Sunday, 8 September 2019

“The Rap Bias” and race

Twenty-two years ago, I have a vivid recollection of reading Peter Kreeft’s Ecumenical Jihad and seeing some of the most outlandish claims I have ever read like:
“Even polls by the far-left Los Angeles Times in 1992 proved the existence of a massive media bias against traditional values, especially families, fidelity, morality, and religion.”
“We are not surprised when a teenager, who has typically seen fifteen thousand murders, rapes, and brutal beatings on TV and MTV and has heard this type of behavior encouraged and idealized on rap “music”, turns to violence.”
The notion that children could see fifteen thousand “murders, rapes and brutal beatings” on television or MTV has always made me laugh. So has the claim about the Los Angeles Times after reading such publications as Socialist Alternative, Socialist Worker and Green Left Weekly. Nonetheless, having in 1994 experienced a threatened murder leading to loss of $50 in Keilor Downs, and also bullying of a similar nature at school and during my early years in Carlton, I possessed and possess more sympathy for views like Kreeft’s than those around me would like.

Whilst some rap music – like gangsta rap – certainly does condone violence regardless of what its apologists say, critics neglect that many other genres of cutting-edge music were frequently equally or more violent:
  1. heavy metal
  2. grunge
  3. hardcore punk
  4. industrial
Moreover, extreme violence in heavy metal dates back to AC/DC. That band influenced but predate (most of) the above-mentioned sub-genres and were the first band to celebrate violence in their songs, as I have noted many times before. Celebratory violence in rap developed much later, beginning with N.W.A. around seven years after Back in Black’s ‘Shoot to Thrill’ glorified violence against women and stated there were “too many women” in the population.

Nonetheless, as Rachel Powers showed in ‘The Rap Bias’ from Orange Coast four years ago, it is rap that is associated with crime. Power says that:
“The bottom line of this research is that if you are somehow implicated in a crime, or if you are pulled over in a traffic stop, just the presence of rap music on your person or in your car can dramatically affect whether or not you’ll end up being prosecuted and convicted.”
“A [University of Georgia] law professor named Andrea Dennis wrote one of the earliest pieces on this practice, analyzing every case where defendant-authored lyrics were introduced as evidence in a criminal trial. All but one were rap lyrics...”
“The people who thought the lyrics were from a rap song [as opposed to a country song] saw them as more dangerous, offensive, threatening, in need of regulation, and literal.”
The last statement’s context demonstrates how conservative cultural critics simply ignore heavy metal and related genres of what my brother calls “white people’s music” or lump them in with “rap” as Robert Bork ridiculously did in Slouching Towards Gomorrah. This implies that criticism of rap is not related to (justifiable) moral complaints about lyrics condoning violence, but about criticising and blaming blacks – and that rap’s critics believe criticising heavy metal or other white genres will lose votes. However, in my view, the whites who listen to heavy metal are exceedingly unlikely to be persuaded to vote for conservative policies. Rather than being the struggling industrial workers upon whom Bush junior and Trump based their victories, heavy metal listeners are likely to be urban welfare-receiving whites. These people would be extremely unlikely to support tax cuts on bases of race because they would know that blacks suffer the same problems as whites, and because they are extremely dependent on the public sector for essential services.

In contrast, the whites upon whom Bush junior and Trump based their victories were poor rural folk who – owing to laws established between 1840 and 1940 excluding blacks from their communities (see James Löwen’s Sundown Towns) – have no direct contact with blacks and rely on outside media for their images thereof. Unavailability of noncommercial radio and concerts in rural areas means that these rural whites have had zero access to other than “middle-of-the-road” music ever since the tightening and standardisation of commercial radio playlists during the Carter Era. Consequently, they have missed the urban revolution in moral values during the past four decades, and feel severely threatened both socially and economically thereby.

Nonetheless, it is impossible for me to not believe that white musicians and cultural leaders are much more responsible for these radical cultural changes than black, even if white people have shown greater overt resistance to it. Moreover, because audiences for rap and cutting edge white music strongly overlap, criticism of the two needs to be linked and related to the economic and demographic problems faced by today’s Enriched World.