New York – When best-selling author, media personality and satirist Sabrina Lamb speaks, it is usually loud and clear. A savvy business woman, journalist and former stand up comic, Lamb was acknowledged as number 16 on the list of “50 Top Black Women in Entertainment” in Black Noir magazine. Her latest book, “A Kettle of Vultures…Left Beak Marks on My Forehead” (Strebor/Atria Books – October 2010) has just been released to critical acclaim. Written with humorous abandon, one of the issues in “A Kettle of Vultures” is that of ‘nappy’ hair. So when Lamb got wind of the “black hair” controversy surrounding AOL Black Voices’ columnist and Tom Joyner Morning Show contributor Jawn Murray, she was of course compelled to put pen to paper and add her ‘cents’ to the matter.
Never one to run from controversy, Lamb has tackled the ‘black hair’ issue before. Her “UnBeweavable: Woman! What Did You Do To Your Hair?” YouTube series (Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l2nvf-gDug; Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5ar_ulspUo and Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-HcHoO_bXc ) raised eyebrows and hairlines years before this current drama!
Sabrina Lamb contends that when it comes to Black women and hair, Jawn Murray is the least of our concerns!
The Jawn Murray
– from the Mind and Spirit of Sabrina Lamb
When my publicist Makeda Smith of Jazzmyne Public Relations shared that a major tsunami was circulating the Internet regarding a tweet by Entertainment Columnist Jawn Murray, my initial reaction was “Say what?!”
Mr. Murray tweeted: 1) “all those militant-nappy headed angry black women who didn’t think Tyler Perry was worthy of doing For Colored Girls can kick rocks.”Then Mr. Murray responded to the push back with, “So if a few angry black women are mad that I used the term nappy-headed earlier, Do Me A Favor and Get A Perm.” After experiencing further back lash, Mr. Murray removed his satirical hat and issued a heartfelt apology via the internet to those black women who just didn’t get it.
My next reaction regarding this latest case of “Weapons of Mass Distraction” was “Oh No, Not Again!” And as I took time out of my busy life, (with my nappy, beautiful hair), organizing people to get to the polls on November 2nd, I read the countless tweets, the blogs, the emails of offended and supportive black women, alike. Reading emotional detailed paragraphs of hurt black women, I thought, “Really? Are we as black women going to be bamboozled by this mass distraction yet again?” And as the posts are still coming in, as I type, I guess the answer is “Yes! Yes, we are!” We are willing to let someone to tweet their words, thoughts and opinions and allow ourselves to care.
Allow me to detangle and unpack this controversy to hopefully create some value by bringing a unique perspective.
A. It’s Just Comedy!
Mr. Murray cited that his tweet was a joke. Unfortunately, before he tweeted he did not know how seriously black people take their jokes. As a former stand up comic, I would have advised him of the anatomy of a joke, which must have the following elements: 1) Set up and 2) the punch line. If you have one and not the other, you’re liable to get a beat down from a visit by the Apollo’s Sand Man. Legions of comedians who have been booed off of comedy club stages in black America, can attest to this fatal omission.
Further, Mr. Murray’s tweets were nothing more than simply ‘talkin’ and testifying’, shuckin’ and jivin’ and straight up dissin’ that has occurred in the African-American community since we were dragged to these shores. To require one man, who is obviously of African descent, to not utilize said written ammunition, no matter how dismissive in tone, is to deny our history of black verbal word play.
B. Selective Outrage.
It is significant what events or words press people’s emotional buttons. Very significant. As thousands of black women are raped in the Congo, slaughtered in the Sudan, murdered as the result of domestic violence in New York City (the #1 killer of black and latino women), Haitian children are being sold into modern day slavery, it is curious why some black women squander an inordinate amount of energy having a meltdown when the word ‘nappy’ and ‘militant’ is bandied about. Where were the calls for a boycott, or for getting someone fired when Snoop Dogg showed up to the MTV Music Awards with two black women on dog leashes? Where was the outrage when rapper Bushwick Bill said, “I call women bitches and ‘hos because all the women I’ve met since I’ve been out here are bitches and ‘hos.”
Where was the outrage when Dr. Dre rhymed, “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks, Lick on these nuts and suck the dick,” and where was the outrage when Ja Rule rhymed, ” Game is the topic. And what’s between your legs is the product. Use it properly and you’ll make dollars beeyatch.”
When I participated in a march against SONY in protest against these lyrics, there were maybe twenty black women in attendance TOPS! And this was after two radio stations informed three million listeners on a daily basis of this after work protest. And don’t get me started on the enormous support singer R. Kelly still receives from black women, many of them prominent.
Have black women purchased stock in these companies and demanded a change in the content? Have black women demanded that video music stations no longer play these harmful, toxic lyrics? Have black women emailed and written networks demanding that Bravo require Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker to stop telling women to ‘straighten your hair’; men do not like curly hair’; when the facts clearly demonstrate, when it comes to black men, the opposite conclusion.
C. Mr. Murray, What Did You Mean By That?
In the 21st century, with several modalities readily available, we communicate like passing ships in the night. These communication options such as status updates, text messages, tweets, emails squander an opportunity to know the true intent of the sender. Emails and tweets lacks personality and context. Tweets and email lack cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. The prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures recipients to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness and hysteria. The inability to develop a personal rapport, face to face with someone can make relationships fragile and headed towards unnecessary conflict. The words we write can be read in many ways. What the sender thinks is efficient, tight writing can be perceived by the receiver as terse and dismissive. Thus, how you interpret someone else’s words is based upon your own perception and possible biases.
Instead of engaging in episodic bull crap regarding Mr. Murray, consider emailing a letter to your local public official demanding job creation. Considering calling the American Red Cross demanding that the millions of dollars that were collected be disbursed to prevent the further spread of cholera in Haiti. Call, email and write Republican Tom Coburn demanding that he release the $900 million designated for the rebuilding of Haiti now! Email your governor, demanding that the stimulus money that President Obama sent months ago, benefit non-profit organizations who are struggling to serve your community. If they do not feel the pressure of your advocacy, many elected officials will not serve your community.
D. Weapons of Mass Hysteria.
Women of African descent have varying degrees of beautiful curly, beautiful kinky, beautiful nappy hair. Yet prior to the Don Imus hysteria sweeping black America, which caused black women to suspend their ability to flex their considerable political and economic muscle, I decided to jump off the tug boat to crazy land. When Don Imus called the Rutger’s women’s basketball team ‘nappy headed hoes’, emotional press conferences were convened, leading blacks demanded an apology, met with the presidents of the television networks. Yet somehow, while many black women, who had never heard of Don Imus, pretended that they were so hurt over the words of this old white man, they spent and continue to spend billions of dollars with the Korean community determined to prove that their hair is not ‘nappy’ and is naturally closer to the European ideal that they secretly believe is better and more revered.
Update: Don Imus returned to the airwaves with a bigger and better radio and television show. He bent to temporary pressure and hired two black comedians; one man and one woman. Then when you were distracted by other bullcrap or had returned to your comfort zone, Imus summarily fired the black woman. It is the people who don’t hire you, violate your human rights, deny you access to fair housing, target you with predatory financial scams, who deserve your organized contempt. Last time I checked, Mr. Murray wasn’t hiring, nor approved rampant nationwide home foreclosures, or is the leader of the Tea Party.
While leading blacks, instead of black leaders met with the television and radio senior management, they forgot to demand ethnic diversity in hiring and specifically to address the dearth of black male and especially female network correspondents and anchors. There is a definitive gender abyss when it comes to black women speaking intelligently about political, social and cultural issues. But at that time, we only cared about some shriveled white man calling us ‘nappy-headed hoes’. We cared more about his public comment, than that of black men who have made millions off of denigrating their own communities, yet we remain silent….until the next time, someone says something that irks us. Often we are hurt, outraged and offended when we believe in our soul that the remark might be true.
E. Tell Me What You Focus On, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are.
Should focus and energy be further wasted on Jawn Murray’s tweets? Absolutely not! There are far more, life and death issues that must be addressed in our communities. Be careful what you are distracted by, because while you are voicing your outrage for Mr. Murray’s freedom of expressing his opinion and responding to those who disagreed with him, you just may be missing out on a miracle taking place in your life. By the way, if people were to call me ‘militant’, I would take it as a compliment. That means, I’m effecting change.
Whether or not Jawn Murray writes another word, will have zero impact on my life or my self-esteem. Nor will Mr. Murray’s tweets affect how I empower youth through financial education (http://www.worldofmoney.org) which will positively impact future generations. When you reveal what can be done and said to sway you, emotionally, physically and spiritually; you surrender to influences outside yourself. You become the puppet to a mischievous puppeteer and unable to stand ready to act powerfully in your own best interest. One individual is not responsible for walking around on egg shells to make sure he or she does not push your emotional buttons.
And to give Mr. Murray that much power, while black women and children perish, is frankly, a damn shame.
Continue To Walk Good Like You Own The Earth,