I met a gentleman at a function I attended representing the Marketplace. I shared with him the mission of our organization and the importance of social responsibility. As our conversation progressed he said that there are things that we as African Americans need to say that are being left unsaid. I knew exactly what he meant and we continued to have a very frank and fruitful discussion.
I thought about our conversation and decided if there’s something that needs to be said I’m going to say it. After all, isn’t that the socially responsible thing to do?
We will not progress unless we are willing to accept the fact that we need to shoulder some of the responsibility for our current condition. If we want to accept the accolades for our successes and accomplishments we must also shoulder some of the responsibility for our failures and missteps.
We cannot place the entire blame for our situation on external conditions.
Don't get me wrong, there are a multitude of things affecting African Americans that we have little or no control over. African Americans cannot eradicate racism. We cannot change the cultural philosophy of those who promote exclusion versus inclusion. I am not absolving anyone of their actions. All I'm saying is we need to spend more time looking inward at our own behavior and start doing a better job of holding people accountable for their actions.
One of the controversial lines in Lil Wayne's song Karate Chop is "Beat that p---y like Emmett Till". This one line has received notoriety and forced Lil Wayne to issue an apology. He also lost a couple of advertisers. I've read the lyrics of the entire song and that is not the only line I have an issue with. In my opinion the song is extremely degrading to women. Lil Wayne's apology does not mean much to me. There's a lot of money at stake in the rap game and I believe he did what he had to do to protect his financial interests.
To add insult to injury, there are those that find nothing wrong with the song. Rapper-singer Future commented:
I never thought it would get so much attention. But I think overall with the whole situation, he did bring light in a positive way to what happened [to Emmett Till], even though they probably thought it was negative; he brought positive energy to the situation. Because a lot of people don’t know…my dad didn’t even know who Emmett was. He’s thinking I’m talking about Emmitt Smith…he raised the awareness to people who didn’t even know who Emmett Till was. To young kids who didn’t know what happened to him…So when situations like that do happen, I don’t believe in any way, form, or fashion he did it out of disrespect towards the family.
There's a lot of other ways to bring light to the social relevance of Emmett Till. In the meantime Lil Wayne is still selling out concerts, his records sales have probably not been impacted, and he gets a lap dance from Nicki Minaj on national television (another subject that I could go on about).
Then there's Rick Ross' date rape song. Again another apology once there was a financial impact.
My point is not to attack rap music industry, It is to bring attention to how we are perceived based on the images we present. There are a lot of people in the rap music world that are doing some very positive and productive things, unfortunately we don't hear enough about them.
I've written about this before:
"....social awareness is what you know, social responsibility is what you do. Social responsibility is an ethical ideology or theory that an entity, be it an organization or individual, has an obligation to act to benefit society at large. Social responsibility is a duty every individual or organization has to perform so as to maintain a balance between the economy and the ecosystem. This responsibility can be passive, by avoiding engaging in socially harmful acts, or active, by performing activities that directly advance social goals."
Obligation is the key word. If we are going to progress each of us have an obligation to make a personal commitment to our success. We cannot afford to rely on anyone else to get it done. We're the ones being impacted and we're the ones that have to get it done. We have to become comfortable "outing" those that are not carrying their weight. We have to be able to have real conversations about real issues. We must learn to engage.
"We live in an age of social media. Disseminating information on a large scale quickly is no longer a challenge; a video clip can go viral virtually overnight. We can leverage social media to promote social awareness and social responsibility. We can create a place where information can be shared, issues discussed, and programs promoted."
Are we willing to say the unsaid? Are we prepared and ready to engage?
It starts now, let's get this thing done....
2013-06-18 Editor's Note: Karate Chop is Future's song. Lil Wayne was a featured artist.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.