my brow and take to my keyboard. Were it not for the Kanyes and the Waynes and the T.I.s flying off at the mouth and stressing out their poor publicists, we would be missing out on the gems of controversy they give us to talk about. Until the next time Rapper A, B or C introduces his new line of verbal tomfoolery, stay sensitive.