When I recently read the open letter to the rapper Slim Thug (pictured above), written by Columbia Professor Marc Lamont Hill (pictured below) at TheLoop21.com, I was concerned. I love "Slim Thugger" and his musical brilliance, but putting him in an intellectual toe-to-toe with one of the most brilliant young scholars in America is like putting Lennox Lewis in a boxing match with Beyonce. Marc is my boy, and incredibly sharp, and I would encourage him to pick on someone his own intellectual size. Simultaneously, I encourage Slim Thug to quietly walk away and shut up. He needs to stay in the booth and use his free time for something other than ridiculous social commentary.
Related Article: Talib Kweli: Rapper Replies to Slim Thug's Comments on Black Women
But Slim Thug asked for his public butt whooping, after engaging in one of the most feeble and misguided critiques of the African-American woman that I've heard in quite a while. Even for a rapper, he sounded as if he needed to be educated on what black women are all about. Here are Slim's words, "straight out of the negro's mouth":
...Most single Black women feel like they don't want to settle for less. Their standards are too high right now. They have to understand that successful Black men are kind of extinct. We're important. It's hard to find us so Black women have to bow down and let it be known that they gotta start working hard; they gotta start cooking and being down for they man more. They can't just be running around with their head up in the air and passing all of us.
I have a brother that dates a White woman and he always be f*cking with me about it saying, 'Y'all gotta go through all that shit [but] my White woman is fine. She don't give me no problems, she do whatever I say and y'all gotta do all that arguing and fighting and worry about all this other sh*t.'...
The truth is that Slim is not nearly as goofy as he sounds in that interview, but rappers sometimes force themselves to sound dumb in order to sell more records. Second, Slim possesses neither the moral authority, nor the mental precision to make his critique in an appropriate manner. Finally, he needs a translator, someone who could re-word his statement in "Black Scholar-ese," so that he and Dr. Hill can have an intelligent conversation about the important issue of black relationships.
Dr. Hill was typically sharp and articulate in the way he verbally "chopped and screwed" the Houston-based rapper:
In your interview, you talk about how much better white women treat their partners than black women. If what you're saying is true, why do Whites have the highest divorce rate of any group? Do white men get tired of being treated like kings? In reality, it seems that you are buying in to (and selling) a stale but dangerous ideal that constructs White women as ultra-feminine, loving, queens, and Black women as angry, selfish, and untrustworthy hoes.
Even more disturbing was your comment that "Black women gotta start being down for their man more." Since slavery, Black women have had to withstand rape, torture, and humiliation (from both white and black men) in order to sustain their families. Now, in 2010, 1 in 3 Black men between 20 and 29 years old are incarcerated or otherwise under criminal supervision. Every day, Black women are raising children without men in the house, working multiple jobs (for less pay!), and supporting brothers as they finish their prison bids.
The painful truth is that there is a place for Slim's remarks, since we all know that black relationships and black families are broken. While one must certainly agree with Dr. Hill's statements about much of the good within the black female community, we can't presume that every black woman in America is "holdin it down" while her man is in prison or currently enduring the lasting pain of the rape and torture of her ancestors. Just like men, some women can be less than perfect, and we all know that. Also, Dr. Hill's open letter to Slim Thug should also include an open letter to commercialized hip hop, which has turned the degradation of black women into a multi-billion dollar industry. I often wonder, however, why many of these albums are being purchased by black women themselves. But I digress.
Black men and women have decided not to marry each other and this is hurting our children. Rather than writing the entire debate off to "those brothers are trifling" or "all the sisters are messed up," perhaps it makes sense to be real in this discussion and talk about the issues.
What Slim Thug was trying (but unable) to say is this:
Some, not all, black women remain single for long periods of time, in spite of the fact that they have many viable male options. Our society does them no favors by presenting one news story after another about why black men are no good or why "good" black men are non-existent.
Most of us know a beautiful, intelligent, 30-something black woman who swears she can't find a man, in spite of the fact that she might likely know several men who would marry her at the drop of a dime. In some cases, her perception of the perfect man is elevated to the point that every man she meets misses the mark (except for unavailable ones).
Many black women grow up without a father in the home, which makes it difficult for some of them to figure out how to relate to a man. There is a way that a man wants to be addressed, treated and loved. Rather than learning how to engage with a man in a way that makes him comfortable, some see suggested behavioral modification as an affront to their independence and personal freedom.
In other words, "It's not my job to make you feel good about yourself!" Sorry my dear, but if you're my wife, then it is your job to make me feel good as a man, the same way it's my job to make you feel like a beautiful woman. The same way men are expected to adjust their behavior in order to get women to have sex with them, women might be asked to do the same in order to get men to want to marry them. It's a simple trade-off, and relationships require compromise and empathy that many of us are unwilling to provide.
Many black men, on the other hand, did not have a father in the home either, which causes them to miss out on the chance to learn how to be men. My biological father abandoned me when I was a baby, which led to my mother teaching me all the wrong things about being a man, since she didn't know how to be one.
When my step father came along and taught me simple things, though, it made all the difference in the world. Without his guidance, I would never have learned that a man never abandons his children and that a man makes sacrifices for his family, even if he is not personally comfortable. Instead, I might have been like a lot of men I know, making babies and not taking care of them, and looking for the easy way out of everything.
Black men and black women need to take the time to learn about each other. I suggest that anyone planning to get married read at least two books and take a class on how to make relationships work. The truth is that the toughness that black women have had to embrace for centuries can translate in to the inability to trust to make one lovable enough for a healthy relationship.
Simultaneously, the abuses black men have endured due to slavery and oppression can sometimes make us weak, unfocused and overly reliant upon black women to do the things that we need to do. While some can argue that many black women are psychologically damaged, most of that damage typically comes at the hands of a black man in her life. While we can point to millions of black men who engage in irresponsible behavior, though, we must all remember that most of these black men were raised by black women.
The chicken and the egg have worked together to create a very nasty omelette, and this has led to millions of highly dysfunctional relationships within the African-American community.
The "all black women are queens" approach is ultimately incorrect and does a disservice to black women, some of whom may need to really study the psychological hurdles that come with being raised without a father in the home. If I'd grown up without my mother, I wouldn't have a clue about how to treat women. The same parallel would be true for a woman who never learned "how to deal with daddy in the house." Also, the approach that says, "all black women are evil" is flawed as well, especially coming from Slim Thug, a guy who seems to expect women to bow at his feet, because he has money and isn't in jail. We are all to blame for this mess.
Read Talib Kweli's Response to Slim Thug here.
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Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.