Saul Williams’s letter to Oprah touched a nerve, so thought you’d be curious to hear Russell Simmons’s take on the situation: tipping towards Tipper, replete with proposals for “guidelines” and “good corporate social responsibility.”
Recommendation to the Recording and Broadcast Industries:
A Statement by Russell Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis on behalf of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
April 23, 2007
The theme of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) is “Taking Back Responsibility.” We are consistent in our strong affirmation, defense, and protection of the First Amendment right of free speech and artistic expression. We have recently been involved in a process of dialogue with recording and broadcast industry executives about issues concerning corporate social responsibility.
It is important to re-emphasize that our internal discussions with industry leaders are not about censorship. Our discussions are about the corporate social responsibility of the industry to voluntarily show respect to African Americans and other people of color, African American women and to all women in lyrics and images.
HSAN reaffirms, therefore, that there should not be any government regulation or public policy that should ever violate the First Amendment. With freedom of expression, however, comes responsibility. With that said, HSAN is concerned about the growing public outrage concerning the use of the words “bitch,” “ho,” and “nigger.” We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove/bleep/delete the misogynistic words “bitch” and “ho” and the racially offensive word “nigger.”
Going forward, these three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as “extreme curse words.” The words “bitch” and “ho” are utterly derogatory and disrespectful of the painful, hurtful, misogyny that, in particular, African American women have experienced in the United States as part of the history of oppression, inequality, and suffering of women. The word “nigger” is a racially derogatory term that disrespects the pain, suffering, history of racial oppression, and multiple forms of racism against African Americans and other people of color.
In addition, we recommend the formation of a music industry Coalition on Broadcast Standards, consisting of leading executives from music, radio and television industries. The Coalition would recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards within the industries.
We also recommend that the recording industry establish artist mentoring programs and forums to stimulate effective dialogue between artists, hip-hop fans, industry leaders and others to promote better understanding and positive change. HSAN will help to coordinate these forums.
These issues are complex, but require creative voluntary actions exemplifying good corporate social responsibility.