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Mos Def and Cornel West on Real Time With Bill Maher

West and Def

I don’t remember why or exactly when but I stopped watching Bill Maher earlier this year. I understand the fact that the guy is a comedian first and a talk show host second and a white a close but unforgettable third so I do take a lot of the things he says with a twenty six ounce box of salt. But I’m not a big fan of Home Box Office and with my Netflix subscription it just became harder to justify the extra cost on the cable bill. So sometime in February or March of this year I cancelled HBO and stopped watching Bill Maher. But, earlier this week somebody was talking about Mos Def and Dr. Cornel West had made an appearance on the latest Real Time with Bill Maher. My curiosity was piqued and I looked for the episode on YouTube (click here to see the episode).

I actually had a dream where Mos Def made an appearance once. I don’t have immediate access to the dream journal I wrote it down in. But I remember I was running through a building with lots of classrooms. In one room a couple of men were hanging thick, black, velvety cloth in order to block out the light and absorb sounds. In another room a classroom of students were waiting for their teacher. Another room held an incredibly thin black woman with black, oily looking fluid oozing out of every orifice of her body. But in one room there was Mos Def at the chalkboard writing out some incredibly complex mathematical equations. My bachelor’s degree is in mathematics so I know complex math when I see it. I couldn’t differentiate an equation right now to save my life but I know one when I see one.

I’ve never been a big fan of Dr. West. Although I try to listen, sometimes the language the brother uses goes over my head and I have to make sure I have a way of recording what he said so I can go back and dissect it and study it to make sure I understand it completely. Dr. West made the statement, “Truth lies [prostrate] on rugged hills with nameless cavalries.” This is followed up with a “what I mean is” with even more confusing figures of speech and symbolism. This was a serious scratch the head moment for me. I will admit I am far from the shiniest marble in the bag. Sometimes Dr. West appears to be trying to get people to focus on issues of racism. But then he’ll try to say it in a way not to offend anybody. But if someone is being racist chances are they are offending me and other black people. Why should we be careful about offending them?

Mos Def on the other hand pulls no punches and his appearance on Bill Maher was no exception. His language isn’t sophisticated. I read a comment someone made that Mos Def sounds like a drug user. That may be true. But I’m sure its part of the persona he wants to front for the public. His acting in such movies as Something The Lord Made is evidence that his speech patterns can be less urban if he so chooses. But it is nevertheless refreshing to see someone say exactly what he means without having to rewind and write down what he says to find the meaning. If truth is lying prostrate on them hills, clarity is hanging from a branch on the side of the cliff about to fall down into the crocodile infested river at the bottom of the ravine below.

Mr. Def thinks that the Electoral College should be trashed and a simple majority of the people’s vote for President should rule. He said that the American public should have an entire weekend to cast their vote for a presidency instead of trying to have the entire population vote in a single twelve hour period. When Bill Maher said, “You have to admit there are people who do want to kill Americans”, Mos Def didn’t hesitate to reply, “Yeah, some of them are called the police.” Later when Mr. Maher asked Mos Def, “But you don’t want to be blown up by a bomb”, Mos Def replied, “I don’t think I’m gonna get blown up by a bomb. Listen, I’m black and I’m in America. I live under constant pressure. I don’t believe in all that boogeyman shit.” This is a not so subtle reminders that while white people fear Osama bin Laden over in his cave in Pakistan, black people have to deal day-to-day brutality of racism right next door here in America. This is the cavalry coming to rescue the prostrated truth on that rugged hill and pulling clarity’s ass off that cliff in the process.

Now everything that Dr. West said wasn’t as transparent as thick black mud. He may have been emboldened by the example set by Mos Def and/or he may have been feeling somewhat a tad mortified from Mr. Maher making an amusing reference to his truth being prostrate analogy made previously in the show, but Dr. West made his own insightful contribution to the conversation.

Said Mr. West, “9/11 is the first time many Americans of various colors felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. But to be black in America for four hundred years is to be unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hate. So what happens is that you have a different perspective often times because if you are used to dealing with the strain and the pressure and the violence coming at [someone]. ‘Cause lets fact it. The civil rights movement was a fight against American terrorism…If you have multiple sources of force, coercion, and terror coming at you, which many black Americans do, the prison industrial complex, racist criminal justice system, the Jena Six is one grand example, disgraceful school systems, to what degree do you begin to think my paranoia is actually justified? Because if they can sustain this level of psychic and physical terror against me, and they’re obsessed with a terror that’s against them, then maybe they might not be believable or credible.”

These statements, and a lot more just like them, indicate that both Dr. West and Mos Def were fully abreast of the issue regarding the Jena Six, terrorism against America from the average black person’s perspective, and America’s history of brutality to its African population. I heard more about black issues in America from these two gentlemen than I’ve heard listening to any other black person on the television or radio or cable. Dr. Cornel West wants to be politically correct but actually let his hair down for a moment. Mos Def will shoot from the hip and gives you the impression that he doesn’t give a damn about what anybody thinks about it. It was wonderful to see two black people speak their minds and their hearts without trying to appease anybody else. More black people should do more to be in the cavalry for the naked truth.

Thursday, October 4, 2007 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Black Women, Jena 6, Life, Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. Mos def let’em have it on that show!
    We as black men aren’t so quick to jump on the bandwagon of fear in this country or racial-annihilation which to me is what drives the fear of many whites in this country or the collective mindset of this country.
    We’re still trying to keep our jobs and maintain our freedom, I mean watch our back for the “boogeyman” we face everyday. Those of us that are in the pit of poverty and lower middle class.
    Cuz, we still are the hunted in this country.

    Comment by Damien | Friday, October 5, 2007 | Reply

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