Nice White Lady

Yesterday in class I learned that there is a rap lyrics database, the Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive. This fascinates me because while the electronic sound of rap is not my favorite, I am interested in rap lyrics and narrative structure. Now I can read them, like poems and stories.

Rap styles, as we know, are rooted in particular places. Straight Outta Compton. West Bank Rap. The teenager who used to live across the street from me was shot dead by a schoolmate one fine afternoon a few years ago, right in the middle of his grandmother’s living room. When he was alive, I knew many more rap lyrics than I know now, because he would broadcast them to the neighborhood from his front yard. The two fragments I remember best were a code-switching Chicano one, “Jacarandosa, jacarandosa, today you tell me one thing y mañana otra cosa,” and a “It was a West Bank thing, it was a West Bank thing, it was a West Bank thing, it was a West Bank thing!”

At that time, I had a friend who was convinced I should leave academia to become a rapper. I actually composed, performed, and published a rap song, which started out:

She was a nice white lady with a diamond ring
It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing.

It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing
It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing.

This was about some denizens of NOW, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and my local department of Women’s and Gender Studies, who did not want any lesbians, persons of color, radical feminists, transgendered people, or punks – and certainly not any ‘dyed-haired women’, unless the dye job looked perfectly natural – to be abortion clinic defenders, against attacks from terrorists including Operation Rescue.

The argument made was that the face of pro-choice America needed to look conservative on television. I am convinced, however, that this was not the actual motivation.

There were a lot of fun, topical lines in the rap. These were about how the police department had built a chain link fence around one of the clinics, which kept the terrorists, but also the non-conservative feminists and some of the clients, away:

Outside the fence, the cops made us pay
But the Nice White Lady doesn’t dress that way
And she said, women, don’t betray our cause
Go shave those legs and put on bras.

It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing
It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing.

The fencing-in of the Nice White Ladies kept them safe from physical attacks. Clients, and Women, had to deal with the terrorist types directly, while police protected the Nice White Ladies.

This fragment was on race:

And I knew she was wack cuz she fainted when
I showed up with my date and we both had a tan.

I think of this now because of the heated discussions I have seen lately, about how feminist women should and should not dress. My own view on this, of course, is that freedom of dress should be extended to everyone. But one of the arguments made seems to be that the more closely you resemble a Cosmo Girl, the more radical you actually are. I am sorry, but this is poor reasoning, and whoever is teaching that, is a poor scholar.

It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing
It was a liberal thing, it was a liberal thing!


18 thoughts on “Nice White Lady

  1. wow – i didn’t realize that anyone had anything to say about the way women – feminist or otherwise – dressed

    i thought that went out in the 60’s…

    humm, i do like your lyrics…very nice

  2. I was just thinking about citing hip hop lyrics in a paper I was writting the other day. (with the Getto Boys’ song “The World is a Getto.”) Unfortunately, academia is a long way from considering rappers and other musicians philosophers.

    I like your song.

  3. AZG, yes, it seems to be a big thing in “choice feminism”, which seems to be rampant among the younger set. I do not understand it, and to the extent that it may actually exist, I suspect that it is a response to some caricature of feminism. That is to say, I think all of this is some sort of hall of mirrors.

    Thanks, Moksha!

    Luisa, you can cite hip hop lyrics in academic papers, cultural studies people do it all the time, and a sociologist recently referred to that song title in the title of his own book, I do believe. It’s just a question of how you use the citation.

  4. What book? that sounds interesting.

    Oh, and I know I can cite them. I was just commenting on it does not having the same cred. as say Foucault (even though I consider a lot of rappers more insightful than Foucault)

  5. First – I LOVE the lyrics. Second, I’m very glad you’ve posted them here because you’ve created a perfect example of the very thing you’re illlustrating in your song:

    We are guilty of creating our own powerlessness by self-imposing qualifiers to our movements. The feminist movement has dealt with these kinds of issues since its inception when attempting to define who is and who is not a feminist. Some have argued, for example, that heterosexual women cannot be true feminists, since they concede their female power to their oppressor through heterosexual sex. Making in group/out group distinctions hampers the growth of the movement and creates factions that bicker among themselves rather than spending time working together. The same problem exists here among Latinos. Distinctions are quickly made over who is a “real” Latino (as opposed to fake Latinos?) by the level of acculturation.

    So the question becomes, what is a feminist? What is a Latino? (and so on and so forth) … The narrower the definition, the greater the oppressor’s victory.

  6. Thanks, everyone!

    Nezua – Not being 100% hip, I had to look up “Vibrant Thing.” My favorite line is “Sittin’ round in my abstract part.” My favorite other phrase is “You would find me in a cypher”. So no, I wasn’t riffing off of “Vibrant Thing,” I was riffing off of “West Bank Thing,” which I just tried to Google, to no avail. This was supposed to be about gang fights on the west side of the Mississippi, in greater New Orleans. Although thinking about it, I wonder if we misunderstood: west bank of the Jordan?

    Moksha, you got skills too, I didn’t know you could speak in rap! I need to learn it, everyone in my class understands the difference between ‘bitch’ and ‘biyotch’ except me.

    Luisa, Foucault is overrated and if he is serious about his critique of power, he will not mind being superseded. You just have to make the case. The book is The World Is A Ghetto: Race and Democracy Since World War II, by Howard Winant (Basic Books, 2002). You can search inside it, and stuff, at Amazon.

    Winant is pretty smart. He’s a Brazilianist / comparatist, and a lot of pure Brazilianists don’t like him, they say he’s not ‘careful’ enough and that he projects onto Brazil things which are really only true of the U.S. I disagree: I think they are being defensive and do not want to look at what he sees.

  7. Yea, I don’t use Foucault and I’m starting to grow bitter at the people who have deified him. I do like some Tupac Amaru though. Winant’s Racial Formation worked for me for a while, then he got replaced with other racial theorists. The book does sound interesting though since Winant seems very U.S. centered in Formation.

  8. Deification of Foucault, yes. But I can remember him when people would allegedly spot him headed for S/M clubs in the Castro on weekends, and take him on LSD trips in the deserts of SoCal. I really didn’t see him as the type to want that sort of idolatry (Derrida and Lacan, on the other hand, were). But people were deifying him even then. I’m not convinced he’s that original, or that deep. An actual philosophy professor I talked to recently said she liked him but considered him a writer (creative), not a philosopher (read academic authority).

    Who are you reading on race these days?

  9. Actually, ‘wack’ is a word I learned from the Nubian…you know Blac(k)acdemic, da blog. Now that I look at the published version, I realize that the original lyric said, “I knew she was white”. This is worthy of notice.

  10. Note to self: never disclose identity on drug trip or might not be deified in death. :)-This is probably the one thing Jesus had figured out.;)

    Who am I reading on race?

    Well, early last year I was given an article written by Anibal Quijano that I really liked. So for a time I was reading authors who built off of his concepts.

    Presently, I’m reading Fanon. I’m a little embarrassed to have never read him before but, then again, I only just read your muse Freire last March. I’m not in school now so things are going a little slow with my race reading. I should start a group or something.

  11. luisa, if you start such a group let me know. i’m treading water now and about to be engulfed with my reading list on race.

  12. Luisa: Yes. Aniibal Quijano, sii. Must return to. Me lo recordaas vos, y te doy el creedito. I love Fanon. I have not actually figured out my position on Freire, even though he is woven into this blog as a theme (as are A. C. Sandino, Emiliano Zapata, and “El Sup”).

  13. In response to your rap: yes and more yes!! But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve watched myself become more and more visibly palatable to the liberal White folks–at least until I open my mouth and blow the whole thing. My students love it. And, of course, I’ve learned to watch folks’ eyes. There are those who look radical until you check those eyes. And there are those who look “nice” until you do the same. ;^) The eyes have it…

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