Many African Americans feel like there has been an unofficial war declared on Blacks, especially young Black males. Just in the past month alone, there have been the police murders of Eric Garner (Staten Island, N.Y.), Ezell Ford (Los Angeles, and Michael Brown (Ferguson, Mo.). Each of these victims was unarmed, young, Black and male.
In each instance, there were credible witnesses or video recordings that recounted events very differently from the official police version. Based on what we know so far, I think all the policemen involved in these unjustified deaths should be convicted of murder and sent to jail.
As abhorrent as these actions were, they should spark a larger, separate conversation about the images that we have created around Black life and Black culture. To reiterate, regardless of these images, there is no justification for killing those young Black men. Let’s be clear about that.
But let’s be equally clear and courageous enough to take another look at what we are contributing to the misperceptions and stereotypes of us as a race. This is a separate conversation from what happened in New York, LA and Ferguson, Mo.—but this is as good a time to hold it as any.
For the past 30 years, we have created images of Blacks in the most negative of lights. For those who would say it’s just music, it’s just a movie, it’s just a reality TV show—I say now there is just another Black body lying in the streets of America.
Before you go to war, the first thing that is needed is to create a psychological operations campaign (psy-ops). This is a tactic that the military uses to marginalize its targeted population so that when the troops are sent in to destroy this group, there is no public outcry.
Just look at how the U.S. military vilified and demonized former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and terrorist Osama Bin Laden before we set out to kill them. Upon their deaths at the hands of the U.S. military, the American people cheered because we had devalued and marginalized them before the American people.
I can’t help but ask the Black community, have we unleashed a pys-ops campaign on our own people?
In the horror movie series Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein did not set out to create a monster. Rather he was a scientist playing around in his laboratory. As a result of this experimentation, he created a monster that neither he nor society could control.
In a similar manner, one could argue that Blacks, specifically in Hip-Hop, have experimented in the laboratory called a recording studio. By exercising their First Amendment Right of freedom of speech and expression through music, they have created their own version of Frankenstein.
In the beginning, like with Frankenstein, people marveled at this new creation and people were willing to pay to see and hear it. There was ‘Rappers Delight’; there was ‘The Message’; and there was ‘Fight the Power.’ Then, the imagery and lyrics took a twisted turn under a perverted interpretation of the First Amendment called “keeping it real.”
Now, the establishment, especially the police, had become the enemy. Hip-Hop became a counter-culture movement that turned into a monster that could no longer be controlled. Women became “bitches and hoe’s”; men became hyper-sexualized thugs who were only out to force themselves on your daughters and to “get rich or die trying.”
When rap music started, it was a verbal extension of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the spirit of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was about the uplifting of our community and providing a voice to those often without a voice.
Then in the 1990s, rap took a more militaristic tone with the creation of ‘gangsta rap.’ This too, was a verbal extension of the Civil Rights movement, but more in the spirit of Malcolm X on steroids.
These artists represented those in the ‘hood’ who felt trapped and abused by the system. They felt like no one cared about them and that life was about the here and now—immediate gratification. So screw the future. They wanted to “get theirs now.” They wanted to live fast, even if it meant dying young.
This ultimately led to the ‘thug culture,’ personified by hit movies like Scarface, New Jack City and Carlito’s Way. Each glorified the criminal lifestyle.
Then you had the crack epidemic of the 1990s with the violence that it brought into the hood. All these factors combined to create a narrative that Black life was worthless and Black youth brought no value to society.
It’s too bad the rap world didn’t heed the words of Chuck D, KRS-One, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D, MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee, D-Nice, Daddy-O and others on the all-time classic, ‘Self Destruction,’ which had as its chorus, “Self-Destruction, ya headed for Self-Destruction (repeat).”