Beyond the pale.

PositionLetters to the Editor - Letter to the Editor

William Jelani Cobb ("White Negro, Please!" January issue) and The Progressive could have served the hip-hop community a lot better by listing the "great" CDs that we should be buying instead of (or along with) Eminem. I've just found out about Eminem, and I feel that a whole new type of music is opening up to me. I find that exciting. The fact that a white guy did it doesn't bother me. Too bad it bothers Cobb so much! Eminem may be a yawn to a whole lot of people, but he moved me in a new, kind of uncomfortable, way.

Victor Przysiezny Highland Park, Illinois How ironic that William Jelani Cobb's smug evaluation of Eminem should follow an interview with Jimmy Santiago Baca. Like Baca, Em found his way out of poverty and racism through words. The credibility of both of these poets is grounded in their backgrounds of violence and oppression. And both know that the critics wouldn't fawn quite so much if their ethnicities didn't make them stand out in their respective fields.

Cobb scoffs at "the important questions [Eminem's] ascent raises." While Cobb holds Eminem up to the highest musical standards, he holds him to an even higher moral standard than he would Em's colleagues. Cobb shrugs off the "colorful death threats" of black gangsta rappers, and calls Eminem "beyond the pale." If one is to pass judgment on an artist for the personas he creates, one cannot employ a double standard.

"It's fitting that Eminem hails from Detroit," Cobb yawns. Detroit's not that simple: It's a city with painfully complex racial dynamics. These issues--and the insatiable hunger of white audiences to be invited to the party--haven't been adequately addressed.

Miriam Weisfeld Detroit, Michigan My kids and their friends have been listening to Eminem for quite a while--long before he was discovered by The New York Times or showed up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

There are a lot of images in hip-hop that are disturbing. There is a lot of Eminem's work that is...

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