Race & Responsibility
[ keep bouncing ]
**I wrote this in January 2013. It’s still just as relevant today.
It’s been quite sometime since I wrote anything concise about one topic. I usually spend my time writing stories that help vent my feelings and emotions but ultimately lead nowhere or are not very exciting to share with my action and drama oriented society. My writing tends to be more philosophical and introspective than dramatic (Although, ever so often, I do come up with a gripping dramatic story). This particular written idea is none of the things I’ve mentioned previously (well maybe it’s a vent). So in lieu of the presidential inauguration that bestowed the most powerful brother in the country a second term as our countries great leader (*criticisms and conspiracy theories aside) I’ve also decided it was time I started contributing some of my writing to my blog and I think this piece will be a good starting point.
*I’ll get back to criticisms and conspiracy theories.
The last couple of weeks have yielded some very contemplative moments for me as a black man in America during my usual morning scroll through some of my favorite websites. Including a rousing conversation about a bit of psychology and sociology with a racially diverse group of friends (If one white person and four black people count as racially diverse).
Four different articles and points of debate stood out to me as I looked over recent news. The 60-day incarceration of 17-year-old Chicago rapper Chief Keef, the stabbing of a white South African by a Rhino at a South African animal park, Lupe Fiasco being invited to perform at an inaugural event and his subsequent anti-government protest at said event, and then (the most interesting piece of news) that Obama would be sworn in as president with his hand on Dr. Martin Luther King’s bible on MLK day and the subsequent denouncement of the act by Dr. Cornel West. All of these subjects deserve time to be pondered and talked about, and they will be, but the one pervasive idea that needs to be present in each discussion by all parties involved is responsibility.
To brief those who are uninitiated with these recent stories, here is some exposition:
Chief Keef is a 17-year-old rapper from the hoods of Chicago who has found success taking the entertainment route, which is a popular and legitimate avenue for disenfranchised youth. What is troubling about this seemingly fairy tale story of rags to riches that permeate through our young black communities is that Chief Keef is not a rapper of the type of talent, skill, or contemplation that has come from other famous rappers such as Nas, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco or Tupac (Who, for some reason, people like to draw comparisons too). The only true comparison is that his voice resonates with the youth, but personally, if I were a parent I would hope that Chief Keef wasn’t the voice that resonated with my child and if I was 17 I wouldn’t want Chief Keef to be the voice that represented me. (In fairness, I didn’t grow up in the hood and neither will my child, but is circumstances an excuse to indulge in madness? I’ll get back to that question.)
You will have to excuse my opinion intruding on a fact-based portion of exposition, but, alas, sometimes my uncontrollable willingness to dish out healthy doses of logic and reality checks get the better of me.
Now back to the regular scheduled programming. Chief Keef has been embroiled in legal difficulties and bad press since his introduction to the mainstream audience (and before that even…). Now he has to serve a 60-day sentence in a juvenile detention center because of violating his parole by moving from the hood to nice and new suburban home after the release of his debut album without letting his parole officer know. I will refrain from argumentative discussion until its proper place in this article, I promise.
Also, let the record state that after all the macho thug boasting in his music, his grandmother denying his involvement in gang activity and laughter at the death of a fellow teenage rapper from the Chi’. Chief Keef couldn’t control his tears during the sentencing.
South African Stabbed by Rhino
This is exactly what it sounds like. A white South African couple went on a trip to a wild animal park where they were invited by the owner to get closer to a Rhino for a picture and the female counterpart of the couple was promptly injured. Now, I cannot vouch for the validity of this story, but the on goings between visitors to that particular article is what prompted its inclusion in this particular piece of writing you are reading now.
Lupe Fiasco is a well-known rapper also from Chi-town who has previously and repeatedly voiced his discontent for the American government, wars, terrorism and things in this world that are by virtue bad, but are seen as necessary evils. The man seems to be decently intelligent and aware of the world around him, but sometimes fails to make powerful statements when given the opportunity. This was evident during his appearance on the O’Reilly Factor where he couldn’t make a concise point because of the constant nitpicking of O’Reilly. I know people like this. People who have a wealth of ideas and knowledge, but find it difficult to get all the ideas out specifically and concisely unless they come in to the situation prepared with a plan and possibly a pre-written speech/outline.
The promoters for an Inaugural concert obviously lacked the slightest knowledge of Lupe Fiasco’s politically charged music and his public criticisms of the Obama administration and booked the socially conscious rapper for a show. Lupe took this opportunity to accept the invite and perform a song with anti-government lyrics and was then kicked off stage after 30 minutes of him reportedly playing the same song on repeat. Either that or from video evidence on YouTube, it looks like the band just jammed out for 30 minutes while Lupe danced and had to be asked to leave when he wouldn’t move on to the next song when prompted to do so.
Also, let the record state that Lupe had a verbal run-in with Chief Keef on Twitter when Chief Keef, who says his twitter was hacked, verbally threatened Lupe Fiasco with a beat down if he ever saw him in the streets after Lupe tweeted that Chief Keef’s music is not good for the youth of Chicago that are threatened with violence on the daily. After being threatened Lupe tried to relate to Chief Keef by letting him know that he understands him because they come from the same environment and doesn’t blame Chief Keef for the person his environment molded him to be. He was really stressing the notion of peace. Of course, the whole incident was twisted and spun by bystanders; it is Twitter after all.
Barack Obama’s Inauguration for a 2nd Term in Office
This story also really needs no explanation other than to state that Dr. Cornel West, who has been critical of Obama and his administration in the past, has expressed his discontent with Obama using Dr. Martin Luther King’s bible to be sworn in. Dr. West doesn’t believe that Dr. King would have been all to welcome to some of Obamas decisions as president and that Martin Luther King’s legacy and “prophetic fire” should not be used by anyone who doesn’t stand for the same ideas at Martin Luther King.
Let it be noted that I don’t think that Dr. West meant that Obama is a horrible person or that he is nothing compared to Dr. King, but that he believes that Dr. King has some extra large shoes to fill and he doesn’t think Obama should invoke his legacy for good press if he isn’t going to attempt to fill those shoes.
Now that everyone is caught up lets get to the point that really matters, but is buried deep beneath all this media hoopla.
Everyone involved in these situations including the writers, editorial staff and readers have a responsibility as a human to act… responsible.
Okay… I know that sounds redundant, but it seems that people don’t know that their actions or words are irresponsible or they just don’t care. It probably boils down to people not spending enough time marinating on their own thoughts before they force it upon the world, but I do admit sometimes it’s hard to separate the misguided from the folk who actually have a mental disorder.
Sometimes bad things come from the best intentions.
To really get my point across a little bit more exposition is needed.
I’m going to work through this on a rough timeline of human history so we can keep track of what actions were made that lacked responsibility; but I will only mentions topics that have a correlation to the Chief Keef situation, Lupe Fiasco, the South African couple and the presidential inauguration. Be warned that race and responsibility are a terribly complicated subject and even though I’ll try my best to be clear and concise this is not a piece of writing for those who lack the ability to comprehend things from more than one perspective other than their own.
As we all know, humans are not perfect. Neither black nor white nor any other race of men is perfect in any facet of life. All races do things that can be labeled “stupid,” but degrees of stupidity are not up for debate at this time. We also know that Mother Nature is not to be trifled with and sometimes doing so can be labeled “brave”, but for the most part also very “stupid” or lacking in good judgment. An example, of one of these things that is lacking in good judgment is getting close to a rhino and trying to pet it. Now just because it’s lacking in common sense doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it because me, being a fellow thrill seeker, knows that jumping out of a plane and careening back down to earth with only a large piece of cloth to keep me from certain death is lacking in said common sense, but the prospect of an exciting time seems much too great to pass up. It’s irresponsible to play with your life in such a manner. I agree, but I do not agree with the notion that only white people play with their lives in such an irresponsible manner nor do I believe that only black people do, nor do I believe that skydiving or rhino petting is higher up on the stupid decision scale.
What was suggested in the comments section of this particular article reporting the stabbing by wild animal was that “Only white people do stupid things like that”. Which is a suggestion that white people act irresponsibly. Now of course a white person defends the intelligence of their race by suggesting that black people do much more stupid things like killing other black people in their own communities with guns and drugs (see Chicago murder rates from 2010 to 2013 and the crippling of the black communities starting in the inner cities since the 1980’s). A black posters rebuttal is that white people go on killing sprees (see Sandy Hook, Columbine) AND the reason that black people kill each other stupidly is because of the enslavement of black people by white racists which led to segregation and then the introduction of drugs and gun into black neighborhoods with poor school systems and few opportunities. White posters argue that black people are no longer oppressed and need to take advantage of the chances afforded to them now and black posters argue that the white commenters are acting as if racism doesn’t still permeate through American culture and that that long standing racism in America which is now covertly implemented is impeding blacks from taking advantage of many “so-called” chances afforded to them.
Both sides make valid points, but lack perspective of what it’s like to be in each other’s skin. First of all, this conversation is dead out of the water when some ignorant fool suggests that only white people do stupid things like standing next to a Rhino as if black people don’t do stupid things. The white poster shouldn’t have gotten offended and even retaliated against such an ignorant post, but the white poster was probably just as ignorant. Let’s think about the points they made as the debate progressed though. It IS stupid that black people kill each other and destroy their own communities and it is stupid to continue blaming a racist white government for it because black people in those situations still expect the same racist government (who put them there in the first place and wants to keep them there), to help them out. The “racist” white government should take responsibility and help black people get out of that hole, but they won’t so all that is left for black people to do is take responsibility for their own actions and stop selling drugs in their own communities. Also, stop murdering each other at an alarming rate because even though “stupid” white people go on killing sprees; black people are only 14% of the population, but make up FIFTY percent of the murders in this country.
There should be no more talk of stupid deaths by black people until black people stop killing each other. Even if you’re a black person who is not from the hood, you have no business comparing the stupidity of a black persons death in the hood to a white person injury by Rhino because there is not justification for killing you’re brother over money, drugs, color, etc. Yet, Mother Nature is not to be trifled with and that Rhino is not a logical human being who can differentiate between murder and survival. It is not an easy thing for the black community to do now because of how far it has fallen over the generations, but a black persons survival instinct cannot be the same as a Rhino in the wild. Black people are not animals; we should not accept our position in this country as such. There might not be no fixing the black position in America, but the acceptance of indecency and violence will always look second rate until there are only a few “animals” left and the “racist” white government will gentrify those communities totally and black people from the ghetto will become the dinosaurs.
It must also be mentioned that black people from the suburbs or upper 10% are not above it all. It’s a dog eat dog world and you cant help those who don’t want to be helped, but to not know your history and to not even try to lobby the government for better and equal school systems and educating the poor black population so they can be responsible parents, and responsible children, and responsible students, and responsible workers, and responsible celebrities then you’re damning your skin color to be second rate no matter how much money or intelligence you have. Although, we should be color blind and united as a human race, but unity means we should acknowledge injustices against blacks, whites and all others. Blacks and whites must take responsibility for each other as humans.
Seeing that we all know now that we all must take responsibility for each other; the white posters were incorrect in stating that the American government should not take any responsibility in the fact that slavery has forced black people into a predicament where they feel hopeless and live with the savagery and survival instinct of wild animals. It is irresponsible for a white person to believe that because they were not slave owners themselves that they are not awarded benefits as a white person because of slavery. Not growing up in inner city ghettoes and not having generation after generation destroyed because of slavery and subsequent racial issues related to imposed black inferiority, which perpetuated a cycle of poverty and low education, is a benefit awarded to you upon your birth. Even though there are more white people below the poverty line than black people that is only because whites are of a larger population, but a higher percentage of the black population is below the poverty line. It is irresponsible not to see how the actions of white people in America’s history have shaped black America’s current state. It is irresponsible to attribute blame as if at some point black people were in charge of a government and just did a poor job at creating better living experiences for themselves. This is a dog eat dog world and you can’t help those who don’t want to be helped, but responsibility is easily achieved by standing up and saying something is wrong with this picture. Why are we not unified? Why are we not equal?
Look at how Chief Keef is a 17-old-rapper black teenager from the hoods of Chicago who finds his way out cyclical poverty by turning his reality into entertainment for white people. And also becoming a misguided hero for young black youth.
It’s more than entertainment for black kids. It’s how young black males should carry themselves. Proof of that irresponsibility of the situation occurred when Chief Keef was sentenced to 60 days in juvenile detention and he cried openly in court because that lifestyle was no longer “cool”. Then he was attacked by his young impressionable fans for crying because that doesn’t fit into image of the rapper they idolize. The hood and jail isn’t fun, it isn’t cool and nobody wants to be there. If anybody actually wants to reside in those places with a permanent address then they are certifiably insane.
It’s irresponsible to let a 17-year-old pretend its cool. It’s irresponsible to let black kids think its cool. It’s irresponsible to let black kids grow up thinking its cool and then pass the same type of idiotic thinking on to their children. It’s irresponsible to portray that image to impressionable white kids who then think that’s an accurate depiction of a cool and admirable black person.
There is nothing wrong with Chief Keef being himself and making the music he wants to make, but now we’re justifying doing hood shit because it can make you a success. You don’t even need to master your craft; Noooo, just capitalize off of the hood life by packaging and selling ignorance to white people who don’t give a shit about the reality of living such a life. At that point there is no need for people to be unified under the human race because no one is taking responsibility for their actions since the only color that seems to matter now is green.
People are so lost that they attack a teenager who is crying because he has to be locked up for two months because he moved into a nice suburban area away from the violence and destitution he had the misfortune to live amongst without informing his parole officer.
The law is the law but when is someone going take some responsibility and think deeper past just the actions of today.
Children need guidance and education, not jail. But if the kids are that bad, then by all means levy some jail time against them if there is a lesson to be learned. I must say, though, ideas are instituted and molded in their infancy, many issues will be alleviated for the future when it comes to race relations if there was more responsibility involved in guiding and educating the youth.
Lupe Fiasco has decided take on some part of that responsibility being, probably, the polar opposite of Chief Keef with some similarities to mention. Lupe is also a rapper from the same ghetto streets of Chicago, but he approached his music and his way out to success with intelligence and talent. The respect garnered from his peers was not a misguided sense of relation except for the fact they related to the common sense that the life we live is not how we want to live. His music was an actual description of the toils and torments of living in such an environment. There is upliftment to be found in his music, but that also comes with much controversy.
See; when you speak out against our first black president people tend to be a little sensitive. Especially black people. Obviously Lupe isn’t the first one to do it, but still, it’s not a favorable act. In all fairness Lupe is not anti-Obama, but more like anti-government and anti-terrorist. He has labeled Obama a terrorist for the drone bombing of Middle Eastern and North African countries that result in the deaths of many innocents and Obama’s approval of continued stationing of troops in war torn areas of the world. Interestingly enough, Lupe has also found it strange that Obama has not made any mention of the terrible on goings in the streets of Chicago; the state where Obama was previously a senator before becoming president of the United States. I also believe it is strange because how does that situation not deserve mentioning? Why doesn’t the president work out a plan that displays some accountability and responsibility for the unfortunate circumstances that some of our US citizens are forced to live in and live with. Not because our president is black, but because it seems like the right thing to do. I mean; he went and spoke in Sandy Hook right? Does the ineptitude and ignorance of the young Chief Keefs’ and the millions dead of Chicago and other ghettoes not qualify them as innocents like the children of Sandy Hook? Oh I forgot. They are animals fighting for survival in the wild. Silly me.
I personally believe that like Lupe more of us should pose more questions to our government. We should bring more issues we believe to be concerns for us as citizens, to the forefront of Capital Hill conversations and that is what Lupe decided to do. Now whoever booked Lupe to perform at the inauguration was really tripping, I must say. Now it is being reported that Lupe wasn’t asked off stage because of his anti-government lyrics, but because of the lack of enjoyment his 30-minute set of the same song on repeat invoked in the audience. That makes a lot of sense because I wouldn’t pay or attend a free concert with Lupe playing the same song for 30-minutes straight and that fact kind of switched the conversation on Capital Hill from the fact that the people are not happy with some of its governments choices to all this media attention on Lupe’s eccentric performance and being thrown off stage. His intentions got buried under a heap of media bullshit.
Now all those sensitive black folks who champion Obama as a black superhero because he became president (which is commendable, but means jack shit if his policies don’t line up with what you deem acceptable out of your president) are upset with Lupe for choosing such a momentous moment to make a statement and some of the most ignorant comments claim Lupe to be a “House Nigga” for criticizing our black president. I can understand having pride in your race, but come on. Don’t just defend your brother because he’s your brother when he’s wrong. Let him man up, take responsibility and accept the consequences of his decisions and actions. Every white person wasn’t voting for Mitt Romney just because he was white; or any other president for that matter.
I will admit though that maybe it would have been better for Lupe just to decline the invitation to perform at an inaugural event just out of good taste. Just because he knows that he isn’t there to enjoy the festivities. For example, if Beyoncé was critical enough to label Obama a “terrorist”, I don’t think she would have sung the National anthem at the beginning of the ceremony. She would have just declined the opportunity.
That being said, there really wasn’t a bigger opportunity for his statement to be heard loud and clear and it would have been a bigger statement if he had just thrown a rally concert in DC on the same day and not accepted an invitation as if he was there to celebrate the occasion. But I highly doubt anywhere in DC would have allowed such a thing to occur.
So I applaud Lupe for making such a bold move in the face of such heavy opposition from all sides of the fence, but I would ask that next time he has such an opportunity he comes with something a little more potent than one song on repeat for 30-minutes. He could have debuted a whole new set of new anti-government, anti-terrorists songs and then he wouldn’t have been asked off stage.
The message that people should take away from this particular moment in history is that we should all find the courage to take responsibility for something if we believe that something has to be done. Maybe it will prompt others to try and take a little responsibility for the direction of our society.
Let it be known! Our own actions as individuals dictate the world around us.
Now Dr. Cornel West echoes the same sentiments of Lupe Fiasco and is well known for criticizing the president, even though some of his beliefs on certain ideas strike me as old fashioned sometimes I do for the most part agree with what this man has to say and will take heed when he talks. Case in point, Dr. West points out that it bothers him that Obama will be sworn in as president with his hand on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bible because Obama doesn’t stand for all the things that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood for (Not that MLK was a perfect man either…). Dr. West provides examples of Obama allowing the torture of prisoners of war by the United States, but none under the Bush administration (Although, I don’t believe the Bush Administration was beyond keeping secrets and telling us lies.), the suspension of our American rights and a plethora of other questionable decisions made by our president. I agree that Obama probably shouldn’t use the bible if he doesn’t aim to achieve the lofty achievements of Dr. King. It must also be mentioned that during the inauguration of Obamas first term he was sworn in using Abraham Lincoln’s bible, which I feel, comes with equally lofty expectations that I don’t know can be met by President Obama. Especially when you factor in Lupe’s criticisms of the president.
Once again nobody is perfect. Not even the great men of history. I am quite sure that Obama will be remembered as great man is his own right, but if all I have written through out the piece is any indication; the people of this country need to be taught a lesson in responsibility and a black president might be the perfect person to tell his citizens exactly that. To give them guidelines for acting responsibly and how it will benefit them. That might impede on their rights, but its not like our government doesn’t throw those silly rules out the window when it suits them anyway.
Also, Dr. King’s daughter was quoted expressing her approval of Obama using the bible and she also said that the King family felt very elated about the occasion. I think that just goes to say that they didn’t expect Obama to be more than the great man he already is and that they see the bible usage as him paying him homage because without all of Dr. King’s struggles there would be no way Obama could be in the position he is now. But that also means that maybe Obama should take a more serious look at what it means for him to be a black president, not that he shouldn’t adhere to MLK’s “Dream” of a united America where little black boys and little white boys can hold hand in unity, but to acknowledge that there are some detrimental issues affecting the black population because of slavery that were not rectified by the civil rights movement. Then again it isn’t Obama’s job to single-handedly uplift black people. Him becoming president should be uplifting enough to encourage responsibility for ones own path.
All of these stories culminated in a conversation with a group of friends about Nature vs. Nurture. There was a debate that nature was more prevalent than nurture because no matter what life throws at you, you were essentially always going to be the same person at your core. I didn’t agree because I felt that a persons’ environment could turn the best people into the worst people and the worst people into the best people, but it was true that some people ignore their external environments to continue being the best people or continue being the worst people. What’s true is that we are all in charge of our own lives. We choose to be the people we are based on what we’re nurtured with and we approach that nurture with the person it is in our nature to be. Some of us will be responsible and some of us won’t. Some of us won’t be responsible and take responsibility for our directions in life because it’s in our natures to put off responsibility on to someone else.
I have a belief, though, that if at a young age we are all taught a level of responsibility for our peers and other fellow human beings we will essentially take responsibility in our own actions at the same time and no one will blame anyone else for the indiscretions of today.
This is really all just idealistic because the past will never disappear from our memories, but the bible was right in its assertion that we are all born with sin. The cycle must be broken.