Most of Us "Just Don’t Understand"

Of course this is the way it goes, every single time. I’ve read about DJ Jazzy Jeff getting kicked off the stage at the P&L District, and I’m concluding from the competing stories that truth favors the District’s side, and the DJ side is spin, misunderstanding, or a gambit for some publicity. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the District would hire him for a Saturday night and then shut him down in front of all his fans for performing his music unless he was in danger of damaging the sound equipment.

And with that simple analysis I can ignore everything important I could learn from this snafu. Instead of gaining any understanding, I manage to retrench myself into the “us” position in an “us vs. them” world.

My ability (?) to coolly analyze the facts presented shields and protects me from having to face more challenging truths. How shocking is it that the conclusion I’m reaching favors the power structure?

First off, I wasn’t there. I stayed home Saturday night and watched a movie on TV. I like to think it’s cool that I live in the city, but the truth is that Saturday night I lived the life of someone living in the furthest reaches of suburbia. I may live a few blocks from Troost, but my geographical proximity means little in comparison to a lifestyle that more closely resembles Blue Springs.

Second, I wasn’t there. I’m relying on statements from others who were, and I am internally making judgments on credibility based on my prejudices. Even though the leaders of the P&L District have lied to us at every step of this tax-advantaged boondoggle, from opening dates to free parking, I continue to give them credibility. Why? Because the people on the ground are the corporate and middle-management types I live among. I need to believe that the spokespeople for the P&L District are trying to be truthful, because if I don’t, I’m undermining the aura of trust and respectability that I need to feel comfortable in my zone.

Third, I wasn’t there. I have no idea what the decibels were. The decibel level is a fact – an important part of objective information that could help determine who is at fault for the situation. The P&L people say it was too high, and the Jazzy Jeff people say it wasn’t. Here in my living room on a quiet Monday morning, how am I to know? Was the decibel level actually measured by the P&L people? Wouldn’t a taxpayer-financed sound system have dampers built into it to protect it from getting loud enough to hurt itself? Isn’t it possible that somehow the hip hop of Saturday night seemed a little louder than music more in the comfort zone of the decision-makers.

Fourth, I wasn’t there. I don’t know who said what to whom, and neither do you. Like a game of “pass the secret”, it’s entirely possible that somebody said “Shut it down because of the volume” and, by the time the word got to the stage, the message had morphed into “Stop the hip-hop”. Both sides may be telling the truth here, but it makes it easier for me to choose one side or the other to believe. “Us vs. them”, and I’m on the “Us” team again. Huh.

Fifth, finally, and in a deeper sense, I wasn’t there. I’ve never been there as a black man. I’ve never seen the second level of scrutiny directed my way when I walk toward the entrance of the P&L District. I’ve never had the officials at the P&L District target a dress code at the things I like to wear. I walk in there, and I feel all kinds of welcome. So, if the District shut down a concert by a group preferred by people like me, I would have no real reason to suspect there was an ulterior motive. But if they made it known to me that I wasn’t really welcome, and this was not really my turf, I might feel like there was more to the story than decibel levels.

It’s easy to sit here on Monday morning, read conflicting spins, and decide to believe the P&L District’s version of things. That version has the irresistible virtue of NOT including racism as a factor in what happens in our society every day. And, frankly, that’s the version I prefer, because racism is ugly and disturbing, so I’d prefer to pretend that it’s rare, okay? Okay?

6 Responses to “Most of Us "Just Don’t Understand"”

  1. Ward says:

    "It just doesn't make sense to me that the District would hire him for a Saturday night and then shut him down in front of all his fans for performing his music unless he was in danger of damaging the sound equipment"

    I never understood this, either. If you didn't want his music there, why hire him at all??

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am going to go to the store and buy a big bunch of strawberries. I will then take them home and just when I am about to eat them, I will remember that I hate strawberries. In fact, I hate strawberries so much, I will throw them out even though they were not on sale when I bought them.

    There is enough true racism in this world–no need to dilute genuine hatred and bigotry by making questionable accusations (at best) like this. Unfortunately, things take a step back every time someone leaps to a conclusion.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I believe that P & L thought thought that DJ Jazzy Jeff was going to do readings of memorable scenes from the Fresh Prince of Bell Air.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dan – were you being sarcastic?

  5. Dan says:

    Heck, no, I'm not being sarcastic. As for the irrationality of the District hiring him and then shutting him down, there are several possible explanations. First, they may have been surprised by the music they heard – "Lick the Balls" is a long way from "Parents Just Don't Understand." Secondly, this would certainly not be the first instance of one division of a company undercutting the decision of another division. The booking people made a decision to bring in a group that the security people might have disagreed with, and they could easily have decided to flex their corporate muscle with an excuse about a sound system.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Who would post at 3:41 am?

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