Monday, June 25, 2012

What Nas and Newt Gingrich have in common.

This week's Music Monday post is Nas' I Can. They play this song often on the Back in the Day Cafe on my local hip-hop station. We won't get into the fact that a song that came out when I was a full-flegded adult is now considered a back in the day jam :p

The lyrics are pretty easy to follow, but if you'd like to read them, you can do so here.

My favorite parts of the song are when he says, read more, learn more, change the globe and also when he sings/screeches Your man'll sing, "She's my Queeeen!" That line always makes me smile.

But what I really like about this song is the message: Work hard, and achieve your goals. Don't look to others to take care of you, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

So here is the first of many of my questions: What is it that makes it okay for Nas to make a song like this, but when someone like Newt Gingrich (i.e. a white republican guy,) says something similar, he gets seriously criticized for it? I am thinking of Gingrich's idea about children working as janitors.

I mean, Nas doesn't say, "Blame the system for your problems." He says, "Make a goal, stay out of trouble, and you will be successful." And yes, I know that the janitor example is not a perfect one, but it does illustrate a number of conservative principles.

It is worth pointing out that in the entire 3rd verse, Nas gives the listener a brief lesson in African and African-American history. This is not something I would ever expect to see Newt doing in a stump speech. Is that the key difference in the two messages? Nas' acknowledgement that the white man was/is trying to keep the black man down? Is that why Nas' message is more palatable?

Even then, I still don't get it, because Nas is still saying "Yes, the white man was/is trying to keep you down--but work hard anyway." And while I don't know if Newt Gingrich would agree that the white man is currently trying to keep people of color down, I think he would concede that it happened in the past and his response would be, "Yeah that happened, and it was bad--but work hard anyway."

Actually, I think that Newt Gingrich might say that the white man is still trying to keep people of color down--by giving some of them welfare and free housing and making them totally dependent on the government.

Here's the thing: What makes it okay for a black liberal to say, Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but not a white conservative? Or any conservative for that matter, because conservatives of color are not exactly celebrated for being voices of reason.

Is it because we think we know the intentions of these different groups? Black liberals like Nas are assumed to have good intentions, while conservatives of all colors are assumed to have bad ones? Some other reason that I haven't thought of?
Lots of question marks in this post, and they aren't rhetorical questions, neither.

Also, I'd like to remind you that with my new and improved commenting system, you can now get the instant gratification of putting your ideas into cyberspace, if you let me know what you think below. So...leave me a comment!


  1. The current culture is not to hip to white guys challenging the minority community. Very long and troubled past. It comes across no matter how well intended as crass. I believe identity politics has done a great deal to hamper the dialoge. Just look at the greif Bill Cosby and other Black leaders get when they point out the troubles within their communities. It is better to keep your mouth shut. On fathers day I was listening to Jessie Jackson give a speach on being a father. I about thew up. Just like Clinton giving a speach on how to have a strong marriage. The leaders of the left are hard to stomach and those on the right not too far behind. Just think what those who champion idenity politics will say tommorow. Four white guys and an Uncle Tom will decide the fate of the first Black President signature legislation. Hope and Change.

  2. Anonymous4:21 PM

    A black person's hatred of the white man is what makes him not want to listen to what a white person has to say, ESPECIALLY when the white man is addressing black problems.

  3. Anonymous4:24 PM

    ...and in case anybody is wondering, I am black (I wrote the comment above)

  4. Anonymous9:56 AM

    I think your posts bring up a rampant problem in America today which is our deep rooted partisanship (political, race, class). Often we care more about who is saying something rather then what is being said. Not that a person's character doesn't matter, but I see people so quick to dismiss another person's opinion not because of what they are saying but because of who they are- republicans dismiss liberals as quickly as liberals dismiss republicans, blacks and whites, rich and poor. We live as one nation full of "them" and "us" and rarely a real "we." Everyone likes to say they have an open-mind, but it seems that sometimes open-mindedness extends only to new ideas that we like coming from pleasing places. Strength comes from difficulty and unity, not prejudgment and superficial understanding...and in case anybody is wondering, I am white (very, very, very white).

  5. Here is what Newt said:
    "You say to somebody, you shouldn't go to work before you're what, 14, 16 years of age, fine," Mr. Gingrich said. "You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I've tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."
    Seriously, only an idiot would think that a failing school is going to turn around because 3rd graders are given jobs sweeping and mopping the school.
    In elementary school I was a model student, got the highest grades for boys in my classes. It was a tough school in Camden NJ. Working class, mostly Italians, and Eastern Europeans in row houses with stoops along the sidewalk. In 8th grade I lived in an apartment over a candy wholesale dealer's warehouse in a commercial district. No reason to go home or anywhere else after school. I was a teacher's pet and hung around after school with Sister Marie Michelle to dust the chalk erasers, wash the blackboards and sweep the floor while she did paper work, correcting and lesson plans. My friend Leo and I horsed around a lot too, so she gently reprimanded us to get the work done before Leo's bus came to take him home. One day I shoved him into the black board so hard it cracked in half from top to bottom. It was a good scene for me. Not because of the work rather because of the attention. After we were done and Leo was gone to the bus, I would help carry her papers and stuff back to the convent on the other side of the school yard.
    Gengrich is so insolated in his upper class elite politician bubble that he has no idea what it is like work, to be working class, why it is that "schools fail", or what it is like to be a 9 to 11 years old boy or girl. He intellectualizes everything into his stupid ideological framework.
    I don't think this is AT ALL "similar" to what Nas' rap says.

  6. Anonymous11:14 PM

    Marymovestochina post is insightful, valid and thought-provoking. If I take the time to get to know someone (especially their character, beliefs and values), I place more or less value on their opinion, regardless of race or class (I'm still a little biased if their political views don't align with mine).

    Marymovestochina sounds like someone I'd like to get to know...and I'm still black (like I was in the two previous posts).

  7. Maybe because we saw Newt's "think of the children" moment as an oh-so-thinly veiled attack on living wage work and child labor laws?

    He wasn't so much (at least in my mind) upholding the values of teaching young folks responsibility as he was using child labor to break the backs of unions and drive down wages.