Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Myth: African American Culture Is Violent .

In this week's reading of Brummett's "Gangsa Rap" Chapter 7, he gives three myths about views of African Americans: African American culture is violent, African American culture is obsessively sexual, and African American culture is crassly materialistic" (pg. 257). I was thrilled to see these myths addressed. In his week's writing, I will focus on the first myth: African American culture is violent, as well as what motivated hip hop and rap music.

A quick google search on what triggered the hip hop/rap movement leads to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The article, "Los Angeles riots: Gansta Rap Foretold Them and Grew After Them" introduced the movement with the 1985 rapper, Toddy Tee, and his rap, Batterram. The rap describes life between the drug-laden neighborhoods (some houses do, some houses don't) and the police. The Los Angeles Times states, "The track went on to become a protest anthem in minority neighborhoods around the city where the device was often deployed against homes that were later proved drug-free: "You're mistakin' my pad for a rockhouse / Well, I know to you we all look the same / But I'm not the one slingin' caine / I work nine to five and ain't a damn thing changed …" rapped Toddy Tee." (LA Times). 

The article continues, "For suburban fans who'd been consuming N.W.A's music as a race-music expression of white teenage angst, the televised revolution in L.A. made it clear that the lyrics weren't just outlandish fiction set to hard beats. They were rooted in bitter truths, a hard reality that L.A. was a two-tier city with gross inequities in both wealth and possibility." (LA Times).

These "bitter truths" are what sparked the fire that inflamed the artists and drove them to put their experiences to music. This art form has opened the eyes of the world to a life that may have otherwise been viewed as "fiction" (LA Times). Violence and inequality seem to be the main contributors to this art form.

However, Bummett set the record straight concerning blacks and violence when he said, "An enduring mainstay of racist ideology is the belief that African Americans are prone to violence; the truth, of course, is that historically they have much more often been the recipients of violence and at the hand of white people" (pg. 257).

The truth of this statement was made manifest during the L.A. riots of 1992, after two of the four police officers who had beaten Rodney King were acquitted. contributes this information regarding the Rodney King incident and aftermath: "Rodney King was caught by the Los Angeles police after a high-speed chase on March 3, 1991. The officers pulled him out of the car and beat him brutally, while amateur cameraman George Holliday caught it all on videotape. The four L.A.P.D. officers involved were indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force by a police officer. However, after a three-month trial, a predominantly white jury acquitted the officers, inflaming citizens and sparking the violent 1992 Los Angeles riots" (Bio.).

               (I don't want this blog to be anymore graphic than necessary, so I'm not posting the                                                                           photos of King's injuries.)

 During this time blacks and whites were targeted. I believe Reginald Denny, a white man who had been beaten and left for dead by African Americans, said it best:

To paraphrase Denny, every population of humans will have those with a tendency towards violence, and I will add that every population of humans will have peacemakers, as well. In this case, African Americans were on both sides of the issue, the beaters and the savers. I think Denny's attitude is tremendous and his appreciation for those who saved his life, African Americans, should be heralded, along with those African Americans who saved him. shares the story of those who helped Denny: 
"By the end of the attack, Denny’s skull was busted into more than 90 pieces.
But how Reginald Denny was saved and how he arrived at the hospital is another legacy from the riots – one of human courage and kindness. 
Four strangers ran into the chaos, into certain danger, to rescue a man they didn’t even know.
Titus Murphy was watching the violence unfold on TV a few blocks away. After the brick was thrown at Denny, Murphy could no longer just watch.
"Something inside me said, 'Get up; you have to do something," Murphy said.
When Murphy and his girlfriend Terri Barnett arrived at Denny’s truck, Lei Yuille was already in the cab comforting Denny.
Murphy then found himself facing off with a large stranger on a day when every stranger posed a threat. He said they were looking at each other through the truck window."

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Hip hop and gangsta rap were well on their way before these riots erupted, but the riots catapulted the music genre world-wide: 

"Even before the riots … voices in L.A. hip-hop were foretelling what was to come," said director John Singleton, whose 1991 film "Boyz n the Hood" was one of the first empathetic looks at South L.A. life for many Americans. "So many people who didn't grow up black and poor couldn't understand why it happened. You can live in a different part of L.A. and never understand that frustration. But if you listen to 'F— tha Police,' you hear where they're coming from.
The riots gave marginalized music from the hood a global stage and sudden mainstream legitimacy. The music born of the very conditions that precipitated the riots now transcended South L.A., and major labels began signing and promoting West Coast artists like Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. For better or for worse, the Southland style that became known as gangsta rap changed the trajectory of pop music by becoming the '90s definition of cool." (LA Times).

There are many more examples of violence towards African Americans, and there are plenty of examples of violence by African Americans. I could continue to give examples, but frankly, I don't care to see any more carnage. Sufficeth to say, African Americans have just as much desire and need for peace as any other population. To quote Rodney King:

1) There are many more current examples of violence and African Americans. Which example stands out as a game-changer to you?

2) Besides violence and inequality, what else contributed to the onset of gansta rap?

3) Where do you see this art form going compared to where it began?

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