"When Gangsta Rap Becomes Grim Reality"
The title of this post is taken from Chip Johnson's piece in yesterday's SF Chronicle. Johnson, who is black, describes one of the main causes of the Bay Area's chronic gun violence between young black men: the culture of thuggery and violence glorified in gangsta rap music and videos:
There isn't a city in the continental United States where teenagers have embraced the message of the gangster musician with more zeal than in Oakland, which has produced some of the most notable artists who make up the genre today. Unfortunately, the lifestyle glorified in the music videos is a dicey proposition in urban America, because some of our young people aren't just playing it---they're living it...But it's particularly galling to see corporate America cashing in on the carnage. I mean the record and fashion industries, and all the other companies promoting gangster-like behavior through the distribution of their products. It only makes matters worse. The kids on the streets of Oakland and other cities are just going along with what's hip and cool...
In an opinion piece in today's SF Examiner, Juan Williams, also black, is another soldier in the culture war that we all need to fight:
If systemic racism remains a reality, there is also a far more sinister obstacle facing African American young people today: a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism, a culture that is a virtual blueprint for failure...The real question is how one does battle with the culture of failure that is poisoning young people -- and do so without incurring the wrath of critics who say we are closing our eyes to existing racial injustice and are "blaming the victim"...Incredibly, [Bill]Cosby's critics don't see the desperate need to pull a generational fire alarm to warn people about a culture of failure that is sabotaging any chance for black people in poverty to move up and help their children reach the security of economic and educational achievement. Not one mainstream civil rights group picked up on his call for marches and protests against bad parenting, drug dealers, hate-filled rap music and failing schools.
Why is it that we never hear city leaders or progressives even mention this aspect of the local gun violence problem? The SF Bay Guardian, the city's leftist weekly, even panders to the hip/hop, gangsta punks in its music section. White progressives wring their hands and shed crocodile tears every time another young black man is shot in SF, while refusing to acknowledge the cultural roots of gun violence, apparently because, as Williams points out, that would be "blaming the victim." But surely people in black neighborhoods dislike the gun play even more than the rest of us, since it's their communiy that's being held hostage by a small number of punks with guns.
There are no quick and easy solutions to the gun violence among young black men in SF, but the least we can do is recognize the important cultural dimensions of the problem. Like the struggle against the homicidal/suicidal Islamic crackpots, the cultural struggle against the violent, moronic gangsta/hip-hop garbage will be with us for a long time.