I guess that I'm going to break my promise and actually say what I think about this Esmay vs Willis thing. I don't want to say that I'm defending Dean, because I'm really trying not to care. But I have been down this road with him before - I've heard the hardtime Chicago story. I understand where he's coming from, and this is what it sounds like to me.
Dean is kind of coming at blackfolks right now with a straight gangsta rap attitude, but before he did that, he was minding what he thought was his own business. He was talking on his website to his people and saying some crazy shit about race, trying to get a rise out of them. Then a lot of people called him on it. The ways he responded reminded me of black street performers at Venice Beach trying to get money out of white gawkers:
"Stop looking at me funny - this is just entertainment. You got to pay me some respect as an entertainer. If it wasn't for this job I'd be robbing you, be glad I'm an entertainer - but I'm letting you know the deal. I'm keepin' it real." He's smiling when he says it, but people are clutching their purses.
Like the gangsta rapper who is representing thug life, Dean cannot abide people who are genuinely offended by his message. If they can't take the message, how the hell could they deal with the reality behind the message? He's right.
Like the gangsta rapper who is representing thug life, Dean is feels he has a right to artistic license and people shouldn't mistake him for the real thug. He comes from a place where thugs rule and he turned away from that so he's really not a thug. He's wrong.
The substance of this debate has been long lost in everybody's willingness to say what it means or doesn't mean in the context of our society. I'm as guilty as anyone pointing fingers. Hell, I double dipped. This is my second post. But I tell you I don't have any sympathy for all the hurt feelings. This is what happens when you talk about race. And what's more, this is what happens when you only talk about race when it suits you. If you think you can get in and get out of the discussion, if you think it only applies to other people, if you think you can sum it up all in one quick MLK soundbite, this is exactly how you get screwed over. Because when you don't talk about race on the regular, you forget how deep it goes. You find yourself talking about your dying grandmother, and experiences that formed you when you were a kid. You start talking about violence and hatred - and you sorta know it, and then you find yourself feeling it.
I've been retired from talking about race for a while. I had my Vietnam War of race. I signed up for multiple tours of duty. And that's how I felt about it, duty. I don't like to talk about it, that's why I use all these metaphors. But here I am at 30 minutes past midnight writing about it. I am concerned that we have lost our ability to talk about race; that we are at a point of equilibrium at which people don't give a rats ass one way or another. We all know, or think we know enough examples of everything we knew nothing of, and still haven't experienced, to say that it doesn't matter what we think. We can say 'Tiger Woods this' or 'Eminem that' and somehow that proves that we individually don't have to work any harder. We all think we understand quite enough. I know I feel that way.
Perhaps out of a sense of obligation we ought to sacrifice a bit of our pride at being above and beyond this nasty business, and get down and dirty into it. Talking about race is difficult and nobody likes it except maladjusted weirdos. But we even-tempered people, at the horrible life altering risk of being called a name ought to do so. Especially if we consider ourselves thoughtful.