How Hip-Hop Saved Me From Bigotry

So I’m sure you’ve heard about Midwestern bigotry. Subtle, but still there. Well, sometimes it’s not all that subtle, sometimes it’s obvious. There were more and more black kids at my school growing up, we had about 10 by my senior year, but we had two for the majority of my time there. There was a gay student once, and he eventually moved away because of bullying. There were more kids who came out later on, but they were pretty much under a “pretend you’re not gay around us.” agreement with many of the students. Of course, I had my group of friends and most of us had a passion for equality, and it seems like as hip-hop became more conscious, or maybe not so much as that, but as more conscious artists rose to prominence, I became more compassionate for the people around me. Not a lot of 8 year olds knew who Talib Kweli and Mos Def were, but a lot of them today know who Killer Mike and Kendrick Lamar are. It’s now more popular to make statements. Think about how many people watched the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” clip over and over again and laughed hysterically, whereas today, that statement would have been seen as a critical statement today by some of the same people who were laughing at it then. People liked to pretend that racism didn’t exist in the ‘00s. Homophobia was obviously rampant, because a staggering amount of people didn’t accept gay marriage, which is now the law of the land. I remember in like 2010 when a bunch of rappers came out in solidarity with the LGBT community, and it really woke me up the same way guys like Talib Kweli and Mos Def already had on race issues. Chapelle’s Show (my love for which was documented earlier today) was a big show for me today, because it helped me stay woke and mad me laugh at the same time. It was also the only show that had musical guests I cared about. But I got really into political talk shows, particularly The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as an adolescent, which woke me even more. But my interest in hip-hop had made those shows even more digestible. When you’re exposed to racially-charged political statements to a comfortably catchy melody, watching liberal commentary was only a little bit harder. I’ve always seen great importance in staying woke, because if you’re sleepin’, you always wake up on the wrong side of history. I find it absurd how many racial injustices we face in society today. I smoke weed fairly regularly, I’ve never been pulled over when driving around with a group of friends getting stoned. I smoke cigarillos while walking alongside the road, after purchasing them from the Dollar General by my house. I am 18 years old, but on the dot. I could be confused for a 17, even 16 year old. I can smoke it right in front of a cop. I can’t tell you how many drug deals I’ve done without getting stopped and asked questions. This infuriates me while giving me comfort at the same time. On one end, there’s the relief knowing that I’ll probably never be arrested for drug charges, and then the guilt knowing that someone who probably has a similar mindset to me and that I would probably get along with can be given a life sentence for some damn weed. Not only that, sometimes black people are killed for trying to ask a question, because the cop was “scared”. I don’t think that black people don’t report crime because of the “anti-snitch culture”, I honestly believe it’s because they fear unfair treatment by police for doing so, if not being shot, being assumed to be involved with the crime they’re reporting. Hip-hop made me aware of these issues, not always from lyrics, but from seeing how these rappers (who at a young age, I basically viewed as Gods.) were being treated by the criminal justice system. Bigotry comes in all shapes and sizes. Based on race, sexuality, nationality, gender identity, the list goes on and on. Everyone has privilege. Some greater than others. Mine is the greatest of all. Straight, white, cisgendered, no tattoos, male. I believe it is my responsibility to stand up for the rights of anyone who does not have the rights and privileges that I do. If you think the civil rights movement is over, you are severely misguided.

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