Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bad Rap: Racist German Army Film Blamed On Hip Hop?

A recent video clip of a German army instructor ordering a soldier to scream expletives and shoot at imaginary blacks from the Bronx, has caused outrage. Apologies have been made and there's an investigation into the bizarre incident. Yet, somehow, Hip Hop has been fingered as a culprit. Is this a legitimate charge? Or in the wake of Don Imus, are we yet again looking at an insult in search for a scapegoat?

Racist German Army Clip Targets N.Y. Blacks- Hip Hop Takes the Rap

Was watching ABC News this evening and saw the following report:

A televised cell phone video clip of a German army instructor ordering a soldier to envision African Americans from New York's Bronx borough as he fires a machine gun and yells obscenities during a military training session is igniting outrage in Europe and America.

The video shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, "You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. … Act."

A laugh can be heard on the recording. The instructor adds, "Before each shot, I want to hear a 'motherf——-!'"

The soldier begins to fire his machine gun at the imaginary blacks and screams out 'motherf——-!" afer each round.

So I'm thinking, okay. After the Don Imus affair, the news media "discovered" racism sometime last week. They'll treat it like a new phenomenon for a few days, and we'll move on to the next Anna Nicole Smith type story. What I wasn't prepared for, was a scene close to the end.

A German TV reporter who covers the military told ABC News that parts of American popular culture may be largely to blame for the racist behavior of the German soldiers.

"There are quite a lot of [American] B movies or hip-hop songs where black people, Afro Americans, are portrayed as gangsters, are portrayed as criminals," said Carsten Lueb of the German NTV network. "Some people here in Germany they take it for real, not knowing that is completely wrong."

Oh okay. I get it, this is now part of the era of A.D.I. (After Don Imus). Hip Hop is now to blame for racism in Germany. The same Germany that gave us the Third Reich and the most extreme ideologies of white supremacy the world has yet seen. The Germany where the 20,000 to 30,000 blacks unfortunate enough to live under Nazi rule faced what the US Holocaust Museum termed "isolation...persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder." The Germany responsible for the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews portrayed as some inferior "bastard offspring" of Africans and Asians. The Germany with a brutal and racist colonial legacy in Africa, including the Herero Massacre. The Germany where racist attacks (against blacks and others) had soared to over 40% by 2001; an Ethiopian-born man was beaten into a coma last April by a white mob. The Germany where black soccer players are taunted by thousands of fans who engage in "monkey chants" and throw bananas (part of a European continent wide derogatory ritual) when they enter on to the field. That's the Germany that now gets to blame Hip Hop for its racist sins.

Well, this must be a milestone in the history of creating scapegoats and irony. Even if one allows for the obvious reality that negative images of blacks is to blame for this incident, why lay it so easily at the feet of Hip Hop? Germany has a long history of Hip Hop, most of which is greatly divorced from "thug" rap. German Hip Hop has developed for such a time, that it now has its own indigenous sounds, beats, social movements and feel. There's hardly a need to form an image of Hip Hop based on "black criminals" from the Bronx when there's exposure to the creative diversity of indigenous German Hip Hop. Besides, of all the scary boogey-men the German army will have to face in the world, how do black residents of the Bronx skyrocket to the top? Did a group of blacks recently settle and form the ominous Republic of "Bronx-istan" somewhere near the Sudetenland?

Today Germany has a well established black community, the Afrodeutsche, who are a thriving part of modern German society. So in many ways, the country has come a long way from its past. And many of its citizens, black, white and Asian, can appreciate the full complexity of "The Bronx"--including the culture of Hip Hop that has been allowed to flourish on German soil. Incidents like this however, along with many others, show that Germany still has a long way to go on matters of race. Best to deal with that, rather than point a finger at Hip Hop.

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