Fox News vs. the Rapper Common: The Real Story

After witnessing Fox News use the rapper, Common, as their latest, Osama Bin Laden, counter whip to flog President Obama, I have, once again, been compelled to act, not on behalf of Common and not behalf of President Obama or the First Lady, Michelle Obama, but on behalf of an age-old problem in this country that has existed since slavery; a problem that I would vehemently argue that every person who has ever lived in the Black community knows exists, even if many are too afraid to take it on. This is not about Common’s material or his hip hop ideology. This is not even about Common’s personal life choices; whatever those might turn out to be. This is about the resurrection of the reputed, ethnic specter of what I refer to as the “Fear of the Black Planet Syndrome,” which was diagnosed by the legendary rap group known as Public Enemy back in the 1990’s, and it, too, traces all the way back to slavery! It seems as if the more that fear fails to change; the more that ancient irrationalities and closed minded insecurities are also allowed to continue to thrive virtually unchanged, and I’m not even a fan of Common’s music, but I am a fan of his plight, because I personify it every time I take a stand against the unquenchable gluttony of racism.

So let’s deal with the first big issue, which is the well-documented, historical and traditional ill-will, often violent, between law enforcement and the Black community. One of the most intriguing reality discrepancies I uncovered during my time with many of my White friends, specifically my conservative White associates, is the stunning, yet predictable, purposely blinded, thick coating of Bigfoot/global warming disbelief that is present within these communities regarding the volatile relationship between the Black community and law enforcement, especially in regards to the presumptions of which side is the perpetrator, and which side is the actual victim. For whatever reason, there is almost always an extremely high number of Whites, specifically conservative Whites, who will rapidly downplay the credibility of police brutality, racial profiling and the always troubling scenario when an African-American person, usually a male, is killed by law enforcement. That number is probably equally as high when applied to African-Americans who will, just as rapidly, pinpoint and validate the credibility of African-American based claims of police brutality, racial profiling or the proverbial gunning down of the often unarmed, African-American male! When beliefs are so racially polarizing, one should look between the propaganda on both sides to find the realities of the truth, instead of the emotional, comfort zones of the biased sides.

After gazing upon such a view, to me, and to many others besides just African-Americans, it appears eerily suspicious and eerily vindictive that so many of the victimized tend to be African-Americans. The Bill O’Reilly’s and the Sean Hannity’s often characterize these situations as mere coincidences, but I’m not so sure about that. So whether it’s an unintended coincidence or a racial fantasy gone awry, it’s still unacceptable! If something happens once it’s a coincidence, if the same act happens again, it’s a trend, and if the same act happens for a third time, it’s a bonafied problem, and there are numerous others who would ardently agree. So just in case you’re unfamiliar with Sir Issac Newton’s third law of physics, please allow me to repost it here by stating: ‘Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction,’ and the resentful, distrustful sentiments expressed by artists and poets like Common are that opposite reaction, as are these recent uprisings against dictatorships in the Middle East.

People like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove have been all over Fox News hammering the judgment of the Obama family for inviting the rapper, Common, to the White House for a night of poetry, because some of Common’s records deal with this distrust issue that exists within the Black community surrounding law enforcement. Coming from the streets of Chicago, which is probably the real reason this guy was selected to begin with, even during candidate Obama’s campaign back in 2008, what do the Sean Hannity’s and Bill O’Reilly’s of the conservative dungeons expect Common’s material to be about; the many, racially profiled, Kum Ba Yah moments of law enforcement in the impoverished, ethnically disenfranchised, Black community, where it seems so many times that law enforcement sporadically appears just to serve the warrants, and monitor crime there in hopes of protecting more affluent neighborhoods elsewhere? Sean Hannity’s experiences with law enforcement might be filled with Kum Ba Ya moments, but if he expects people like Common or me to be treated like a Sean Hannity, then he suffers from what I refer to as “Affluently-Out-of-Touch Syndrome.” I’m not egotistical enough to expect Sean Hannity’s experiences to be my experiences, and he shouldn’t be so disingenuous to expect my experiences to automatically mirror his experiences based on some fraudulent, hierarchy model where the self-appointed, upper-echelon dictates their version of reality downward to the less-resourceful levels and then become infuriated when the less-resourceful refuses to dance the conservative jig to their inequality driven tunes being spun by DJ Jim Crow!

The second big issue at hand involving Common’s representation is the Nat Turner, Black-bogey man threat, which was first exemplified by Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his incendiary speeches of Black liberation. Similarly to Wright, some of Common’s material is most definitely truculent and defiantly revolutionary. So keep in mind that if there is one thing that frightens the heebie-jeebies out of traditional, conservative, White America, it’s any inkling whatsoever of the emergence of the mythical, sex-crazed, violent prone, revolution stirring, reparations demanding, slave revolt leading, White woman raping, Birth of a Nation, angry-Blackman stereotype or what my generation used to refer to as N.W.A. (Niggaz with an Attitude), and no one hates or fears this ethnic vibe more than law enforcement and the Sean Hannity’s and Bill O’Reilly’s of the conservative suburbia’s—but why? What is it about Black anger that intimidates so many people in this country? The answer to that question also goes back to slavery. Whether it’s Common, 2Pac Shakur, Bryian R., or the Obama’s, the anger needed to fuel the desire to seek out the truth, to fuel the confidence to claim equal ownership of the truth, and the self-appreciation and self-acknowledgement needed to then speak that truth to the establishment power is the quintessential epitome of Americanism, but it only seems to become a brand of socialism, communism, Marxism, or some radical, religiously cultish, fear mongered mentality when minorities decide to utilize it, quite often African-Americans.

The overall answer is simple. Black anger is born out of Black accusations of White, corrupted oppression known as racism, but that still is not the scariest part. The most frightening element of Black anger is the natural progression of the sequel to that Black anger, which will inevitably find its way to the highly controversial questions surrounding African-American, reparations for slavery and an outright ownership of that entire atrocity by this country, and the Sean Hannity’s and Rush Limbaugh’s would rather sprint through hell in gasoline soaked underwear instead of entertaining any notion of that argument, with legions of conservatives flaming right behind them.

Like police brutality and racial profiling, there are many who do not believe this notion is real; some out of non-relatable unfamiliarity; others out of cosseted denial, but an unwillingness to look will not change the vision that waits to face you, and no one knows this better than President Obama and Michelle Obama. If you go back and examine the career of President Obama and candidate Obama, you will become aware of a middle-of-the-road, safe picked pattern established by Obama from day one that he has managed to stick to till this very day. No matter how controversially frightening many of his associations have been, Obama has adroitly found ways to keep his lid tied on tightly, and that is by design, not by accident! One of the earliest criticisms, leveled by many in the conservative media, especially Fox News, of the Obama’s was geared at Michelle Obama during the early days of the Obama campaign. The only real compliant that conservatives could find to latch on to Michelle Obama was how mean and how angry she seemed to be according to their standards of political friendliness; a standard rarely, if ever, practiced by conservatives, and the Obama advisors scrambled the politeness jets in response; giving the First Lady a kinder, gentler makeover in hopes of re-imaging her “Angry Black Woman” exterior into a more approachable exterior of universal appeal, and the First Lady has soared.

Again, this was never really about Common or Reverend Wright. This has always been about the taboo fears of rightfully demanding groups of Black crops and their ability to grow through, beyond, and around the Jim Crow pesticides to demand justice, equality and the inalienable right to fight for what lacks and defend what remains! All of these fraudulent concerns over the children being indoctrinated by Common’s lyrics, including President Obama’s two daughters, is just another political football that hopes to score a presidential touchdown in 2012. And since Common’s unfriendly, law enforcement lyrics have been under the Fox News microscope, I think it’s only fair that I share my input as an African-American citizen and an African-American parent, so listen up Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

As an African-American citizen and an African-American parent, I would say the same thing verbatim to my offspring or to anyone else, which would go as follows: “For all African-Americans, minorities and other undesirables, but especially for the African-American males, I urge you to learn about Common’s angry distrust of law enforcement, because it did not start yesterday with him. To some people, the color of your skin will always be the grandest of your sins, and that goes from your teachers, your neighbors, your fellow students, and even law enforcement—just to name a few. This is not a post-racial society, and the only people who don’t visually see color are the blind, although that might not be the case ideologically! So, tune out the Sean Hannity’s and the Bill O’Reilly’s, because Common’s lyrics will be the least of your worries in life. The baggage attached to the color of your skin will be much more formidable! Fairly or unfairly, African-Americans over-represent the face of pursued crimes in this country, and don’t think for one minute that law enforcement doesn’t know that, which means that assumed guilt will find its way to you a lot more than it ever should, but it’s your responsibility, even if it’s not your fault, to learn how to deal with it. So remember this, authority figures are the ultimate, alpha males, and like the big, male lion, any inability to acknowledge this authoritative hierarchy will almost always be perceived as a threat/challenge to that authoritative hierarchy, which will produce some form of a confrontation, and the possibility of violence cannot be legitimately ruled out! So whenever you’re pulled over by an authority figure, like law enforcement, say as little as possible, by answering yes or no whenever possible; giving one word, direct answers to all questions asked. If you are asked where you are going, tell them you are going to work, church, to visit your mother, or to pick up your children. Answers such as these begin to chip away at the ethnically assumed guilt that already surrounds you. Remain calm at all times, and try not to raise your voice or appear threatening in any manner. Remember, the specter of the “Angry Blackman/thug” follows you everywhere you go no matter how undeserved that may be, and as unpopular as this may sound; depending on the circumstances of the time and location, you might want to consider using the response “Yes sir Mr. Officer,” especially if you are clearly wrong and the situation seems to be clearly escalating. You don’t have to mean it, just because you might end up saying it. If you’re just ticketed, you can move on to fight another day, but if you get into a physical confrontation with law enforcement, the end game could become catastrophic instantaneously; altering the course of your life and the lives of your family forever. Now, you don’t have to be afraid to speak truth to power/authority. If some Keystone Kop accuses you of being something that you’re not, by all means; properly establish your own identity unambiguously with forte and assertiveness. You just need to be disciplined enough to understand that you should never volunteer more than the amount that’s being asked for. Do not help law enforcement racially profile you anymore than they probably already have. It is one thing to be respectful to authority, but it’s something entirely different to be abused by authority, and there is a difference, and both sides involved should be mature enough and professional enough to choose mutual respect over egotistical displays of modernized Neanderthal-ism, because mutual respect does not, under any circumstances, translate into authoritarianism just because it’s shrouded behind a badge—manmade or ideological!”

What Common and many other African-Americans have explained to you is how to recognize this problematic danger, but what I’m telling you right now is a methodology that could enable you to successfully navigate these problematic waters of unjustified insecurities, and that’s more than the conservative ideologies of Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly can offer. The only thing that I’ve ever seen either of them put forth is the coward’s way out, and that applies to the entire conservative ideology, because those who fear complexity cling tightly to simplicity; painting with broad strokes of the non-investigative, white-washing brush for covering instead of confronting, and this bland, baseless ideology is nothing new. If our federal government is so corruptibly unscrupulous, according to the strong majority of conservatives, then how is it that law enforcement, an entity very much like the government, and even philosophically and literally tied to the government on all levels, is somehow miraculously, squeaky clean? Judging by many of the political discretions of our government officials, I think it’s safe to say that all of us drag our improprieties to work with us, and that includes our government, our law enforcement, and ourselves. Whether or not corruption exist is not the question, the question is what is being done about it, or what should be done about it, and uniformly picking your favorite side through some simplistic, biased form of absolutism is not the solution to the problem? It’s just a continuation of the problem, and the Common’s of the world have every right to be militant in response to such cowardice!

So, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity all want an end to the “Cop Killer” types of lyrics made famous by the song entitled “Cop Killer,” by Ice T’s band Body Count back in the early 1990’s. Well, here is what I want, which is the same thing that Ice T wanted, the same thing that N.W.A. wanted, the same thing Rage Against the Machine wanted, which is the same thing that Common wants today, which is an abrupt end to what I refer to as the ethnically induced “Oops Moment”; moments like Oscar Grant, Cornell Greathouse, Joseph Erin Hamley, Amaduo Diallo, Abner Louima, Michael Mineo, and too many others. Why is it that when law enforcement is mistreated or criticized you see conservatives protesting, but when you see a Rodney King situation or an Oscar Grant situation unfold, it’s the people, like a Common, who take to the streets to protest? Conservatives are traditionally unenthusiastic about taking on the establishment’s status quos, and one has to wonder if the glaring discrepancies between the prolific, financial status of the establishment and the social-program-like financial status of the poor plays a role in that somewhere.

The solution to all of this is not as hard as one might think it is. Anything in life that you are quick to jump up to support and defend, you should also be just as vigilant and courageous to diminish that support, and end your defense when corruption rears its ugly head of abuses, and that goes for the people on the outside looking in, and especially for those who are on the inside looking the other way! You don’t make excuses for incompetence—you make critical examples of it! Corruption is neither a one-way street nor a one color passenger! In my opinion, law enforcement should serve and protect all of the people as much as they are likely to serve and protect themselves by focusing on who is guilty and not on who should be guilty, and society as a whole, entertainers and poets included, should not glorify the killing of anyone, law enforcement included, because regardless of who you kill or for what reasons; it will always be unfortunate that cooler heads failed to prevail, as peace was inevitably unable to be realized or appreciated, because while non-violent, ideological disagreements represent the height of our cooperative evolution; senseless killings on all levels still represent our most primitive shadow that’s not always visible, but is always present.

Bryian K. Revoner

Author of the book: The Fear of Being Challenged, Democratically Independent; I Am the Realacrat