What about rap lyrics?

This morning, Iowa's African-American leaders held a news conference to respond to a white state senator's use of the "n" word in a conversation last week with a black legislator. 

"There are some blacks who don't get it and still use this word.  There are some whites who don't get it and still use this word, but for those of us who do get it, we must continue to stand together and speak against it," Reverend Keith Ratliff, president of the Iowa chapter of the NAACP, said to open the news conference. You can listen to the news conference here and read a bit more about it here

Toward the end of the news conference, I asked a question:  "How do you feel about music lyrics?"

"Anyone who uses the 'n' word — speaking for myself, the state NAACP and from the national office — anyone who uses the 'n' word, it's wrong and people really sometimes do understand and sometimes they don't understand how explosive that word is and I think that's part of the problem in dealing with the education of individuals, to understand that is a very explosive word and so therefore we must continue to educate individuals in this manner," Reverend Ratliff said.

Linda Carter-Lewis, president of the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP, added this:  "With regard to the lyrics in songs, there are many things that I hear in some of the contemporary music that I'm appauled at, but we have too many people that today turn a deaf ear; they just tolerate it.  They don't speak out against it even though it offends them and we must make people much more aware of, sensitive to and willing to speak out.

"When they feel that something is offensive, they need to let someone know — if it's the person speaking it or however they can take action — we've got to have more activists speaking out so that it doesn't continue to deteriorate, the things that are so hurtful and tolerance that we have. We've got to be less tolerant of all these ugly things that are going on in our society and that's what's going to be so important as we address this."

Representative Wayne Ford, a Democrat from Des Moines, is Iowa's longest-serving black legislator and he spoke immediately after Carter-Lewis: "This issue, it's not about rap music.  My son, Ron Ford, was the executive editor of the number one hip hop magazine – my own flesh and son – and we had conflict about not burying the 'n' word.  Let's don't try, there was no rap music being played upstairs.  Let's be clear.  This is the people's house.  Come on.  There was no rap music upstairs.  The speaker and the protocol would not allow that to happen.  If you're going to play any music upstairs, it would have to be o.k'ed by the speaker of the house.  Let's keep the issue and the eye on the prize.  I've had conflict with my own flesh, my own son, who came to me and told me — a baby boomer who's seen the black and white bathrooms, who heard about the hangings in the backyard — and we've had discussions with my own flesh.  Let's don't try to tie those two issues together.  This is the people's house."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.