Racial conflict has not been as dominant in our media and central to our country’s main focus since the Civil Rights Movement which largely died out with the assassination of peaceful protester, Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King was only 26 at the time and had become the voice of strength for the African-American community. A community that simply desired to be treated with respect, dignity and be given the same rights as their white counterpart. He achieved great things through unity and cooperation, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott which resulted in the U.S Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation on transportation was unconstitutional. This was achieved largely because the African-American community came together and boycotted the bus system, which also resulted in costing the state of Alabama money.
Which is what it comes down to, a common goal and unity. During the Civil Rights Movement there were atrocities exposed through media, but not with the speed and reach that we have today. Everyday people have taken videos of modern-day police brutality and blatant abuse of power and they can and have gone viral in just moments. The current issues of our nation are all very reminiscent of the brutality that those involved in the civil rights movement received and somehow people are still willing to claim that racism is dead.
One person who has recently made this bold statement also has a massive influence on the youth of America because of his status as a successful black man in popular culture, Lil Wayne. Lil Wayne recently stated in an interview on Skip and Shannon:Undisputed that the racial makeup of the crowd at one of his shows was “clearly a message that there was no such thing as racism.” He seemed to realize that this statement would cause some backlash going on to say, “I don’t want to be bashed, because I don’t want to seem like I’m on the wrong side,” Wayne responded. “But I thought that was clearly a message that there was no such thing as racism.”
This came as quite a shock to not only a large portion of his fans but the hip hop community. Previous to this interview, after rumors of Wayne retiring Kendrick Lamar, who is very vocal about his views of the plight of the black community, released a video praising Wayne’s music in efforts to keep him from retiring. Kendrick, among others were not impressed by Lil Wayne’s dismissive statements during a time when collective solidarity is needed to make changes to the status quo.
These statements from Lil Wayne or Dwayne M. Carter, aren’t quite adding up. As recently as 2015 he released music lyrically addressing the issues that movements like Black Lives Matter are attempting to address. Just last year on his Free Weezy Album, the song My Heart Races On affirms,
“Oh Lord, what are we runnin from?
The police cause they already killed enough of us
Stay out them streets cause they don’t fuck with us, they huntin us
We in a race against racists, that’s a color run”
acknowledging that racism is alive and well. In 2005 the New Orleans native made his thoughts known about the atrocious lack of responsibility or care taken for his community after hurricane Katrina. His musical assault on the federal government in Georgia… Bush for the lack of action after the hurricane in New Orleans he attributed to its population being largely black.
“Then they telling y’all lies on the news
The white people smiling like everything cool
But I know people that died in that pool
I know people that died in them schools”
“They tell you what they want, show you what they want you to see
But they don’t let you know what’s really going on
Make it look like a lotta stealing going on
Boy them cops is killas in my home
Nigga shot dead in the middle of the street”
Wayne acknowledges that he has been blessed for some time now. Through financial gain he no longer deals with class bias and has been swaddled by his fame and the industry for so long that this confusion between his roots and his current lifestyle seems to be creating some personal confusion. His failed attempt at a rock record could be attributed to this as well. One critic saying, “Wayne’s big problem is that he seems to like the idea of rock music more than any actual rock music itself.” His attempt at making sense of a genre that has lost its roots and is now predominantly white seemed like a cry for acceptance, or maybe the result of too much time in the studio with too much lean.
Regardless, later in the interview on Undisputed, after acknowledging his current privilege he attempts to acknowledge that racism does in fact exist.
“…God knows I have been nothing but blessed my whole path. These 33 years have been nothing but a blessing. I have never—never is a strong word—never dealt with racism and I’m glad I didn’t have to. And I don’t know if it’s because of my blessings, I don’t know, but it is my reality.”
“So I have to say I thought it was over, I still believe it’s over. But obviously it isn’t,” he added.
“But obviously it isn’t,” is correct. A 2011 study done by the Department of Justice (DOJ) found that in New Orleans, Lil Wayne’s hometown, 98.6% of all children arrested for “serious offenses” were black children. Since then it has gotten worse. In the first few months of 2015 99% of children arrested for any offense were black children. Wayne continues saying,
“When you come to a person like me, my answer is always the same. My politics, my flag, my country, my nation, my world, all of that is Reginae, Cameron, Neal, and his brother Tony. That’s it… That’s all that matters, those four kids to me.”
Considering the above statistics and recent deaths of citizens like Alton Sterling that have made headlines in his hometown there is no denying that racism is still very real and that systemic racism has created a platform for racism to continue fairly unchallenged until now.
If your children’s best interests are your politics, flag, country, nation, and world Mr. Carter, understanding and being knowledgeable of the facts about what is happening to people of color in your own home town and in the country is an important step in securing their safety and future well-being. Tamir Rice was never given a chance to even say, “Stop, it’s a toy!” before he was shot down without question, a child.
Several others are using their platform and music to make a difference and create a conversation about the issues including Kendrick Lamar, and J Cole who have had a voice for some time now along with Chuck D of Public Enemy, Jay Z and Drake. Now is not the time to be complacent, now is the time for positive change. The question is will you be part of the solution or part of the problem?