Gantt Rants Against Leonard Pitts
Lucius Gantt is a black columnist and politico whose stock-in-trade has been old-school polemics and an abiding distrust of the white-dominated power structure. For more than 30 years, he's been writing his often vitriolic and sometimes outrageous opinion, and it has won him praise from fellow journalists, academics, and even Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who wrote that Gantt "never fails to make me think."
Agree or disagree with Gantt -- whose whose work appears in Miami Times, The Westside Gazette, and other Florida black newspapers -- he does make people think. In the latest edition of the Gantt Report, he rips into Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., comparing the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist to "Amos and Andy," calling him a "modern-day Buckwheat," and writing that Pitts has become famous "for criticizing black people that disagree with white people and white people's puppets."
Told you he was vitriolic. Gantt's attack isn't available on the Internet yet, but the Pulp was sent a copy by the Broward Times' Elgin Jones. It comes in response to Pitts' June 26 column in which he defended Oprah Winfrey for her apparent disdain for and short-shrifting of rappers. Pitts' column begins:
"Would somebody please tell the hip-hop community to stop whining? Go drink some Cristal, buy some bling, pimp some hoes or do whatever it is you do for amusement, but please, cease, desist, shut up already about how Oprah Winfrey has hurt your feelings."
And it concludes this way:
The lords of hip-hop made their fortunes and their fame by flipping the middle-finger salute to middle-American alarm and apprehension over their music, its rawness, its explicitness, its violence and its effects. They were outsiders, loud and profanely proud in their rejection of white picket fence mores and norms.
Fine. They have every right.
But now they're singing the blues because the ultimate arbiter of white picket fence mores and norms wants nothing to do with them? Now they're seeking sympathy because they are denied a stamp of approval from Middle America's main gatekeeper?
Cry me a river.
I mean, what do they expect? You can't have it both ways. You cannot curse people and expect them to support you, cannot offend them then ask them to welcome you. I'm reminded of what mama always said about respect: you got to give some to get some. Perhaps this is news to the hip-hop nation, populated as it is by people who routinely embrace values neutrality and moral relativism, who often duck responsibility for what they say and how they say it, who frequently refuse to recognize words have meaning and consequence.
But if it's new to them, it's validation to me. For the better part of 20 years, hip-hop's overriding message has been, ''Bleep the mainstream.''
Apparently, these guys are upset that they're being taken at their word.
Gantt, who counts numerous Florida politicians -- including Alcee Hastings, Mandy Dawson, Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen, Tom Feeney, and Kendrick Meek -- among clients of his political consulting firm, took umbrage to Pitts' criticism. To wit:
Apparently Pitts is so loved as a Miami Herald Negro columnist because he does not spend a lot of time in Black communities. If he did he would know that most residents of Miami's and other Black communities have no problem with rap music. If he went to any club in Miami in Overtown, Liberty City or even on South Beach, he'd heard rap music. He'd hear Black rap music or it's Latin rap equivalents like Reggaetone.
Leonard, since you don't know about a lot of things you write about, rap music is a product of the society in which it was born. Rap artists sing about police brutality because there is police brutality. Rap artists rap about whores and tricks because there are whores and tricks. Rappers did not invent those words that upset you the most. Niggers, bitches, and so on were coined by white folks!
"The Miami Herald could choose from a plethora of Black columnists. Why do you think they gave a job to Leonard Pitts? They hired Pitts because Pitts would write what the white publishers and editors at The Miami Herald wanted him to write."
As Bush says, it's guaranteed to make you think. In this case, it made me think how difficult it is for a black writer like Pitts to write honestly about an issue without being slammed for being an Uncle Tom. At the same time I can see why Pitts' dismissiveness of rap music -- an art form that truly sprang from the street -- and the flippant tone of the piece might anger and offend people in the black community.
The Broward Times' Jones says he doesn't agree with Gantt's assertion that Pitts is tool of the white establishment, but he's glad the piece was written. "I think it's good to have the debate," he says.
What do you think?