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Robeson to Carter Jr: Till reference a slap in the face

By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
On March 4, 2013

  • Lil’ Wayne’s reference to Emmett Till in the song “Karate Chop” was offensive.

( - The one word to describe Paul Robeson is "giant." He was born April 9, 1898, and died January 23, 1976. He was a person of extraordinary power, significance, and importance; a man of enormous strength and stature. Robeson was an artist of the highest order; a singer, actor, scholar, and activist. He was considered by many to be one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

 Robeson was "race man." He was an African American who used his enormous strength and stature as an artist, intellect and international status to represent the race, disproving at every turn bigoted notions of White power and Black inferiority. Robeson was socially conscious, socially responsible, and socially relevant.
In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, singer, actor, and life-long activist Harry Belafonte stated, unlike Robeson (whom Belafonte knew quite well), "I think one of the greatest abuses of this modern time is that we have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility."
One of the current examples of a socially irresponsible high-profile artist is Dwayne Carter, Jr., aka "Lil' Wayne." Carter is a rapper; a hip-hop artist born in 1982, 84 years after Robeson. One would only expect artists to become better educated, better informed, more socially conscious and aware. Unfortunately, Carter and his ilk take us back.
While working with rapper Nayvadius Wilburn, aka "Future," on his "Karate Chop" remix, "Lil' Wayne" drops the line, "beat the p---y up like Emmett Till..."
Does "Lil" Wayne, Epic Records Chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid, or any rational adult in their inner circle have any idea how disgusting, demeaning, and socially irresponsible this is? Have they no shame?
Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, who was visiting relatives for the summer in the small town of Money, Mississippi. On August 24, 1955, while out playing with his cousins, Till was accused of whistling at or flirting with a White woman, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant. On August 28, 1955, in response to the alleged whistling incident, Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till's great-uncle's house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.
The brutal murder of Till was a seminal moment in African-Americans' struggle for human rights, a turning point. Tens of thousands attended Till's funeral. Images of his mutilated body were published in Black magazines and newspapers, rallying popular support and sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of African-American civil rights in Mississippi and throughout the entire country, with newspapers around the country critical of the state. Lil' Wayne, the so-called artist, decided to trivialize that horrific and historic event by using it to make sick, caviler, sexist, and misogynistic references to women. I ask again, has he no shame?
Future makes a feeble attempt to defend the indefensible by telling MTV News "The record it was done from a good place, good art, he ain't have no bad intentions when he was thinking about it like that."
Gil Scott Heron, one of the original rappers wrote in Message to the Messengers, "We got respect for you rappers ... But if you're gon' be teachin' folks things, make sure you know what you're sayin' ... Because if you're gonna' be speakin' for a whole generation; And you know enough to try and handle their education; Be sure you know the real deal about past situations ... Four letter words or four syllable words won't make you important; It'll only magnify how shallow you are and let everybody know it..."
The author can be contacted on Follow him on Twitter at drwleon

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