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Hitsville in the 'Hood


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Dear Bill Wyman,

If you're going to make part of your living from being a typical white "cultural tourist," you should make an effort to be more accurate in your depictions of the flora and fauna of "black kids'" lives [Hitsville, February 11]. (By the way, Black men sporting full beards aren't "kids" even though racist America advances this myth. "Thirteen" was the name of the group that shared their talent with the crowd that evening. It wasn't a description of their ages or the ages of most of the other people in attendance.)

If you had been listening, endorsements of anti-Semitism were not the fare of the evening. From the commentary I heard, the vast majority of folks were vehemently against anti-Semitic remarks. Yet your quibble with the highly contextualized lyrics of one particular song refocused the discussion away from some of the very intelligent and progressive commentary coming from folks that night. Although it is evoked for various reasons, the word "Jew" is a noun that some people use as a description devoid of the intent or affect of being defamatory in some ethnic way. People indicated that the lyrics made reference to an actual occurrence in a particular artist's life. This fact didn't seem to reach you that evening, and it certainly didn't make it to your "Hitsville" article.

Yes, ignorance and hatred abound in most cross sections of society. But many of the people who responded with "fuck you" were bored with your refusal to listen, not with your insistence that anti-Semitic remarks are wrong. Some didn't even make their protestations personal. They offered an enraged "fuck you" to media in general. This frustration stems from the awful track record media has when seeking to delineate the lives of oppressed people.

Maybe your readership can only handle inaccurate, unidimensional descriptions of "black kids." Discussions of one of the most important musical phenomena of the 20th century, such as the one that occurred that evening, deserve better. To rob Blacks and Latins of the complexities of their lives, commentary, and artistic genius is not just a product of the genre (journalism) that you work in, it is a continual, tiresome product of white privilege. I guess one brother said it best when he suggested (after emphasizing the value of interracial collaborations) sometimes Black people just have to do it by and for ourselves. You proved (to me and the other twentysomething and thirtysomething Black "kids" there) that goes for music criticism too.

Kimberly Ruffin

W. Taylor

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