Hip-hop did not kill Migos rapper, Takeoff

Philly rapper Gillie Da King, whose real name is Nasir Fard, condemned those who pulled out their phones to record Ball dying. “The last image a (expletive) want to see is they peoples lying on the ground bleeding the f—k out man,” Fard said.

Black victims have “mamas, kids, grandmamas, uncles, aunties…” too, Fard yelled.

But no one thinks of them.

Warning: This video contains profanity and other language that may be offensive to viewers:

In the midst of that thoughtlessness enters the holier-than-thou constituency, regurgitating the same all-too-common narrative that hip-hop culture and its Black creators are to blame for violence.

“If you are for gangster rap you can’t also be for Black,” actor LaKeith Stanfield wrote in an ill-timed Instagram post on Tuesday. He argued that a portion of hip-hop contributors should be held accountable for the violent messages they promote about Black people and the “dangerous toxicity associated with this glorified black serial killer.”

At some level, we have to see our lives as valuable so that we think before we react and see another human when we look at a Human man,” Stanfield wrote.

I couldn’t agree more, but I’ve always viewed arguments like Stanfield’s as criticisms of the result that ignore the cause. I won’t even get into the systematic inequity, discrimination, and poverty that led early creators of gangster rap to have to resort to allegedly illegal activity. Let’s just put that to the side and focus a bit on messaging and who controls it. 

There is a reason Black death and criminality are elevated in not only music but every element of culture available to American audiences, from television to movies. That is not on Black people. It is not on hip-hop and, in fact, predates hip-hop. That blame lies with white supremacist culture and capitalism. 

Pastor Michael Smith said during a 2015 TED Talks event that one week after the Montgomery bus boycott led to a 1956 U.S. Supreme Court decision deeming Montgomery’s bus segregation laws unconstitutional, a Pepsi advertisement was pictured on the front of one of the segregated buses. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood next to the bus in a photo that Smith showed his audience. “You know about the prejudice. You know about the discrimination, but right here on the front of the bus is the racism,” Smith said, “because racism exists in the unchecked and the unchallenged normal.”

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“My question is,” Smith continued, “60 years later, what in the world is a Pepsi ad doing on the front of a bus company that makes Black people sit in the back.”

That same decision would be highly unlikely today because as American norms and ideals change, the marketplace has to do the same, Smith said.

The same is true of Mammy Two Shoes, the fictional Tom and Jerry character based on a highly-offensive and racist depiction of Black mothers. “Now we don’t have Mammy Two Shoes today. You can’t get away with it. Nobody would put it out there,” Smith said. “But we do have Black people that get on the radio every day in white-owned companies, white-owned stations with white-owned sponsors that play the role of hypersexualized, hyper-criminalized male.”

Smith said, when asked, advertisers refused to put on their stations songs about killing animals, assaulting women, and abusing kids, but the same wasn’t true of songs about murdering Black people. When asked if advertisers would play those on the radio, they said, “Well, that depends,” Smith recounted.

“Depends on what?” he asked. “’Who it’s done by and who it’s branded for. Cause if we can get Black folks to sing about it, and we can brand it for our youngest Black audiences, I think there’s money to be made.’”

The real question is: To what end? When will Black lives matter enough to protect even when it’s not profitable?

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre focused on the issue of gun violence specifically in one of her tweetsShe listed Takeoff’s death; that of 14 victims, including three children killed in Chicago recently; and that of a teen killed at a Halloween party in Kansas City.

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Enough is enough,” Jean-Pierre tweeted. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic that will not end with thoughts and prayers alone.”

She’s right.

Gun violence is a systematic problem and requires systematic solutions touching education, health care and mental health care, media and marketing, joblessness, and homelessness.

Jean-Pierre highlighted the president’s call to Congress “to increase community violence intervention funding, ensure universal background checks, and send legislation to his desk banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

“It’s past time we turn our pain into purpose,” she tweeted.

Right again.

Yes, let’s address gun violence. Yes, let’s be personally responsible for how we react when we are angry, and yes, let’s be more careful with the messages we promote in our music.

But let’s also refuse to absolve the white supremacist creators of each of these problems of their responsibility. They created the stereotype that Black people are violent. They feed that stereotype every day using what they incentivize Black artists to create. They do all of these things and profit from them, and because of it, our children die; our young Black men don’t get to become elders. 

It is time to take our power back from white supremacists by gutting their systems and injecting in their place ones that truly hold Black lives to be valuable. 

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