Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan again stoked the fires of
controversy recently with some terse remarks and criticism of pop singer Rihanna. The remarks were part of a much longer speech as part of the organization’s annual Saviour’s Day celebration.
Over the years I’ve both praised and criticized Minister Farrakhan as his career has been full of moments worthy of both. The Mo’Kelly Report has acknowledged both. His reticence to inject himself into the campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama was admirable. The work of the Nation of Islam in rehabilitating African-American men is inarguable and also admirable. On the other hand, his most recent remarks of Rihanna’s performances being “filthy” and her “fans” akin to “swine” must be viewed in a critical light and acknowledged for their self-serving nature. He crossed the line.
Minister Farrakhan can never and should never ever claim ignorance as to how the media operates. The remarks were made with full understanding of their inherent viral nature. They might have been made to a specific and particular audience but invariably were meant for a much wider consumption.
His criticisms of Rihanna were, in a word…”strange;” full of inherent contradictions. They were also troublesome and disrespectful for many reasons unacknowledged by the minister.
It seems more than just odd to single out Rihanna’s performances as being “filthy,” when hers typify the whole of popular music. Rihanna is no more or less sexually suggestive in her presentation than Nicki Minaj, Ciara, Lady Gaga or even Beyoncé once upon a time. If the minister is “knowledgeable” about the wayward performances of Rihanna, then surely he’s heard of all of them…right?
And speaking of Beyoncé, isn’t that the same Beyoncé presently receiving considerable criticism for having performed for embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?
Farrakhan has also criticized Beyoncé for her alleged negative influence on women but it also bears mentioning that praising Gaddafi and rebuking Rihanna in the same Saviour’s Day speech is inherently contradictory when done without criticizing also Gaddafi’s fandom of Beyoncé.
If we can agree that Rihanna and Beyoncé are more similar than not, and thus Rihanna’s “filth” is little different than Beyoncé’s “filth”…then how are the “swine” fans of Rihanna different from the “swine” of Gaddafi, who is an unabashed Beyoncé fan?
These are contradictions which can’t be ignored.
Maybe they are connected to the fact that Farrakhan not-so-coincidentally received the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in 1996.
If a non-Black political figure made these same comments and only called out Rihanna in the process, we in the African-American community would be up in arms with chants of racism. The comments cross the line, irrespective of the orator and we should not lose sight of that.
This rant against Rihanna wasn’t “personal” was it? Either Minister Farrakhan thoroughly knows pop music and he can comment knowledgeably about all the pop “filth” or he does not and should not have in the first place.
It’s one or the other.
If the goal is bringing an end to the hyper-sexuality of pop music, does it really begin and end with Rihanna of all people?
Is the minister concerned only with Black female pop artists who are “filthy;”…given his omission of anyone and everyone else of a similar ilk? Does he even know Rihanna on any level or seen the multitude of her performances? “Filthy” is a quite personal and extreme adjective. I would want to know what concerts he’s attended and who exactly purchased his tickets.
Having an opinion on a subject opens the door for discussion as to how one managed to form it.
In addition, if we are going to discuss the social relevance of music and its impact on the image and self-respect of women; then we must also be honest enough to discuss Minister Farrakhan’s career as a calypso singer in the 50s and his songs such as Ugly Woman.
Comparatively and ironically, Rihanna is about the same age now as when Louis Farrakhan was originally best known musically as “The Charmer.” Minister Farrakhan could have offered wise words of counsel, speaking from one generation to another in an uplifting tone; yet instead openly disrespected her. He disrespected her as a woman in a way similar to his criticisms of her actions as a woman. Disrespecting Black women is not the pathway to increasing the cumulative respect of them.
It never has been and never will be.
His insults were borderline vulgar, to assail the supposed vulgarity of her performances. The fullness of the pop genre deserved the critique but it was unfairly levied at just Rihanna. The fullness of the hip-hop genre deserved the critique but it was unfairly and only levied at just Rihanna.
I don’t get it…not even a little bit.
Conversely, where were the public remarks vilifying the reprehensible behavior in the BEATING of Rihanna in previous years? Should I take that to mean that the Honorable Minister cares less about who BEATS Black women and more about how ONE dresses and dances? It’s a reasonable question to ask in any discussion about any and all things “harmful” to Black women and the examples set.
I’m in no way unclear; beating a woman is worse than any widely viewed music concert by that same woman. So, shouldn’t fans of Chris Brown then too be akin to “swine?” Also, if we are to have any meaningful discussion about the negative influences impacting Black women; it requires being honest about the historical treatment of women within the Nation of Islam. That too is relevant. Rihanna is clearly too “free” and too single-minded in the minds of many in the NOI.
Don’t get Mo’Kelly started…
I’m all for cleaning up the imagery in pop music. But I’m more for intellectual honesty and consistency in the process.
If women are to be respected and protected, we must acknowledge that the remarks of Minister Farrakhan were neither respectful of Rihanna personally nor protective of the honor of women more broadly. Farrakhan should be consistent and also condemn the misogyny and buffoonery in hip hop as ardently as in his rebuke of Rihanna.
To offer “constructive criticism” of hip hop over the years but not singularly call out artists by name (as he did Rihanna and Beyoncé) for sending the image of African-American women straight to hell, it’s hypocrisy, plainly stated.
Gaddafi is praised, Rihanna is condemned and Chris Brown is summarily ignored in their respective behaviors.
I don’t get it…not even a little bit.
If Rihanna is setting a bad example for women in her music, what does that say about Lil Wayne’s and 50 Cent’s treatment of them in theirs…just for starters?
That’s not a rhetorical question.
Lil Wayne…jail, multiple and simultaneous baby-mamas, a career of musical misogyny.
No public commentary from Minister Farrakhan on the egregious behavior of Lil Wayne…for starters and he’s been around arguably longer than Rihanna. No personal insults about the nature of his performances or the alleged “pork” nature of the fans who support him.
If this is going to be roll call…then call all of the roll. Don’t only take convenient shots at one woman.
Minister Farrakhan historically has chosen to say little publicly and vehemently on the incessant and overt “filth” of misogyny in hip hop, other than bemoaning the supposed Jewish corporate influence on the industry; in effect excusing hip-hop artists for their behavior.
Farrakhan should attack any and all purveyors of “filth” consistently and with a consistent level of vitriol. Until he does, his remarks pertaining to Rihanna reek of chauvinism wrapped in misogyny. Hip hop has been far more harmful to women than anything Rihanna has worn or performed and that’s not even up for debate.
It is unfair, unrighteous and intellectually dishonest to present Rihanna as the largest and sole offender of Black female sensibilities and it needs to be called out for what it is.
Somebody has to do it; might as well be The Mo’Kelly Report. Somebody needs to defend Black women, might as well be The Mo’Kelly Report.
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If the goal is respecting the honor of Black women, then the fullness of Minister Farrakhan public commentaries (both actual and absent) are worthy fodder for discussion. You can’t speak up for women while in the same breath disrespecting a woman and those who look up to her. He could have counseled, respected and also protected. Instead he opted for disrespect to get his message across. Minister Farrakhan needs to be held accountable for his actions, irrespective of his intentions.
The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published at The Huffington Post and EURWEB.com. For more Mo’Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com. Mr. Mo’Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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