I was browsing another website when I saw a post about a book entitled Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture by Thomas Chatterton Williams. In his text, Williams looks at how Hip-Hop has basically become a pervasive detriment to our community; Hip-Hop Culture has replaced Black Culture.
I want to read this book, so when I do I’ll offer an actual opinion on it. Although the book is new to me, the argument isn’t. I’ve heard it countless times since I’ve been in college, around people who are actually willing to step back and take a look at the reality of what our “culture” has become, without being too defensive to see the real deal. That being said, I agree with some aspects of Mr. Williams’ argument.
I don’t think Hip-Hop is to blame for what’s going on in households and street corners around the world. Period, point blank. I do, however, believe that somewhere along the line, the world’s image of a Black person became that “thugged-out”, sperm-donating, baggy-pants wearing, cornrow rockin’ jewelry-laced person that can be seen on TV at any given time in the day. This has become what people expect of us. I wrote a post back when the BET series Harlem Heights aired, and I mentioned that Black people don’t respond to shows that try to represent our race in a positive light. We’d rather see ourselves on TV acting a damn fool. I’m willing to bet that a lot of kids under 18 today have never even watched such things as The Cosby Show, A Different World, etc. It’s not fast-paced enough for many of these kids, who are being raised in the world of reality TV and 106th & Park. However, I don’t blame hip-hop.
It is my opinion, as a Black, 21 year old, hood-born-and-raised woman in America, that families are at the core of responsibility. Individuals and their choices. People have dropped the ball in generations as of late, and no one seems strong enough (or willing) to look in the mirror and acknowledge what is so apparent. Isn't acknowledging a problem the first step to fixing it? If we never take that step, what is the fate of our Black Community? Yes, there are things that have happened in this world to us as a people. But what about the things we continuously do to ourselves and to one another? What about darkskin vs. lightskin? What about “good hair” vs. “nappy hair”? What about “acting White” vs. “acting Black”? I doubt that Hip-Hop put those drugs into the hands of drug dealers and the fiends they’re accustomed to serving. Hip-Hop isn’t the culprit of a person beating his/her spouse, children, etc. I think it’s weak-minded of anyone to suggest that a genre of music has infiltrated his/her daily life to the point where it changes them for the worst. Where is our common sense???
A lot of us seem to have internalized the idea that to be Black is to be dumbed-down, inarticulate, hyper sexualized, etc…all while rocking the latest styles. It’s pretty ridiculous, right? Kids are afraid to show their intelligence because someone will accuse them of being an “Oreo” or “acting White”. So the smart kids sit in class, keeping answers to themselves, purposely inserting slang and ebonics into their everyday vernacular, just to satisfy someone else’s internalized ignorance. It hurts my soul…pushing past stereotypes is something we simply need to develop the strength to do.
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. The real Cleveland, not the surrounding areas where all the White people live/used to live before Black people moved in and “chased them away”. I live in the Cleveland where there’s literally an abandoned home next door, a crack house across the street, another couple crack houses down the street, an Arab-owned store on the corner, right next to a church, and a prostitute who’s walked our block for as long as I can remember, with her short cut blond hair and her missing front teeth. That’s where I’ve lived. I was raised, like so many others, by my mother and her mother, with my father heavily in the picture as well, just not living in the household. I grew up riding my bike around the block, buying candy from the corner store, and I grew up listening to Hip-Hop. However I am not a typical product of my environment. I don’t steal, I don’t do drugs, I don’t have any children/pregnancies/abortions, I’m a semester away from earning my first college degree, and I have every intention of earning at least one more. Every free moment I have is spent listening to music, especially Hip-Hop. So I ask you, is Hip-Hop really to blame?
To sum it all up (because I know some people love lists and bullet points and whatnot):
It is not Hip-Hop's job to:
1) Raise your children.
2) Be a role model for your children.
3) Teach your children how to excel.
4) Provide a blueprint to success.
At best, Hip-Hop is an art form, used to relay the emotions and thoughts of our people, in a way that uplifts our spirits while putting a creative spin on our reality.
At worst, Hip-Hop is just another form of cheap entertainment, a business designed to exploit our people by promising us the very thing that we've been trying to gain for decades on this continent: wealth.
Either way, there is so much more out there for all of us. The problem is lack of encouragement and knowledge being instilled in our children, to let them know that they ARE more than the clothes they "rock" and the cell phones, iPods, and gadgets they own. The potential is limitless, but it means nothing without desire to do better...
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