Its fresh air, when I’m speakin to ya’ll/Sometimes it falls upon deaf ears, like Im speakin to walls/… Breakin cycles of violence, not repeatin they flaws/… We the leaders we’ve all been waitin for/… Each generation must find its mission, fulfill or betray it/I know the odds are more than just being killers or playaz/Or making millions of papers, our bloods is spillin the haters/So much injustice amongst us, its instillin complacence/
– Detroit-based MC Invincible, Sledgehammer, ShapeShifters (2008).
Having wrecked and expunged other alternatives, the party of Lincoln now finds a new specimen it hopes to experiment withthe Hip-Hop generation. Michael Steele, the Republican Party Chairman, wants to capture the attention and commitment of Black and Brown youth, through the vehicle, he believes, theyre most familiar withHip-Hop. In an interview with the Washington Times, Steele had the following to say: We need messengers to really capture that region – young, Hispanic, black, a cross section. He, and his old white male colleagues, wants to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-suburban Hip-Hop settings. [Sidebar: To quote George Carlin, When did urban become a synonym for Black (and Brown)?] Michael Steele, a gifted comedian, warns that his messengers will come to table with things that will surprise everyone – off the hook. Off the hook!
The Republican Partys only Black friend must be delusional to think the only path to the heart of Black & Brown youth is Hip-Hop music. Though, following the trend of the last decade, he might be right on the money. Ever since Michael Steele was elected chairman of the decrepit Republican Party, he has aligned himself, unapologetically, with the values that rendered his party toothless in the last election. Insisting, shortly after his election, that the Party need not change its message, he suggested that it rather seek inspiration from former House-speaker Newt Gingrichs 1994 Contract with Americathe woeful, neo-con, reactionary plan that delivered nothing but devastation to all corners of Black & Brown America. Steele, who many agree was chosen as the front-man attack-dog against Barack Obama (so as invalidate charges that the Party is racist), has, ever since, barked as loud as the folks pulling his strings urge him to. Following his election, the New York Times noted that Chairman Steele seems to relish the idea of being portrayed as the fighting counterpoint to President Obama and the Democratic Party. As they see it, it became clear from the moment Mr. Steele took the job on Friday [Jan. 30th, 2009], as he all but invited the president of the United States to join him in the boxing ring.
Of to an awful start, he has done his party little good as the spokesperson. From his claims that Government-sponsored jobs arent jobs, because what this administration is talking about is making work, and a job is something that a business owner creates, he has revealed himself to be an even bigger caricature than expected. Asked by ABCs George Stephanopoulos if a job doesn’t count if it’s a government job? he countered saying: That is a contract. It ends at a certain point. Michael Steele would further humiliate himself a few days after, with his declaration that the recently-passed stimulus-package was nothing but a wish list from a lot of people who have been on the sidelines for years… to get a little bling, bling.
Sadder than his intellectually-challenged assertions is the level of contempt Steele seems to have for Black & Brown youth. Perhaps he perceives this group to be mere lads who cant reason for themselves, or envision a path for freedom independent of the political paradigm he hopes to create for them. Its a sobering joke that Chairman Steele truly believes the younger generation would check for the same party that produced Ronald Reagana figure, arguably, more despised in the Hip-Hop community, than anyone else.
With the enactment of Reaganomics in the 80s, Black and Brown youth, growing up in the Bronx, and other dilapidated areas across the country, were dissatisfied with the level of inhumanity their neighborhoods were entrapped in, and found Ronald Reagan to be a prime target of their frustration, for his neo-conservative and hyper-capitalistic ideals. Labels like welfare queens, Reagans favorite description of Black Women, would only inflame the burning passion of 80s political Hip-Hop. The influx of crack and heroine into Black & Brown communities would also propel the vocal resistance, offered by Hip-Hop artists, against Reagan and his crew. The hatred of Ronald Reagan, in Black & Brown America, is validated in the songs released years after his presidential terms, and death, which still carry the same antagonist tone found, in Hip-Hop songs, whilst he was active.
Tracks like I Shot Reagan (1998), by the New-York Hip-Hop group, Non Phixion, are a testament to that fact. The graphic lyrics attest a larger point: I shot the Devil down like we in Baghdad/ Now watch the gun blast, holdin your chest, marked for death/ The President’s been shot, somebody notify the press/ It’s all Reaganomics, welfare, weapons and drugs/ The government is thugs, that’s why the leader caught a slug/ In their 2006 single You Cant Hide, You Cant Run, underground Hip-Hop group Dilated Peoples express a similar contention, with the assertion that, crack and gangs flourished under Ronald Reagan. Even as late as 2008, artists like Brother Ali still leave the great communicator defenseless. Mutherf*** Reagan!, Ali cries, in The Truth, a single from producer Jake Ones debut album, White Van Music. If Michael Steel thinks the upcoming generation of Black & Brown youth is oblivious to this history, hes sadly mistaken.
Hes also drowned in self-deceit, if he truly believes the Republican Party has, within its narrow borders, a place for Black and Brown youth. For this to happen, Michael Steele, who is reported to have employed (bused-in from other states) homeless Black men, on his unsuccessful Senatorial campaign, in 2006, would have to assail the very tenets (White male exclusivity) the Republican Party is structured upon.
Is Michael Steele ready to go to war against Newt Gingrich, for his remarks, in 2007, that Spanish is the language of living in a ghetto. Will he challenge racial-arsonist, Pat Buchanans words that the genocide against Africans was, in consequence, redeemed, because, through their captivity, they were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known? Michael Steele would have to stand up to Buchanan for insisting that Blacks ought to be grateful because untold trillions have been spent since the 60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Is he ready to admonish the true leader of his Party, Rush Limbaugh, for his comments that slavery did not exist in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing.
Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark. It should also be hard for Steele, as a Black man, to excuse the pill-popping addicts true feelings about Black people: Theyre 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares? Im wondering if Chairman Steele is any bit concerned that his Partys Vice-head, Sarah Palin, has been accused of explicitly practicing discrimination, as Governor of Alaska. Does he think Black & Brown youths might reconsider the offer, upon hearing that in a meeting with Black leaders concerning the absence of any African Americans on her staff, Gov. Palin responded that she doesnt have to hire any Blacks and was not intending to hire any. With this context, its a wonder what strategy he hopes to employ to attain this goal.
The only thinkable methodology at his access, is the willingness of commercial Hip-Hop artists. In a capitalism-controlled society, like the Hip-Hop industry, money drowns out the voices of reasoning and conscience. Just as Daddy Yankee shamelessly genuflected to the war-mongering Arizona-senator, John McCain, last year, and was rightfully called out by Fat Joe for doing so, any cash-strapped artists might offer up their services, as they have done with beer and liquor companies, for the use of the Republican Party. Detroit MC, Royce Da 59, extended the bashing, on Black President Remix, by mocking Daddy Yankee as, the only person in the rap game voting for John McCain, but in such woeful economic times, as this, the opportunities to sell ones soul are limitless. Acting as the conduits between the old-White-male sect, and the Black & Brown youth community, they would proselytize the dawn of an era of new things/ways/ideals/values for the Republican Party. If this day comes, as conventional wisdom suggests it might, it would be the job of those who know better, to organize actively against the indoctrination, by these menacing forces, of the Hip-Hop generation.
What must also be taken into account is the reality that more than partisan-based, corporate-controlled political engagement, the Hip-Hop generation longs for a more sincere and courageous involvement in their existence.. They understand that the Republican Party might be a laughingstock, but the Democrats aint worth a dollar, either. The Democratic Party might recruit their enthusiasm every four years, just before a presidential election, but is relatively absent when the concrete work, to build communities and social structures, is most ongoing. As the tireless activist, Rosa Clemente eloquently stated in a column earlier this year, the Hip-Hop generation is less flattered by the avaricious interests of political parties, but more invested in a fight for a Hip Hop political movement that is African-centered, respects women as leaders and believes in Universal Health Care. A Hip Hop movement that fights for amnesty for undocumented immigrants and an end to the prison industrial complex. She urges that we all fight for a Hip Hop political movement that wants to be at peace with our global brothers and sisters, that will build a truly independent media apparatus and will stand up and mobilize against the increasing racial violence against Latino/a immigrants and demands a live-able wage.
Tolu Olorunda is a Columnist for BlackCommentator.com.