By Anton Hultberg Hansen
Dear Kevin Powell,
Your name was mentioned in an article here in Sweden last week in Smålandsposten, a conservative newspaper. A lot of people who read the piece struggled not to spit their morning coffee all over their newspaper/computer.
The article defended a private school CEO who did not want to grant admission to students who listened to rap music. He was recorded with a hidden camera saying:
“Not here, not that fucking shit that they are doing, rap and rape. You are not allowed to say nigger any more, but this Black music, no, no…Not rap and death metal or whatever they call it, this destructive music, we don’t want that in school. Then we get problems and then we get the ones with baseball caps backwards, who rap. No, they can do that over in Tensta [a part of Stockholm mainly populated by immigrants] and set fire to cars over there, instead of here, I think. But you never heard me say this, but that is what I think.”
The CEO subsequently lost his job.
As you can see, the CEO is clearly a racist, notwithstanding the fact that he does not think highly of rap music. The columnist, Marcus Svensson, wrote that the CEO was addressing an “interesting question” (although he thought that the language was inappropriate). The interesting question was this: If the schools ban White Power music, why do they tolerate rap, which according to Svensson is:
“racist against Whites, that glorifies crime, where the police is hated and women are consistently being described as whores…If we want to measure the health of Western civilization we need to look at its musical culture.”
After the inevitable backlash, Marcus Svensson followed up with another column to defend his view that hip-hop is fundamentally flawed. This is where Kevin Powell was used to portray hip-hop as essentially homophobic:
“The American hip-hop historian Kevin Powell has given elaborate descriptions of the male ideals that are conveyed in hip-hop culture. You are supposed to be hard. You attain status by degrading women and homosexuals…”
As far as I understand, Kevin Powell wants to challenge Black men to question their gender roles. Kevin, do you agree with your message being conveyed in this way?
In my view, what Marcus Svensson is doing is something that has been going on for a while in the United States. People like Bill O’Reilly, John McWhorter, and even Bill Cosby, blame social problems on hip-hop. They think hip-hop is a disease that has infected the Black youth.
In Sweden we are new to this debate. For many years hip-hop has been treated like a novelty, ridiculed, and misunderstood. But it has been seen as relatively harmless, a fad, if you will.
Having followed the American debate on hip-hop from the sidelines, it seems to me that the attacks on hip-hop have become increasingly harsh and racist. The critics are taking the hyper-masculinity, misogyny, violence and homophobia portrayed in mainstream hip-hop, and they are saying that these values apply to all Black youth, and that hip-hop is the root cause of their situation.
In our group we have been reading and discussing the book The Hip-Hop Wars by Tricia Rose, we concluded that the situation in Sweden is not that bad yet. Sadly, the American brand of hip-hop bashing found its way into our editorials.
I need answers to the following questions. Should we be worried about this trend, where hip-hop (a code word for race) gets blamed for virtually everything that goes wrong with young people. How should we confront these pundits? What are the pitfalls that we need to avoid in this debate?