Cloaked in 5 college degrees an associates, a bachelors, 2 masters and a doctorate degree, I told my predominately white students that I would never give any one such as Don Imus permission to affect, taint or offend my self concept or self-worth as a human being. I told my students that if a person does not play a significant role in my life that includes loving me or paying my bills; their opinion does not matter to me. A white male student said, I respect you Dr. Sturges, but I disagree with you. He went on to explain that prior to the Jewish Holocaust the media desensitized the public's perception of Jewish people by publishing derogatory cartoons and commentaries in their mainstream media. The media laid the psychological foundation that opened the channels to physical abuse. Once the public no longer saw the Jewish people as human beings worthy of equal respect; this made it easy and justified Germany's position to kill, abuse, and destroy the lives of millions of Jewish people.
I am so angry with my student for telling me this. I am so angry with him for taking off my academic cloaks and exposing that little black girl who always hated herself. I thought my degrees could insulate me from being black in America and especially quiet the little black girl who asked her daddy to paint her white when she was five years old. This request brought my father to tears. My daddy asked me, "Why don't you want to look like the people in this world who love you the most?" I told my daddy that nobody like black people.
I am so devastated that my student's comment unveiled, the shame that I had tucked away while being the only black student in an anthropology class watching a documentary about an African tribe while the white male students made fun of the appearance of the breasts of the women in the tribe, stating how disgusting and unattractive they were. Their breasts looked like mine. I put my head down between my folded arms on my desk and sobbed. I will never forget this day.
The dominant Hip Hop culture did not lay the foundation for Don Imus' statement of "nappy headed hos"; the dominant Hip Hop culture is the physical manifestation of self-hatred among black people that stems from post traumatic slave syndrome. What was unique about African American slavery is not the physical abuse of the enslaved people; but the psychological destruction of their native language, cultural beliefs, traditions and heritage. It is through language that we define ourselves. Africans were forced to use a language that denigrated them and declared them to be property and partially human. Even the "N" word that many rappers use originated from slavery. Don Imus is not imitating the dominant collective consciousness of Hip Hop Culture; Hip Hop culture is imitating the collective consciousness of the white oppressor that is symbolic in Don Imus.
The word nappy is a very loaded word. Prior to being shipped to America during slavery blacks did not view their own hair texture as nappy in its natural state. The term nappy implies that the "normal" or correct texture of hair is straight or curly. Moreover, this term was used to compare the hair texture of bi-racial children of the slave master to those of African descent. The slave masters children were given preferential treatment and told that they were more intelligent and attractive because of their genetic connections with the dominant European white ethnicity.
I would like for everyone to imagine that they are white. Now I want you to imagine that all of your world leaders are black. Imagine that superman and all of your super heroes are black. I want you to imagine that the very first time that you learn about European culture outside of your immediate family and community you are on a slave ship. I want you to imagine that the only time that you discuss European history is once a month out of the year. Do you think that you would be who you are today?
I think that what is most dangerous about Don Imus's comment about the Rutger's Women Basketball team is not whether or not they heard it, but the long term ripple effect on the hearts and souls of the other people who are listening and how this shapes their perceptions and expectations of black women in general. As for the dominant Hip Hop culture, my question to society is—Do you think that Hip Hop culture is reflective of a psychologically healthy group of people who respect, love and honor themselves or is Hip Hop reflective of a people who are hurting with self-hatred?