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Rick Perry's rock -- not our problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
October 4, 2011 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Gov. Rick Perry participates in a Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Florida.
Gov. Rick Perry participates in a Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Florida.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Top hip hop song this week demeans women
  • Poverty, education cuts, health issues plague black community, he says
  • He says alleged slur on Rick Perry's rock is disturbing, but a side issue
  • Black community should focus more on harm done internally, he says

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- The number one song on Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop charts this week is a romantic little ditty called "Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay".

In it, Big Sean refers to the object of his affection as "my bitch" while Kanye West boasts that his girl is cool because she performs oral sex while wearing shades.

Again, this is the most popular song on black radio right now.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

So now I ask you: How do we begin to criticize what President Obama has or has not done for the black community when lyrics like these are acceptable?

How can we dismiss Herman Cain as a sell-out for calling black people "brainwashed" when the hottest song on the radio encourages men to treat women like receptacles?

How do we wave an angry finger at what Governor Rick Perry's rock may or may not have said 20 years ago while something like "Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay" is happening right in front of our faces, in real time?

Perry's "Niggerhead" revelation is disturbing but if the controversy forces him out of the race tomorrow, life for black America would not be changed. Our unemployment rate would still be twice the national average, we'll still be disproportionately living in poverty, we'll still be lagging behind in education.

Rick Perry pushes back on racism charges
Cain: 'Don't care about a word on a rock'

So despite the kind of 24-hour sexiness that usually accompanies an n-word scandal like this one, the truth is that it is not the real story. It never is.

The real story is if the black community doesn't find a way to heal ourselves from these self-inflicted wounds, there won't be much of a black community left for people like Perry to offend.

Just this summer there was a report published in the Annals of Epidemiology that concluded black men have a 50 percent chance to live longer in prison than out of it.

Nationwide cuts in K-12 education are expected to total over $4 billion this year and last, with low-income and minority students being impacted the most.

This fall there was a book released that flatly asks "Is Marriage for White People?"

The black community is in a crisis; being hit hard from a variety of cultural and socio-economic angles and we're talking about rocks.

Each time a Perry or any other white person in the media finds themselves engulfed in an "n-word" controversy, instead of resting in our offense, the black community needs to view it as an opportunity to do some much needed soul searching about that word, and the disempowering mentality attached to it.

Talk about it in church.

In the beauty salon.

At school.

We have to move away from the bulk of our attention trying to determine if a white person is racist or not because news cycles move fast and we really need to stay focused on the real story. Trust me: next week somebody would have slept with someone they weren't supposed to and we'll forget all about Perry's rock. But as a community, we'll still be hurting ourselves.

Sure we can point to the Washington Post story as evidence that racism does in fact exist within the upper echelon of the GOP and that Cain--who has always openly criticized this notion--is a jackass.

But then what?

How does that move us forward?

It doesn't.

Besides during the time in which the rock reportedly had the n-word painted on it, Perry was a Democrat, not a Republican-- so was he a racist friend or is he now an inclusive foe? And how do we reconcile the rock with the bill he signed that helps children of undocumented immigrants pay for college?

You know, there once was another governor of Texas, Ann Richards, who, in criticizing her opponent--George W. Bush-- said his problem was that he was born on third base but he thought he hit a triple. I would say the black community's problem is that we're standing at the plate but so many of us behave as if we still can't get in the game. We're waiting for our number to be called while pitch after pitch after pitch goes by.

Yes, systematic racism and the vortex of poverty have contributed mightily to what ails us today. But do we really need Obama to draw up a federal program that tells men to stick around and raise their kids?

Would a President Perry or dare I say President Cain somehow impede our ability to pull up our pants? Treat our women with respect?

It seems we never have a problem rejecting the hurtful things said about or done to us by others, but remain somewhat oblivious to how the hurtful things we say and do to each other contributes to our overall decay.

The news about the Perrys' hunting ground serves as a reminder that we're hardly in a post-racial society. But "Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay" is the number one song in urban America right now.

I don't see how the n-word painted on a rock 20 years ago hurts us worse than that.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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