Sister Souljah, the New York “raptivist” whose militant black nationalist views were criticized by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton last weekend, said Tuesday she is not a racist and has never promoted the killing of white people.
“I do not advocate the murdering of anybody,” Souljah said in a telephone interview from New York Tuesday. “Not white people. Not black people. That charge is absolutely ridiculous. Mr. Clinton took my comments completely out of context. In the quote he referred to I was speaking in the mindset of a gang member.”
Souljah’s comments come in the aftermath of a controversy that erupted Saturday when the Arkansas governor criticized the rapper as a racist for comments she made in a Washington Post interview, including, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”
Clinton used an appearance before the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow People’s Coalition to criticize Souljah, comparing her comments to remarks by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. Jackson later expressed indignation at Clinton’s remarks.
On Tuesday, Souljah--who says her name means soldier or fighter--responded at a New York press conference and in interviews that she does not take kindly to being criticized as a racist by a politician who publicly apologized for playing golf at an exclusive all-white country club.
“Bill Clinton says that Sister Souljah is a racist like David Duke, a well-known Klan member and white supremacist, but (Clinton) was a member in an all-white segregated club up until this year,” she said. “He says that he’s not a racist but he tries to distance himself from Jesse Jackson, a leader who has registered more voters and serves the interests of poor blacks, whites, Latinos, labor unions and farmers. I am a drug-free, alcohol-free independent black business woman. I am very well educated and very well traveled. And yet white America has a problem with me.”
Born Lisa Williamson, the “raptivist” grew up on welfare in public housing projects in New York and New Jersey. Before signing up in 1991 for a brief stint with the New York rap group Public Enemy, she founded two youth organizations and promoted a series of hip-hop concerts at New York’s Apollo Theatre to finance a summer camp for homeless children.
Clinton said after his speech that he chose to criticize Souljah’s remarks because “she has a big influence on a lot of people.” But Souljah, whose “360 Degrees of Power” album was released in March on Epic Records, characterized Clinton’s attack on her as just the latest in a recent series of anti-rap attacks.
“Bill Clinton obviously knows nothing about rap music. I am a new rap artist with a record that’s only been on the market for three months and has only sold 60,000 albums, whose videos are banned on MTV.
“Any time an African man or woman takes a strong stand for the development and control over their own lives, white America has an insensitive and irrational reaction,” Souljah said. “America has a problem with African people, whether they’re directing films, making records or controlling their own business. They’ve reacted to artists such as Ice Cube, KRS-One, Public Enemy, John Singleton and Spike Lee--so I guess I’m in good company.”
Los Angeles rapper Ice Cube, who appears on Souljah’s upcoming “Killing Me Softly” single, was widely criticized last year for promoting racism on his “Death Certificate” album with a song called “Black Korea,” in which he attacks Korean merchants for not showing respect for black customers.
Professor Griff, a former member of the New York rap group Public Enemy, was also accused of racial bigotry after making anti-Semitic remarks in a 1989 interview in the Washington Times. Public Enemy came under fire again in January when the group featured white politicians being assassinated by black rappers in its “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” video.
In another recent controversy, several police organizations around the nation--including the Los Angeles Police Protective League--called for Time Warner Inc. to voluntarily stop distribution of rapper Ice-T’s “Cop Killer,” a song they believe advocates violence against police officers.
“I am very familiar with police brutality,” she said. “Police violence is a regular event in the black community. It’s as regular as brushing your teeth. The police have a hostile attitude toward men in our community. They move to cover up their own insecurities by beating and whipping black men and lodging false charges against them, knowing that when it goes to court white supremacy is then reinforced by the judge and the jury. It is a system that is capitalizing off of the enslavement of African people.”
Souljah called Clinton a “hypocritical draft-dodging, pot-smoking womanizer.”
“Bill Clinton is using me as a political football, the Democratic version of Willie Horton,” said Souljah, referring to campaign ads run during the 1988 presidential campaign by then-Republican candidate George Bush that cited the case of a black convicted killer who raped a woman while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison.
“It was a poor excuse for a candidate who has not presented America with any substantive comprehensive agenda regarding economic development, foreign policy, budget containment or social policy. He was trying to scare white people to mobilize them into action.”
* POLICE RESPONSE
The National Black Police Assn. criticized law enforcement groups’ calling for a boycott of Ice-T’s label. F4