Several of us had just begun our RESPECT US campaign against the degradation of women, especially Black women. We face it on a daily basis. We hear well-known leaders defend the behavior. We just heard of a rapper insulting a woman. Never mind that this was the first lady of the United States who was being insulted. No matter what we think of her, she doesn’t deserve to be humiliated simply because she happens to be married to a person who appears to not be well. The first lady is obviously under duress.
You see the fear in her eyes whenever she’s in the presence of her husband. I can’t help but feel sorry for her. Being a survivor of domestic violence, I can often detect the symptoms of an abused woman. I don’t think she deserves to be treated like her husband. While he is deserving of every criticism about him, she’s not responsible for his lewd, racist, ignorant behavior.
On the same day, I read a story about a woman in line at a store being yelled at and loudly referred to as a bitch — a word often used by gangsta rappers to refer to Black women who don’t deserve to be called such a name. Yet, many radio stations playing to audiences aimed at the Black community, paid for by many of the corporations with which we spend our dollars without seeing the connection of the filth to the dollars being used to denigrate us. Well, many of us have had enough. Along with Bob Law, president of the National Black Leadership Alliance, Rabena Rasuli of Clear the Airwaves, and the National Congress of Black Women, the organization for which I serve as national president, many others have again begun to do something about it.
We’re monitoring radio stations and the companies advertising on them. We’ve decided to take action. We ask everyone to join us in limiting the money we spend at McDonald’s, Subway restaurants, Adidas, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s until we can report that these companies are no longer making it possible for the filthiest music to be promoted — even during hours little children are listening. These companies are some of the main advertisers on urban radio stations directed at the Black Community.
On the other hand, they spend little or nothing on radio that has conscious or positive music. We urge them to spend money where Melba Moore, Aretha Franklin, John Legend, the new Common and people who deserve to be heard by promoting good things can be heard more often.
Our Respect Us campaign is simple. Don’t buy products from the companies mentioned until they withdraw their support from the offending stations and companies. Begin withdrawing your support until they change the filth they pay for in our communities. Make a special effort to refrain from patronizing any of these companies on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That’s not a big ask to stop the degradation of our community. We ask you to listen to a song by Kanye West called “I Love It” and just any song by Nicki Minaj. Listening to them or to any urban radio station, you will hear songs that glorify gang rape, illegal drugs, deadly violence, shooting up whole neighborhoods, etc. Think about your own daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers. Do they deserve the degradation when Black women do so much to lift up our community and our nation?
The time has come for us to demand action from our leaders to put a halt to such harmful behavior all too prevalent in our society. Behavior that leads to deliberate harm to others must be made costly, not glorified.
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.