This column is dedicated to the memory of Lonnie Larae-Tierre Brown (a.k.a. "Wisdom").
May 15th, 1976 - May 27, 2005. Father, teacher, emcee, and friend.
Why are young black men being killed, and killing each other? We are members of this peer group, between the ages of 16 and 45, who have been labeled Generation X (after Malcolm X, in our case) or Generation Y. Being pall bearers and guest speakers at many funerals of our peers qualifies us to address the subject.
The first reality we must acknowledge is that we are at war. However, this war is waged upon young black men in a different way than how it is waged on young whites, Asians, and other non-white people.
Racism is the grease that capitalism fries us in. It keeps workers divided along lines of color, based upon differential treatment, distinct levels of social and economic privilege, and hyper-enforcement (or lack of enforcement) of government policy and laws.
It is a clever tactic: racism fools the public and makes us think we are all different.
One of the results of this is that we, the human family, become unconcerned with what happens to other people who are not like us, until it touches us directly.
Imagine if America had entered World War II a little earlier. Millions of Jews, Gypsies and Germanic blacks may have been saved from the holocaust that Hitler and his supporters enacted upon Europe. But America didn't. And you know the rest.
What about the victims of the hip-hop holocaust? It seems everyone is standing around watching a whole generation of young black men die. Are you?
In the late 1980s early 1990s when the crack/gang epidemic hit, hip-hop quelled some of this fire and gave meaning to the situation when emcee KRS-One formed a coalition of socially conscious groups to put out the East-Coast based "Self Destruction" track along with its companion, West-Coast based "We're all in the Same Gang" track.
Around this same time, the music industry began exploiting real-life dope-game rivalries and personal grudges between artists. The artists went along with it, and this divided hip-hop - and the communities it serves - along the lines of East Coast groups vs. West Coast groups; and gangster-style rap vs. the supposed more socially conscious backpacker-style rap.
So a situation was created in which only these two aspects of hip-hop expression were given any serious press or recognition. Meanwhile, the artists from the streets were given a direct order: conform to the corporate image they assign you, "backpacker" or "gangster", or starve.
To quote Seattle's conservative talk-radio host Dan Sytman of AM 770 KTTH , "hip-hop music is an educational process whereby your child learns how to abuse women, abuse drugs, abuse alcohol, have promiscuous sex, assault police officers, and get shot. Geologic [of the local hip-hop trio Blue Scholars]...is going to become a criminal basically, because you have to be a criminal to succeed in hip-hop."
Many Seattlites, and Americans, share some of the same backward, uninformed views as Sytman. So when we speak to our elders about hip-hop they blame all of us for what artists like 50-Cent does, or for the murder of Tupac Shakur, or for gun violence in general.
Sytman has yet to discuss why most of the socially conscious emcees have been silenced, or why people choose a 50-Cent concert over one of the many local shows held by groups such as dRED.i. If he is such an 'expert', ask him to name five socially conscious emcees and where their music is on the Billboard charts right now. Ask Dan to play some independent hip-hop on his show.
The most obvious solution to combat such destructive ignorance is to open a serious dialogue between the Baby Boomers, the Generation Xers, and Generation Y. But the dialogue and discussion must be followed by action and practical work.
It is time to redefine hip hop and rap to the world, to reconstruct the image of the black man and woman in America, and to teach what the schools have failed to, or are afraid to.
It is time to use hip hop as a means of bringing the human family together.
Have a thought or two you'd like to share with GCL1 and Moorpheus? Drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.[[In-content Ad]]