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Thursday, June 16, 2005

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The sound & the fury

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: The sound & the furyThe sound & the fury

The violence and misogyny of rap at its dominant extremes have become such negative influences that there is much to be learned from listening to the problems that even middle-class black parents have as they try to rear their children free of its polluting impact.

I recently spoke with two parents, both successful and suburban. One is a father with two teenage sons, the other a mother with a teen daughter. Both are troubled by the angry, pornographic and thuggish culture that has attracted their children.

The father finds that his two sons have no interest in anything of substance - no art, no music, no theater, no books. They look at videos, read rap magazines and do their best to imitate the look and the talk of inarticulate rappers.

He finds that it is hard to counteract the pornographic exploitation of adolescents because the material is not like dope. It may be tasteless, but it is legal. It's not considered illicit. It's not underground. It's right in the face of everyone and has become the basic language of expression for young people.

"This stuff has very little to do with any of the richness of black American culture. All of this is from the gutter, which is supposed to make it authentic. Young black kids are given the idea that if they don't want to become soulless suburban kids who have sold out to 'white' ideals and values, they have to embrace this cursing, bullying, misogyny and thug materialism. Part of its appeal is that stupidity and ignorance are easy to imitate. There is no challenge," the father says.

The mother is sending her daughter to boarding school to get her away from the street influences of the suburban black kids who have been swallowed whole by the blob of street culture, which has given the thug, as she says, "the strongest cachet. Everybody wants to be as unpleasant and as bad as they can be. They want to fight, they want to curse at the top of their lungs, they want to run over everyone. When my 14-year-old daughter got involved with this 16-year-old boy who was pulling armed robberies, she felt she was into the real thing. She was authentic. She was tough. That was enough for me. The talk was over. She was going to boarding school."

These are but a few examples of what is going on in our country today. This is neither a joke nor a game, and the danger to our children is as great as anything that has ever emerged. Do not be confused. It is not a censorship issue. It is not a free speech issue. What is wrong would be the same if the language were as pure as spring water. The issue is facing up to the problem of denigration and dehumanization that is being huckstered for profit under the sheep's clothing of youth rebellion. Thugs and pimps are being celebrated; the hatred of women is projected as a norm, and all is justified by the crudest imaginable elevation of materialism.

As the mother of that teenage girl says, "It has always been hard to be a parent, but I don't think that previous generations have had to face anything like this."

That is why it is so important that Essence magazine and a growing number of editorial writers are exposing this danger. Our children and their parents need all the help they can get.

Originally published on June 12, 2005

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