Portrait of a Pimp

Quotes by Iceberg Slim:

A black young man does not have the premeditated conscious insight as does a white young man when he sets out to destroy people to become a millionaire. It is for the black man, a survival. It is a ghetto kid, deprived of fatherhood, raised by his mother who has no father either. He searches for his father image and sees Dandy Bill or Lovely Louie and these are the people in his environment whom he wants to emulate. And Dandy Bill is a pimp...

...it is counterrevolutionary for black people to prey on other black people, or upon poor white people. I recognize the necessity for crime in black America. I understand why, for survival, black people must steal. But I don't condone crime. I feel that what it takes to be a successful criminal could be used in a more constructive way...

...And the tragedy there is, that the black woman is the bedrock of the black family unit. This is what is under direct assault. It occurred under the structured racism of America. When a black man turns out a black woman, he is denigrating the bedrock of family life in his community. Again, this is counterrevolutionary. Pimps are becoming an anachronism.

(read the full interview here. then leave some feedback. this topic reaches deep. to be a healer you'll need to understand that depth and be willing to dive in.)

Then there is this powerful critique and response to Hustle + Flow (the movie about a down-and-out pimp-turned-rapper, starring Terrance Howard). I just had to include a few excerpts. It's that good.

Manufacturing Pimps: Rewarding the Violent Repression of Black Women from Hip Hop to Hollywood
by Ewuare Osayande

EXCERPTS: Contrary to many people's belief that the movie was a "Black film" made in the tradition of other Black pimp flicks in the Seventies, Hustle and Flow was written and directed by a white southerner by the name of Chris Brewer... Brewer has admitted that he was inspired to write the script by the events of his own personal life and marriage to his white wife as stated in this article published by Indiewire.com by Ellen Keohane. Much of "Hustle and Flow" is based on experiences from Craig Brewer's own life. When he and his wife Jodi moved to Memphis in the mid-1990s, they didn't have any money. "My wife and I were really struggling," said Brewer. Jodi, a costume designer, started making outfits for strippers for extra cash, then worked as a waitress at a strip club and later began stripping there. (One of the characters in "Hustle & Flow" is a stripper and several scenes take place in a local strip club.) "Part of me thought, wow, this will be an adventure," said Brewer. "We started to roll with a very different element. At the same time, the lifestyle started to rob our souls a little bit. (emphasis mine) (Keohane)... Rather than defy the white supremacist lie and write a script that details how he prostituted his wife to make ends, he realized that he would make millions more if he kept with the "master narrative" that images Black men as pimps and Black women as whores. Images that white America can readily embrace...

If he had written a film about his own experience, undoubtedly he would have had to face his personal sexism and his personal complicity in the system of patriarchy and male domination as a white man. In so doing, he would also have had to come to terms on some level with his own demons and the demons of his white brethren who have raped, exploited and abused women of every hue since European colonization...

Brewer would be assisted in this endeavor by none other than John Singleton of Boys N the Hood fame. Singleton, in his role as the film's executive producer, served as the necessary Black stamp-of-approval that dissuaded the fears of nervous Hollywood execs concerned about a possible Black backlash. Just as Dr. Dre's role as producer of Eminem enabled Eminem to gain the necessary street cred he would not have been able garner on his own, Singleton's presence enabled Hustle and Flow to gain a ghetto authenticity that Brewer could not have pulled off with his "Hee-Haw" look and persona.

How do we justify "pro-Black" Singleton's involvement? We can't! Of course, Singleton would probably state that this is not your typical pimp flick. I guess he would call it "Pimp-Lite." Even though the main character DJay is portrayed as a reluctant Black pimp, he is still no less an exploiter. He still wields abusive power over the women in his house. We see several scenes where the threat of the pimp slap is constantly lingering in the humid air. It is that threat of violence that marks his control over the young women's lives. The racist imaginary continues in the depiction of the women as well. Only the white prostitute is given a semblance of agency. She is the only one who seeks an escape from prostitution. She is the only one of the three who actually asserts herself beyond mere whoredom by the film's end. In the Black women we see two favorite stereotypes deployed. One is of the hardened, foul-mouthed Black woman who despises Black men. The other is the whiney, weak and helpless Black woman. Both are too beat-down and oppressed to fight against their oppression, so they are forced by their condition to submit to it and engage in self-destructive behavior.

There is nothing new about this movie or its depiction of Black people. Brewer's interpretation of Black life is no different fundamentally from D. W. Griffith's interpretation in Birth of a Nation. If he were alive, he would give the film four stars. The film only fosters and reinforces age-old codes and icons of white

I wonder if Singleton would be down with a film that put a happy face on slavery. In this film, the main character is a white slave master who is conflicted with his role as slave owner and wants to get out the "game." So he decides he'll make a living by writing about whipping "them niggers," rather than actually beating his slaves. He then commences to record the lyrics over the sampled beat of "Whistlin' Dixie." He coerces one of his enslaved field hands named Sambo to sing the hook "It's Hard out Here for a Cracker" as we witness a whip hanging on the wall just behind Sambo as he stutters through his lines.

Singleton's involvement in the making of Hustle and Flow exposes the continuing contradiction of African American manhood. Our notions of Black nationalism and Black struggle remain narrow and limiting when we act out our patriarchal prerogative and fail to accord to Black women the same sensitivity and respect for their experience that we demand from the system for ours. Singleton's concern was not with the way the Black women are viewed. His own films are notorious for replicating stereotypical depictions of Black women. Rather, his concern was whether the Black man would be perceived as redeemable. But there is no redemption to be found in this film. The stretch from a pimp that actually exploits women to a rapper that talks about exploiting women is no stretch at all. It is simply the record of the reality.

What the film does show is that the pimp aspiration is the same as the rapper aspiration: Power. In search of said power, DJay as pimp and DJay as rapper are both willing to exploit women to make their dreams come true. Rap artists know this and have acted accordingly. The modern day rapper presents an ideological defense, an aesthetic apologia, for the pimp and what the pimp represents: the brutal repression of women. What other purpose is there for songs like "Its Hard Out Here for a Pimp"? The song is an anthem for male domination. It is machismo remixed for the new millennium.

Beck identifies this connection between the pimp and the president. "So you can see how utterly poisoning and trapping it all is. Once anybody has pimped he is in trouble because this is what the male aspiration is … whether he is the president of a white corporation, of General Motors for example. It all boils down to the same thing … Power." (Koblin) Herein lies the crux of the system of patriarchy; its main purpose is the manly pursuit of power manifested as control over the lives, bodies and minds of women.

The system is turning us out as a people. We are both the prostitute and the john. We pay to see ourselves exploited on the screen. We pay to listen to ourselves exploited on the CD player. We are paying with money, and we are paying with our souls. It is the best indication of just how deeply colonized we still are.

Today we are witnessing the rise of a Black bourgeoisie in Hollywood that has made its ascension upon the backs of their Black kinfolk who still exist in the hoods they have escaped from. Their notion of giving back is not producing films that honor the struggle of the Black poor, nor do their films instruct impoverished Blacks on how to fight against the system. Rather, their films exploit the Black poor; makes a mockery of their plight so they can make millions...

Paramount Classics, the company that picked up the film from Sundance and distributed it into theaters across the globe, was on its financial death bed in the early part of the decade. But Hustle and Flow changed all that. "It's the best summer we had," according to David Dinerstein, Paramount corporate exec. Hustle and Flow made over $20 million for Paramount Classics. Their next best flick came in a distant second, making a measly $7 million in comparison. (Sperling)...

Rather than face up to our complicity in the exploitation of Black women and organize against the system, some Black men have tried to justify their position by claiming that they are pimping the system. One such rap group called Dead Prez has gone as far as to make a song and video that does just that. "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)" is Dead Prez's response to the dead-end reality that is faced by many of the Black working poor. Rather than pimp each other, they say, "pimp the system."

This hip hop slogan is problematic coming from a rap group that proclaims itself revolutionary for a couple of reasons. First, it gives credibility to pimping and prostitution by its mere use of the word. Ideologically this is debilitating because it places us in the disempowered position of fighting on the system's terms by using their very terms in fact. That is not revolutionary. Trying to disconnect pimping from its real purpose of oppressing women, and turning it into some radical act is a sign of political weakness and a lack of cultural vision. In fact is a trap. It is just not possible for the system to be pimped. The system already knows how to handle petty crime, which is what they suggest poor Blacks do to get back at the system. Smacking up the pizza delivery boy and stealing his meager funds will not free anybody. If anything, it will achieve just the opposite – jail. And our people are already over-represented in the penitentiaries.

The video actually ends with cops breaking in to their hide-out and arresting them. Dead Prez unable to cast a libratory vision for their scheme, turns it into a bad dream with them waking up in pre-colonial Africa surrounded a bevy of Black women lying all around them. The "ghetto ho" becomes the "Afrocentric queen." Different image, same role: service the Black man. Which brings us back to the original issue: If you can't pimp the "The Man," then pimp the sistah. With "Pimp the System" Dead Prez doesn't offer any viable solution, just more of the same.

Trying to find a little pocket in the system to pilfer, which, in the end, amounts to ripping off other poor people in the hood, is just another ridiculous ploy by a rap group at gaining street cred...

As has been stated, the prostitute cannot pimp the pimp. The prostitute's only real option is to resist the pimp and get free. Our people's only real option to end our misery under this corrupt system is organized resistance against it. Malcolm X settled the question back in 1965 when he said; "The system in this country cannot produce freedom for an African American. It is impossible for this system, this economic system, this political system, this social system, this system, period." (The Last Year of Malcolm X, p.43) Dead Prez should know better. But maybe they too have fallen victim to the dollarism Malcolm also addressed given their contractual relationship to corporate giant Columbia Records. "You can cuss out colonialism, imperialism and all other kinds of ism, but it's hard for you to cuss that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, your soul goes." (The Last Year of Malcolm X, p. 42)

Capitalism doesn't care how much you rave and rant against it as long as you don't actively resist it. And you cannot actively resist it while you are being pimped by it. It will even provide you with a stage so you can get paid to complain about how bad the system is. All the while, capitalism takes your ranting all the way to the bank and cashes in on your complaint...

No, the system doesn't have a soul. But we do. What is the condition of our soul when we pay top dollar to see our people exploited? Today, we are the ones showing up at the auction block bidding on our own people. What has become of us? The world has gained a distorted and dehumanizing image of our people as it is beamed all over the planet. We, in return, have gained nothing. In the process we are raising a generation that lacks a fundamental love and respect for each other and ourselves. Call me a "playa hater" if you must. But the truth of the matter, my brothers, is that you are not playas. You are just the ones being played. (source)

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