I Need Anger Management Classes, But In The Meantime...

I'll warn you, I'm feeling a little angry right now. And I have an awful headache. Put those two things together and I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably not in a good place.

I'm sorry.

But if you think my less friendly, less cheerful musings are going to bother you, come back tomorrow and I'm sure I'll have returned to my senses.

Why the blog-rage? Well, here's a few things I'm thinking about after tonight's edition of my novel writing class:

1) Since rappers are being scrutinized about their profanity laced lyrics, why shouldn't fiction writers be subject to the same thing? For some reason, "high-brow" fiction writers can say, "F*** you, b***h!" and it's respected...as long as it advances the plot and tells us something relevant about the character. Those books go on to be bestsellers, get literary prizes, get favorited on Amazon. And it's all good. BUT, if rappers cuss and call folks out of their name, then we're a nation full of outrage. Call me a poor critical thinker, but doesn't that sound like a double standard to you?

2) I've noticed how when it comes time to describe a darker-skinned person of color, the Caucasian writer highlights what white teeth the person has. It's like those white teeth are a shining beacon of light in a sea of darkness. I'm surprised they don't also talk about how white the eyeballs are. How about this for you: "His teeth were white against the darkness of his skin. His eyes were dark pools in a sea of ivory." Oh please.

3) I don't give a damn that Michael Chabon wrote a 600 page novel and then tossed it out and started over on something new. Good for him. I don't have the luxury to do that.

4) Next time the question of, "So, what's everyone reading?" gets posed to the group, I'm going to say I'm reading The Bible. Or maybe I'll say that I'm reading a romance novel. I'm sure both of those would get the same reaction of horror. To add to the shock value, I think I'll then pull either The Bible or the bodice ripper out of my bag and provide a visual. Maybe everyone will be afraid and think I'm going to do a read-aloud.

I feel much better now. Thanks for listening.


Anonymous said…
The rapper adds a visual to that "fuck u bitch" and that drives home the negativity...

2nd...Not enough of our young blacks read...so I don't think the "Fuck U Bitch" in the books is as damaging!

3rd. Crazy people with no life can sit around and write more then 100 pages and throw it out...the rest of reality writes 50 than realizes..."hmm...this sucks" and starts over!!!

Finally, its okay to have angry shitty days...otherwise I would think either you were on an upper all the time, or the air in L.A. really is laced with chemicals!!!
Anonymous said…
rebuttal to gyamfua.
so basically your saying there is a dictator in a small country killing one person a day, so we should forget about his acts and only focus on the dictator killing thousands a day.

All profane songs are released in a clean version, but the novels aren't, so what its also saying is the Rappers recognize that the world doesn't need their foul lyrics, but the writers ignant of there use of profanity feel it is ok to subject readers to it.

so basically your saying "Fuck U Bitch" only affects black people? im confused?

Reply to Liz:
Great post! should create some interesting discussion
Jameil said…
1- i'm seriously sick of rap bearing the blame of all things negative. music period. MUSIC DOES NOT MAKE YOU KILL PEOPLE! that being said, neither do books. music has been negative a lot longer than the 90s and it didn't start with black people. censorship either way will not lead to a drop in crime.

2- that drives me insane. but most of the books i read, i think white authors do a very poor job describing any black people.

3- and?? why WOULD you care? who wants to do all that work to throw it away?

4- hahaha. do it!
West said…
re: "rappers" & "bitch"
I don't think that a single fictional character's choice to refer to another fictional character as a "bitch" is on the same level as rappers, doctors, bankers, or anybody referring to women, in general, (or Black women, in particular) as bitches and hoes.

I differentiate between negativity directed at the individual and negativity directed at any and all potential members of the group.

re: "white teeth"

That one doesn't bother me, either. Maybe if I heard it very often, it might. Then again, I'm picturing certain African folks I've seen on tv as opposed to every single dark-skinned Black person I've ever seen in my life.

I think I see what you mean, now.

re: your mood

I hope you feel better soon.
Anonymous said…
reply to jameil1922:
I'm curious what do you think is the cause of killing then? im sure music has a huge role, shoot i wouldn't even know what hoes and bitches and sluts and ak-47 and mm, were if it weren't for the stupefying tunes of Dr. Dre, how can you out rule that music is not inspiring, have you ever seen Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, there is no such thing as just singing, except for Britney spears, well except thats not really singing anyways. The point is, it is rap music that is the catalyst of killings. just like Mc Donalds causes cardiac disease and like weed is a gateway drug.
Liz Dwyer said…
Ok, so edited my original post and put stars in for my use of profanity. I felt bad for cussing...even though I am still a bit annoyed about this stuff and I still have a headache.

Well, the air in LA is definitely laced with chemicals (my headache?) so I wouldn't be surprised if it has an effect on my mental state sometimes! We are the smog capital of the world, after all. I actually think that young black folks read, but it would be easier if there were bookstores in black neighborhoods and if the libraries in predominantly black areas were always safe places to walk to/be at. Also, if teachers actually taught black children to read, that could go a long way toward fostering a love of reading. If someone doesn't like reading or doesn't read, it's usually because it's challenging for them. I don't know if it's the visual aspect. People sit around and talk about how Quentin Tarantino is a genius and he drops the n-word and f-bomb non-stop in his films...which are all completely visual. I'm not defending the use of the language in rap songs, but it's interesting to me what gets scrutinized and what doesn't.

Come on, don't be anonymous! We're all friends here...and besides, I don't know who's giving me compliments on this post. I agree with you about your dictator analogy. You're right...imagine American Psycho with an "Explicit Content" sticker on it.

1) No, music doesn't kill people, but I do think it can influence us. It's why Denzel listened to DMX non-stop when he was getting ready for his scenes in Training Day. It's why folks put on the Kenny Lattimore when they're tryin' to romance somebody.
2) I read somewhere that if the author is white, folks assume their character is white unless explicitly told otherwise. But, if an author is not white, folks will assume that the character is also not white, unless explicitly told otherwise.
3) In my class last night, folks were oohing and aahing over that fact. It really annoyed me.
4) I should...just to see the looks on folks faces.

I'm still thinking about the individual negativity and the group directed negativity...but yeah, when you are sitting in a room and come to that realization that every time a character's not white, you are seeing the "white teeth" phrase...it starts to get to you. I am feeling better today. But I could be better still.

Are you a different anonymous or the same anonymous as the previous comment? No matter...I think our society would definitely know what all that stuff is without Dr. Dre. Anyone who watches Law & Order SVU knows what those are. Anyone who ever watched Sex and the City knows what those words are. I've never seen Dirty Dancing Havana Nights...was Britney in that? (Girl needs to drop the hair weaves!) I don't know if rap is the catalyst. Rap isn't responsible for generational poverty, isn't responsible for lazy teachers that are just fine with half of kids dropping out of school. Rap isn't responsible for the fact that there aren't green spaces in many urban areas. But, I agree, the lyrics don't help things, and if you're not part of the solution...
Jameil said…
of course music influences us but so does everything else in life. i really don't believe anon would never have heard of bitches and hoes and aks and all that other stuff without rap music. i grew up in the suburbs but yeah right. sopranos, the godfathers, countless other movies, old country music is one of the most violent (go look up some johnny cash titles) wife beater stuff.

who you are, and your upbringing has a lot to do with how you react to everything. denzel listened to dmx but outside of his movie, did he go around committing crimes? do most of us? yes, music and videos are undoubtedly influential, but to place the majority on the blame on either, to me is foolhardy.
Liz Dwyer said…
I agree that anonymous would have heard those terms without rap music (said something similar in my comments yesterday). I think there is a general level of crassness in our society. The level of profanity in The Godfather is really low compared to mobster movies nowadays (like Casino). I've never watched the Sopranos so I can't speak to that. I don't listen to most rap nowadays but there are some songs I like. (I actually like DMX, but dude has ISSUES!) Anyway, I think people place the blame on rap but are reluctant to look at our society through the same lens. Rap doesn't exist in a vacuum...and there are no fully black owned record labels.
Anonymous said…
To anonymous:

Isn't that what we do anyway? Guns kill our children daily...in small amounts...but little is being done...A plane hits the towers..and we respond with a war...I mean...when death is slow...it doesn't get as much press, there's not as much urgency in people to respond...Honestly I am truly not seeing the analogy....so please, anyone..break it down for me.

Rap music is much easier for young people to identify with then some fat Italians running around the screen or some crazy white people shooting up people...I'm not saying that our young black kids don't try to emulate the Godfather...but its so much easier to emulate a rapper. The whole rapper mantra is: I'm just talking about what goes on in the streets...

2. You are right, there are clean version of the songs...are there clean versions to the video too????? Because when I watch BET UNCUT, all I see are some girls who are one step to porn!!! Also the cuss words might not be on the song...but the visual image the words are trying to protray is much stronger.

No..fuck you Bitch doesn't only affect Blacks...but RIGHT NOW...BLACKS are the ones who are dying as a race...so its the BLACK RACE I am most worried about and direct my comments toward!
MartiniCocoa said…
let it all out.

rappers aren't literary according to the big tastemakers that supposedly control literary aesthetic in this world.

And sometimes the fuck u bitch and the visual(I'm going to get it for this) is so appropriate. Just like the fuck u bastard can be appropriate.
Sorry -- some people do some really wrong things where the only thing you can do is cuss them out.

example -- boy who microwaved his baby(http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_2116326,00.html, dick cheney shooting his friend in the face and trying to cover it up, al gonzales and his neverending mess, paris hilton trying to not go to jail(!), jerry falwell and his hateful utterances, paul wolfowitz for being the architect of the Iraq War, George W for being so damn clueless about Hurricane Katrina, his mama being so clueless during the aftermath of the Hurricane.

Yeah -- there's a lot of stuff that makes you just want to cuss people out 24/7.

At least rappers know how to make it rhyme!

yeah, I don't care about Michael Chabon's creative process either.
Liz, I love your style. You make me laugh even when the zing! comes with it. I don't know what novel you're wriitng, but I'll be one of the first in line to buy it when it comes out.

Ok, so to relevant points. I'm a white writer with an interest in getting race on the table for white writers generally. (See my recents blog posts on poetry & race at luminousrealities.blogspot.) This post of yours makes me see a whole arena of need: writer training. I read writer how-to mags & books and either attend or give the occasional writer workshop. I have never encountered a section/ workshop session related to race or diversity writing (though maybe more available for children's writers). Training could be out there; I'm just saying this is my experience (and I'm not exactly a writing slacker, I mean I do try to pay attention).

While the notion of training may sound very white of me, let me add that one thing we have come to appreciate in developing Baha'i community is that people need to learn what they don't know. And they benefit from practice in supportive environments.

One pertinent example of change from writer training has occurred around gender in recent decades. The results are a changing awarenesss and standards both in how language is used and how girls/females are portrayed. That change required focused attention and cooperation over time(not yet a completely done deal).

I'm a great believer in direct communication and in getting everything onto the table. Frankly, there is so little race-related dialogue in any venue now that white writers/people are as stiff around the issue as my shoulder was after surgery. I needed weeks of steady physical therapy - focused attention and appropriate exercise - to gain full movement. White writers/ people are educable. But what is also needed is a loosening up around race conversation, the kind of loosening that comes with familiarity. Bring the many aspects of race into our on-going conversations so that people/writers have close encounter on a regular basis, writers/people will finally feel at home enough with race to be both honest and open to learning. Working with writers can provide a powerful avenue for change.

So where do we start with all this? For myself I would start where I'm at. (My boys are both grown, sort of, so I'm also old enough to not want to put things off.) Of ocurse you can visit my blog and leave comments where this is a topic, but there is more opportunity. I will be conducting a writer workshop at Green Acre in the fall. That's as good a place as any to begin a little overt training. I find that if I make a beginning, things develop.

Not to burden you, but as an invitation, I will leave you with my email DruCeder@yahoo.com so that, if you have an interest, we can communicate about this. After all, here I am a white writer; you might guess that I need a little help with the insights. Like your top ten white writer pet peeves? (I sense you have a beginning here.)

Loved the mother's day picture of you and your boys. -- Dru
Liz Dwyer said…
I think there's a whole lot of Brooklyn Bridge selling going on with rap today because half of them aren't from "the hood", and they act like what's going on in the hood is only crime, hos, drugs and thugs. In reality, lots of poor people don't act like that. If they are telling what's happening in the hood, then tell about the innocent people that are being gunned down in the streets. Tell about the grannies raising their grandkids. Talk about all the good people who are in situational and generational poverty but really want to get out and want an education. (Or won't that sell records?)

I Am Not Star Jones,
I read that story about the microwaved baby. It makes me want to throw up. There is so much wrongness in the world and in want to tell folks, "You know what, F-you, you ugly a$$...blah blah blah." I don't even care if it rhymes or not. But, I have to remember, that's my ego talking, not my soul talking, if I do that. I grew up with a whole lot of folks who cussed each other out all the time and it never did anything to solve anything. Year One: Cuss such-and-such out because she said ____. Year Ten: Cuss her out again because she's still trifling. Year Twenty: I still hate that heffa, and she's trying to ____, so I'm gonna cuss her out again. It's a lot of energy wasted in the long run.

Wow, I want to come to your workshop at Green Acre. I would absolutely love that. I think I have writer peeves as a whole, not just around race, although that sets me off a ton. Or maybe it's just my class. My last class, I absolutely loved it and never wanted it to end. I think the idea of writer training around race and how we portray folks is brilliant. We all need to delve deeper into that, and I think your point about the changes in the women are portrayed is right on. I'm definitely going to email you soon...and I'll tell you about my little work-in-progress when I do.
MartiniCocoa said…

I agree....
cussing is a lot of wasted energy for people who know and want to go beyond their feelings of rage and hopelessness but for maybe someone who is stuck in first gear of awareness -- it's all they got.

My heart goes out to them and I understand ... don't want to live with it 24/7 but I understand.

Me...I'm practicing cussing much less and doing much more.
Liz Dwyer said…
True. Sometimes it's the first reaction, no matter how unrefined it may be. I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I don't even think about cussing.

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