Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of AllHipHop.com’s month-long series , “Rap, Race and Riots: Hip-Hop 20 Years after the L.A. Rebellion.”
"White America/ assassinate my character" - "Gotta Have It" - Kanye West and Jay-Z
After being caught on You Tube with a white sheet, a box of matches, and a gasoline can braggin' about burning down the home of African American activist, Emmett Evers, Byron De la Bryant was finally being charged with a hate crime. The prosecution used hundreds of historical documents of cross burnings, brutal beatings, and lynchings to prove that Bryant's actions were part of a long legacy of racist crimes against African Americans. However, after the defense showed the jury a video of the 1992 beating of Reginald Denny, they found Bryant not guilty....
April 29, 1992, millions of Africans Americans sat by their televisions outraged that the acquittal of the four white officers accused of beating Rodney King was evidence of white America's racism. Later that same day, millions of White Americans sat by their televisions convinced that the beating of white truck driver Reginald Denny by Black men was proof of Black racism.
These two events have sparked hundreds of conversations about race over the 20 years since the L.A. Rebellions, with most of them ending in the compromise that there are Black racists as well as White racists.
This conclusion is patently false. There ain't no such thing as a "Black racist."
African Americans can be many things: thugs, gangstas, Republicans, etc. But the one thing that we cannot be is racist. Although most people define racism as hatred for people of a different race, a more functional definition would be having the power to enforce that hatred socially, politically, and economically. And last time I checked, Black people did not posses that kind of juice.
In his work, "The United Independent Compensatory Code," Neely Fuller argued that "the only form of functional racism that exists among the people of the known universe is white supremacy." But that minor detail has not stopped folks from engaging in the never ending hunt for the nonexistent Black supremacist.
In his book, The Ice Man Inheritance, Michael Bradley traced the foundation of the myth of Black racism back centuries ago when the Bantu-speaking people "enslaved" the "Hottentots" (Khoikhoi) and the "Bushmen" (San). Because anthropologist CS Coon divided the Africans into two separate races, some have used this as evidence of "Black supremacy."
Just as many people used the beating of Denny as the quintessential example of Black racism , even today, any time Black folks start marching and yellin' "No Justice No Peace", you can bet that Fox News and others won't rest until they finally capture a Black supremacist.
This is how it has always been.
In 1915, during the height of outrage over the lynching of African Americans, the movie Birth of a Nation was used to justify the activities of the Ku Klux Klan by portraying Black men as rapists.
During the mid-'50s when Black people were being attacked by police dogs for fighting for their rights, journalist Mike Wallace produced an expose on the Nation of Islam called, "The Hate that Hate Produced."
More recently, in November 2006 after Michael Richards a.k.a. "Kramer" from "Seinfield", dropped multiple N-bombs, the argument quickly became, "Well, Black comedians use the word all the time."
Who can forget when, in April 2007, after Don Imus called the Rutgers University Women's B-Ball Team "nappy headed hoes," Civil Rights leaders and right wing talking heads found a slick way to blame it all on Hip-Hop.
Recently, after the Trayvon Martin murder, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera blamed the incident on kids wearing hoodies. And Bill O'Reilly sent his top notch producer to gang-infested Chicago to promote the idea that we should be focused on Black-on-Black violence instead of the Martin murder. Now, with the shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of five African Americans, allegedly by two White men, look for Fox to do a series of stories on the history of drivebys in the 'hood.
The purpose here is not to suggest that all White people are racists. However, without a doubt , the small group of ultra-rich people who control the resources of the planet don't live in Compton. The ones behind the curtains pulling the strings are wealthy White men.
In Dr. W.E.B. DuBois's classic work, Black Reconstruction, it is reported that, during slavery, only seven percent of the southern population owned slaves. According to DuBois, "The masses of poor whites were economic outcasts." All they had going for them was a false sense of racial superiority. In reality, Blacks and poor Whites were being manipulated by greedy Northern industrialists and the Southern planter class.
Not much has changed. Perhaps there is some truth in the line from Goodie Mob's Cell Therapy that warned that one day trained assassins would be coming for " n*ggas like me/poor white trash like they..."
Ironically, conversations have taken place between those who advocated Black Pride and proponents of White Power.
According to Dr. Tony Martin in his book, Race First, in 1922, Marcus Garvey had an Atlanta meeting with "Edward Young Clarke, acting imperial wizard of the Klan." In A Life of Reinvention Malcolm X, Manning Marable said that Malcolm X was involved in a 1961 meeting with the KKK also in the ATL. Also, the man credited with popularizing the term "Black Power" - Kwame Ture (then Stokely Carmichael) - once had a cordial debate with George Lincoln Rockwell, a major advocate of White Power.
Like EPMD would say, racism is "Business Never Personal."
Hip-Hop has attempted to address racism over the years from relatively lighthearted songs like Kool G Rap's "Erase Racism" to the more militant works of the West Coast's Paris and early Ice Cube (before he became a movie star.) However, I think that The Lox summed it up best: it's all about "Money, Power, Respect."
The major crime of White supremacy is the hoarding of the planet's wealth, leaving the masses to fight over crumbs.
The solution to this country's "race problem" may have been best articulated by the late Black Panther, Fred Hampton, when he said "Power to the People." That means Black Power to Black people, White Power to White People, Brown Power to Brown people, etc.
When this is achieved maybe we can finally answer the question that Rodney King asked the world 20 years ago:
"Can't we all just get along?"
Not yet Rodney, not yet.
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott's weekly column is "This Ain't Hip Hop," a column for intelligent Hip Hop headz. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on his website, NoWarningShotsfired.com, or on Twitter (@truthminista).