This is an excellent commentary on the "Pimping" culture that is destroying the fabric of the Black community.
Pimping Consumer Culture
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
WASHINGTON -- I just can't get the tune ``It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp'' out of my head. It's the one that recently won an Academy Award for best original song. But don't for a second think I like the song, which is from the movie ``Hustle & Flow." I can't get the music out of my head because in a larger sense, the accolades the song is getting represent another hustle that's going on in the black community.
Black entertainers and entrepreneurs are producing stuff that reflects values African-Americans should be shunning. Yet I know some black folks were rooting for the song to win just because it was written and performed by African-Americans. Black unity doesn't mean paying good money for goods produced by people who have lost (or never had) a moral compass. And we shouldn't root for them, just because they're black. We need to be critical consumers in all our decisions.
That means don't spend your money or let your children spend their money to buy CDs with songs that depict women in the most degrading ways. Don't pay to see movies that are morally corrupt. Don't support entrepreneurs who sell products with names such as Pimp Juice. Boycott designers who sell clothing that makes a woman or little girl look like a ho (shorthand for whore). We shouldn't come that cheap.
This, of course, isn't a black thing. Black consumers aren't the only ones willingly spending money on products, movies and music that are values-challenged. But after the Oscar went to ``It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp,'' I was outraged so many blacks applaud its win. Jon Stewart joked during the Oscar broadcast, ``I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp." I did not laugh.
I saw the movie ``Hustle & Flow," but I would have never paid a dime of my hard-earned money to see it in the theater. I was on a cruise and there was a free screening. My husband and I had no idea what the movie was about. I had only heard the buzz about this movie co-produced by black filmmaker John Singleton. We watched in disgust as this picture made the character DJay, a pimp, out to be sympathetic. DJay's dream is to become a rap artist. One reviewer called him a ``pimp with a heart of gold.'' DJay's monologues about dreaming big are deep. But there is just one little thing -- he's a pimp.
You may argue that there is a long and honored tradition of sympathetic anti-heroes in both movies and literature. But my main problem with ``Hustle & Flow" is there's no moral center, no recognition either from the character or the film's writer or producers that pimping is wrong. All along the way while striving for his dream, DJay is a nightmare for the women he pimps. He makes one woman prostitute herself so he can get an expensive microphone. He doesn't have any remorse for the way he makes a living. He's only frustrated that his dream isn't coming true soon enough.
``Everybody gotta have a dream," says DJay, played by Terrence Howard, who was also nominated for an Oscar. OK, I'll give him that. A pimp can have dreams. In this case, he has a song in his heart that he wants the world to hear.
And what is that song? ``Whoop That Trick."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is turning over in his grave. It's not just ``Hustle & Flow'' though. Look at the debasing portrayal of women on videos abundantly aired by BET, a cable network started by a black man. But it's not just the network's fault. These porn-like videos continue to be made because millions of black people keep buying the music featured in them. People actually pay to hear vile, profanity-laced routines by black comics.
A few years ago Nelly, a hip-hop superstar, introduced an energy drink called Pimp Juice. Nelly even created a P.I.M.P. (Positive. Intellectual. Motivated. Person.) scholarship. This year's scholarship will award monetary prizes for college students who submit the most creative commercials for Pimp Juice. It's an opportunity for them to produce a commercial ``that best captures the essence of the energized, successful hip-hop lifestyle,'' the scholarship announcement said. No doubt in my mind, most of the commercials will have half-naked women gyrating and grinding on men.
I don't care how much money my children might need for college, there is no way in the world I would let them or encourage them to apply for a scholarship that uses the word ``pimp" as its acronym. Nelly can try to make the letters spell out something positive all he wants, but it still stands for pimp. Does he have any sense of what a wretched human being a pimp is? A pimp sexually and financially exploits women, often young girls.
As consumers we have a lot of power. Clearly the entertainers and entrepreneurs won't stop producing trash until we stop supporting them with our dollars. Let's make it impossible for people to get rich or make a dime glorifying the pimp lifestyle and other such immoral behaviors. It ought to be hard for them out there.
Listen to Michelle Singletary discuss personal finance every Tuesday on NPR's ``Day to Day.'' To hear her reports online go to http://www.npr.org/. Readers can write to her c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her e-mail address is [email protected]. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.
© 2006 VANESSA BYERS, Vanessa: Unplugged