Ladies and gentlemen

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An influential artist of African heritage made some recordings implying that his compatriots shouldn’t aim to be described as “ladies” or “gentlemen”. The rationale behind his message was that being a “lady” or a “gentleman” were ideas that originated in European cultures. Since Europeans were complicit in colonising and enslaving Africans, it wasn’t a good look for Africans to aspire towards being regarded as such.

One could suggest that the song lyrics messages came from a popular music level of discourse. Some popular music is able to convey ideas of great depth and wisdom. Other moments are capable of attracting attention, only to function on a more simplistic level.

It goes without saying that everyone should have the right to live his or her life as he or she chooses. In the era when those songs were popular, there was also a point to be made about the conditioning of slavery and colonialism and the need for Africans to get in touch with authenticity within their own cultures.

“Ladies” and “gentlemen” are simply words that are sometimes used to describe human beings who are seen to be refined or have a particular sort of breeding. If people of African descent invest a huge amount of time, energy and resources in mimicking the social mores of other cultures, then it is probably valid to question the usefulness of doing so.

On the other hand, African cultures have their own ideas of refinement, class and breeding. Perhaps it might have been too pernickety to be specific about this fact in those songs, but we shouldn’t lose sight of this information.