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Speak Your Mind

When a Word Is More Than Just a Word

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We continue this series with a submission from News & Notes contributor Jasmyne Cannick. She takes the popular entertainment Website TMZ.com to task for its description of Beyonce's performance at the recent BET Awards.

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Courtesy Jasmyne Cannick

We just can't seem to escape the word ho. It's everywhere we go. It's blaring from the speakers in the cars that pass us by on the street. It's coming out of the mouths of the kids that walk past our homes and offices. Occasionally some white shock jock uses it to refer to a group of women basketball players and then there's the Internet and infotainment media.

In its recap of the BET Music Awards held in Los Angeles, popular Internet site TMZ.com described recording artist Beyonce's choice of outfit as "roboho," and this was among other things.

The website posted the following comments in regards to Beyonce:

"From Beyonce's roboho performance getup to Eve's streetwalker chic, check out why it's time these artists hired new stylists and put the hip back into hip-hop!"

And while I tried to shake it and chalk it up to TMZ.com just being TMZ.com, I can't.

Not too long ago Black America raised its voices over the Don Imus "nappy headed hos" slip of the tongue which resulted in him ultimately being fired from CBS. Some would argue it had more to do with that fact the women he referred too didn't deserve to be called that and that they weren't public figures worthy of such a demeaning name. Others, like myself, believe that there's no justification for calling someone a ho, directly or indirectly, in the media, and that includes the online media.

So with that said, back to Beyonce and her being described by TMZ.com as having on "roboho performance getup." For real now. Is that what it's come down to? There are many colorful adjectives that one could use to describe Beyonce's outfit. So why then did ho have to come into the equation? And the last time I checked, Beyonce was an African-American woman, which to me makes the description worse because it seems that these days it's us Black women who are always being called hos. If the Don Imus' and TMZ.com's of the world aren't calling us hos, then its our brotha Snoop Dogg who believes that he's justified in doing so because he's "talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh—, that's trying to get a n—-a for his money."

But back to TMZ.com, obviously Beyonce doesn't need anyone to defend her and that's really not what I am doing. I am more interested in defending the way that Black women and in fact all women are depicted by the media when it's negative. Like I said earlier, there are a many colorful adjectives that TMZ.com could have used and I am curious to know why they went with ho. Was it subconscious? Was it on purpose? Do they not care how that word, thanks in part to websites like TMZ.com and rappers is becoming more and more synonyous with Black women.

And before you race off to your inbox to send me an email defending TMZ.com's use of the word, note this: I get what TMZ.com is all about. understand fully why they are as popular as they are. My point is that Black America has already made it clear that "ho" is not going to be tolerated in conjunction with describing Black women. Not from Black rappers, white shock jocks, and yes not even the writers at TMZ.com. Today is a new day, and just like when n—-, negro, and colored were acceptable descriptions of Blacks, we have now replaced those words with African-American, Black American, and my favorite, just Black.

I think at the very least TMZ.com owes Beyonce and America an apology for using such a derogatory slur in their description of her outfit. I don't care that they didn't like it but I do care when they use their platform that's read by millions to describe her as a "roboho." That's just wrong and inexcusable after the Imus controversy and sends a clear message of how Black women are viewed by the TMZ.com writers.

This is one Black woman who isn't down with the word ho.
— Jasmyne Cannick

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Read Jasmyne's reaction to TMZ.com's response about this developing controversy.


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