I like black people. I like them a lot. Almost every indigenous American art form I enjoy is rooted in African-American heritage, all of them except cow-pie tossing. Other than my father, who's a white guy, my male heroes-Muhammad Ali, Julian Bond and James Baldwin-are all black. I keep a copy of Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain on my nightstand to remind me of what literature should be, but rarely is. In the past several years I have read 12 different books on the African-American experience in order to deepen my understanding of that experience and to better understand myself in the context of a society that remains unfairly divided by race.
Enough prefacing. Attention white guys: Stop acting like black guys.
I should clarify. If you want to act like black guys, act like dignified, virtuous black guys. If you want to act like Muhammad Ali, Julian Bond or James Baldwin, go right ahead. If you don't like my three choices, there are hundreds of thousands more examples to choose from. You can act like Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, Stokely Carmichael, Andrew Young or even Chuck D. But you may not act like Fiddy-Cent, Puffy-Smuffy-P-Sean-Daddy-Diddy, Two-Pack-o'-Newport, or anyone named Ice anything.
If one more of you perpetually adolescent little MC White-As-Snow, sideways-FUBU-ball-cap-sporting, beat-box jag-offs steps to me and be telling me how you be coming up all hard in Rancho Bernardo, DJ Jazzy Tony's gonna bust a cap in yo' ass. Word. Pull your pants up, conjugate your verbs and drop the act. I don't like it when real gangstas do that stuff; I sure don't like it when spotty-faced suburban brats do it. It does not make you whack. It makes you an asshole.
I cannot adequately describe the disgust I have over the adoption and cooption of a style of dress, speech, adornment and comportment popularized by the likes of The Notorious B.IG. and Ol' Dirty Bastard. I would be equally disgusted, but probably no more so, if a raft of youth decided to style themselves after Ferdinand Marcos, Karl Rove and John Wayne Gacy. Unbeknownst to most young people, that trio actually performed together in the early '70s, billing themselves as Rapacious Tyrants, Unrepentant Vote Fixers and Murderous Clowns With Attitudes. To avoid offending clowns, most radio stations referred to the group simply as "RTUVFMCWA."
Of course, the whole genre, whatever it's called, isn't really a black thing at all and my dislike of it has nothing to do with black or white; it has to do with propriety or degeneracy. It's really unfair that all that crap is associated with young, urban blackness in the first place. That probably has to do with the fact that the scumbag Doctor-Snoop-LL-Pimp-Mack-Daddy-Smoke degraders of womanhood and glorifiers of drugs and violence most visibly associated with the subculture of my disdain happen to be black. That is a shame for black Americans, a shame that owes to our society's lingering tendency to portray blackness through pejorative stereotypes.
In reality, the foul, sloppy, unimaginative, base buffoonery that gets my goat is no more black by nature than it is red, yellow, brown, white or chartreuse. It crosses all color lines and it pervades the fabric of a culture of slovenly youthfulness that has taken me 40 years to fully detest. I have no doubt that the pop culture of my youth offended my parents. But the pop culture of my youth did not enjoy the 24-hour-a-day promulgation of 900 channels of digital television, and it did not worm its way into the mainstream. Walter Cronkite never closed a CBS broadcast with, "and that's the buzz, cuz." Recently, I was watching a football game (thank God) and I heard a white announcer comment that a coach arguing with a referee had gotten "up in his grill." I hurled a beer can at my television.
Here is a list of terms, not all inclusive, that my teenage daughter and her lily-white suburban friends are not allowed to use in my presence: aaight, badonkadonk, baller, chillin', crib, diss, five-o, fo-shizzle, hater, keeping it real, off the hook and yo. I actually hope one of her boyfriends slips up in front of me some time and says something like "Homie be big pimpin'." Oh how I would enjoy that!
I don't expect all CityBeat readers to side with me on this issue. That's fine with me. I don't mind writing to a hostile audience. I'm down with that. That's how I roll. Tony don't be pandering to the peeps; he just be fixin' to raise up and get his confrontation on. Go ahead. Fire off those e-mails. All I ask is that before you do, you go stand in front of your full-length mirror and size up your attire. Note whether you're wearing anything ever donned by a performer from Death Row Records. Check closely for anything that you would refer to as "bling." Then reflect back upon the last several conversations you have had with your homies and try to count how many times you used a word like "shiznit." Ask yourself, honestly, whether you're a silly, undisciplined, wannabe-Compton, just-rolled-in-from-Peñasquitos goofball.
Whatever answer you come up with, send the e-mail anyway and be sure to use plenty of Internet abbreviations. I received one recently that read, "Ur an idiot." I saved it. It is the best evidence I have to date that I upset the right people.
One last thing: Today I'm launching the Jerrymeter, a precisely tuned instrument that tracks the passage of time from my third invitation to Mayor Jerry Sanders to come visit me for happy hour at Nunu's in Hillcrest. Today is Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006-Day 7 of Jerry Sanders being too good to come meet me for a beer.
Tony Phillips blogs at www.fifthavenuegazette.com. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and editor@SDCitybeat.com