Warning: this post contains lyrics describing violence and sexual assault.
“I’m comin in the house and I’m gunnin’ for your spouse
Tryin’ to send the bitch back to her maker
And if you got a daughter older then 15, I’ma rape her
Take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you
Then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?
Frustratin’, isn’t it? When they kill me, but I’ma kill you
Now watch me fuck just a lil’ while longer, please, will you?”
–DMX, from “X is Coming,” on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot
Today in my friend’s Hip Hop culture class, discussion ignited over DMX’s lyrics. In the midst of a conversation portraying DMX’s corpus as part of the “sacred texts” of Hip Hop, my Caucasian female friend brought up the above lines and questioned whether a community should honor lyrics about the rape of a 15 year old as “Hip Hop Scripture.” One by one various class members brushed her concerns aside, repeating the mantra, “If you want to understand someone you need to know where they are coming from.”
When another classmate objected to a woman “having” try to understand a person in order to appreciate his oppressive mysogynistic lyrics, a male African American classmate countered, saying, “It gets messy when you talk about oppression because she is White and DMX is Black.”
As a white male, I am a complete outsider and insider in this discussion. I don’t know what it is like to be Black in the U.S. I also don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. I do know what it is like to be privileged. However, this discussion raises questions worth exploring. Should we require everyone to approach a text, like DMX’s, with understanding first? Here, I agree with my friend. No.
Requiring a woman to adopt an “understanding” attitude in order to approach a text saturated with male aggression is to perpetuate male aggression. For it forces her, as a first step, to submit by placing “him” first. In the case of a discourse about rape, this is violence against her. I would not require a Black individual to approach a racist text with understanding first. I am not trying to make any statement about whether mysogyny is more oppressive than racism, nor am I saying that a woman–or any person–cannot choose to approach violent texts with understanding. I am only saying that requiring it is wrong.
Lastly, I would never want shrines in Hip Hop, sacred cows that could not be criticized for fear of being called racist. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain and oppression that gave birth to DMX’s songs. But to treat a person as an ethical equal we must accord them the dignity of sometimes being wrong.