Prologue: I could easily not write this post and probably many others to come. It’s about a song that few people have heard and fewer remember. I doubt I will change any minds, least of all, the mind of the songwriter. But silence is no longer an option. It was silence that built a prison around me in my adolescence. It’s silence that pushes other adolescents over the ledge. [There, but for the grace of the Creator…] So, I write.
I think I still remember the day. The first time that I heard Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. In fact, I’m sure of it. Not long after (I’ve never been what you would call “up” on music), ATliens damn near slayed me. The southern drawl, the story telling, the talking about something other than just blunts and broads-ism. To my 15yo ears, OutKast’s words were gold. A stan was born.
Aquemini, released during my freshman year at HU didn’t disappoint. And when it was announced that OutKast would be headlining Homecoming that year? No brainer. And when I could find no one who shared in my squeals of joy and anticipation, never-go-anywhere-alone-Bhan strutted over to Cramton Auditorium the day tickets were released, stood in line for a good long time, and spent her scholarship money on a single ticket. Second row.
I felt a drop of Andre’s sweat. Swear.
Good thing he didn’t know I was gay.
(Sidenote: To be fair, neither did I at the time.)
She nigga bashin sayin you don’t need ’em in your world
Niggaz all dogs? If niggaz all dogs, then what you call broads?
Felines in heat, meowin for some yarn balls
Now you and her done got to drankin
Oh now it’s really crunk, cause y’all silly drunk
and your girl done got to thinkin
She talkin bout, “Girl you look so beautiful”
You say thank you bein nice you try to change the subject
Want some beans and rice? But she’s back at you like a pit
mixed with a chihuahua how much meaner can you get?
Don’t let her have her way with you she’s gonna have a fit
You’re the candy apple of her eye and ’bout to get bit
here’s what you do — you
grab her by her neck, throw her on the wall
Say, “Bitch don’t ever disrespect me never not at all”
These simple words can put a pause to half of the applause
Them black ball laws of balance at all cost
How many times did you read those words? It took me 3 full reads, 2 listens, and another read before I accepted what was in black and white in front of me. And what it was, was a bigoted, homophobic fairy tale, complete with myths, lies and a happy ending, i.e. the heterosexual triumphs over the homosexual threat.
I. could write. for days.
I could write about the myth that homosexuals women are man bashers.
I could write about the myth that homosexual behavior (as opposed to all sexual behavior) is induced by loose morals, alcohol and/or drugs.
I could rant, and I mean RANT, about the bigotry and sexism inherent in calling a lesbian a mean pit bull.
But I think that what this really needs to be about is the violence. The violence that is championed in order to achieve “balance at all cost”. The violence that quietly seeped into the minds of countless juveniles and young adults that bopped their heads to another one of Andre’s smooth narratives. The violence that, at that time in my life, I may have supported.
In October, a young man accosted another young man, who happened to be gay, by surprise. He beat him and kicked him while his friends not only watched, but videotaped the attack. A week later, another young man, this time the sibling of a lesbian young woman, was attached at another school not far away. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, when confronted with these horrific stories, has asked myself, “what could be going through those kid’s heads that would make them think that was ok?”
I’m not saying that Ohio’s teens are listening to Mamacita and turning into gay bashers. But I do believe that there is a subtle, yet clear, message being sent to these teens that violence, whether by word or by deed, is an acceptable way to respond to homosexuality. And let’s be clear. This is not about responding to attempted sexual assault. The message Andre sends is that in order to maintain balance, a gay person must know their place. And if they ever appear to not know it, feel free to remind them of it by slamming them against a wall.
And I keep coming back to the realization that I, in my not so distant youth, would have supported that thinking. A lesbian from birth (no, seriously, trust me on this one), even I was convinced that the gay needed to be quarantined. And if that meant a head or two rolled, well, they were gay.
So that’s why I couldn’t be silent. I know what these types of words can do in the head of a young person when coming from a source that, by teenage standards, is creditable. I suggest that, as a community of same-sex loving, gender queer, and allied persons, we can’t let these statements go unchallenged. Even when the purveyor is someone we love and adore. Our kids deserve our protection more than any celebrity deserves our adoration.
Besides, that fan club presidency was taking up too much room on your resume.Bhan Voyage Boredom is a gateway drug. Avoid it at all costs.