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Oprah Townhall Meeting on Imus/Racism: What is Next?

Let me start of by saying the video above features some amazingly wise, well-spoken and world-changing African-American leaders whose opinions, histories and convictions I deeply admire and respect. 

On the other hand, I found today’s episode disturbing and uncompelling.  Today was the second part to Oprah’s Townhall Meeting on Imus/Racism: What’s Next? featuring various leaders in the hip-hop community.  Perhaps tomorrow youtube will have a video of some of today’s episode.

The thing that most bothered me was how the money-makers in the hip hop community blame poverty for the ludicrous, misogynist lyrics and images that fill many rap artists’ songs and music videos.  Yes, no African-American should have to face poverty, discrimination and life experiences that would negatively inform their dignity.  I understand that when you grow up in poverty and ignorance, you have a lot of negative experiences to draw from in your artistry and creativity.

But on the other hand, one of the leaders made a good point.  The KKK is known for being adults from poverty as well–mainly growing up in dire conditions and trailer parks.  Yet no one has excused their vile behavior when they act out–it is not okay.  Yet for the hip hop industry to glamorize this seems very contradictory.

I would challenge the industry to seek out hip hop and rap artists who can flourish in spite of whatever pain and poverty they come from.  I do not think it racism in America is acceptable, I realize that poverty tends toward African-Americans more than caucasians.  Yet still, I do not believe that the hip-hop industry leaders featured today were committed to looking at the negative ways they have contributed to the problem. 

Sure, they hold summits and charity events for youth where rap artists come and tell kids to stay in school.  Okay but bottom line here.  What if they just stopped signing artists who were going to use abusive and oppressive lyrics?  They are making money off of these artists, so they have a stake in the solution.

I also found this Oprah to be a little over the top.  Primarily because I have some little person friends who have been on Oprah twice and had very negative experiences.  They were told that Oprah doesn’t like little people, that she’s afraid of them and didn’t want them on the show.  I could tell you story after story of the negative treatment they received. 

I would have better appreciated Oprah not just looking at racism and sexism but focusing on restoring human dignity in all its faces, sizes and forms.   I often feel that although the treatment of African-Americans in this country still has a long way to go, the fact that they have the power to have a public platform on Oprah is still more than many minority groups in America have today.

I’m passionate about this because I fit into the “minority” box on 3 occassions–I’m a woman, a little person and ethnically Israeli.  Yet I want to use this platform not to say, let us fight for human dignity on all occassions–for me and just as much for the white, good-looking male.

More on this later.  What do you think?  I welcome your thoughts. 

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