Jan 10, 2011

Words have meaning: parts 1 & 2

Part 1: The Audition

Read a scene for a play this afternoon that deals with the tricky issue of how sensitive words (an order of execution) from certain people (royalty) can influence and be interpreted by their recipients (the ill-fated messenger), sometimes with disastrous consequences (so long, Mary Queen of Scots). No need to say what's already been said better and at length re: current events in AZ. Just thought it was grimly fitting. 

Part 2: The Coffee Shop

After the audition, I stopped off at a cafe in my hyper-liberal, super-hip, culture-savvy neighborhood. It only took a few moments to realize that the speakers were blaring some pretty severe hip-hop. Words common to the medium and which are banned on television (and often less-than-flattering to black people and women) filled the air. Lest I sound like an old man, I love hip-hop and am no puritan when it comes to language. But looking around the room of nearly all white faces (none darker than the few Asians), I was amazed at the collective unspoken agreement that seemed to have happened: If someone walks in the door and starts screaming obscenities and racial and sexist epithets, we'll rise up in righteous indignation and expel them with the power of a liberal mob. But put a beat under those same words and play it over the loudspeakers, well, that's just what they play here and it's art and art is sacrosanct and if you don't like it why don't YOU get out, you clod. 

Or so that's maybe what everyone thought everyone else thought. But I wonder how a black person would have felt in that room of white lefties with this (well-DJ'd but lazily-MC'd) music playing? Were the female customers just ignoring it? If so, does that mean these ideas are dead? Can we finally move past ignorance and bigotry and blithely start calling each other whatever we feel like without repercussion? I'm thinking not.

Unless we put it to music, maybe.