"You ever once stop to think and wonder why it's so/We dont' know/ 'Cuz we're blinded by the fog of 'dro/ So we let it go" – “Just Don't Learn,” Brand Nubian
In recent news, an up and coming rapper was killed in a crowded Atlanta mall. According to authorities, Joe Blackmon, aka "Killa Black," was standing in line for a pair of Air Jordan Concords when he, accidentally, knocked a Jolly Rancher out of the hand of the man in front of him. The man, described only as "an African American in a black hoodie with saggin' pants" pumped five rounds in him before fleeing the scene.
Witnesses say that the crowd just stepped over the dying Blackmon like nothing happened ,some even refusing to let paramedics through for fear of losing their places in line... Recently, people were shocked that Brick Squad affiliate, Slim Dunkin, was murdered in an Atlanta studio, allegedly, stemming from a fight over a piece of candy. This tragic event was coupled by media images of mobs of people beating each other senseless over the new Air Jordan XI Concords.
Hip Hop has had its share of deaths; Scott La Rock, Jam Master Jay, Pac, Biggie to name a few. Unfortunately, the 'hood is full of tales of young brothas losing their lives over stepping on someone's sneakers or even staring too long at some cat at a stop light. While some may argue that violence permeates society and it is not a "Black issue," until I see Justin Bieber chasing Justin Timberlake with an AK-47, I beg to differ. Most of the blood spilling on the streets of America pours out of Black bodies, and Hip-Hop is, predominately, made up of Black males.
It must be noted that this thing is bigger than Hip-Hop. The issue here is the value (or lack thereof) that this society places on Black life. Although it is a historical fact that Black folks were once the kings and queens of civilization, around the 15th century the value of Black life begin to drop like the 50 percent off after Christmas sale at WalMart. Man has been fighting man since the beginning of time and despite the historical romanticism, African civilization was not exempt as tribal wars have existed on the continent for thousands of years. However, it was not until the coming of the Portuguese that Black life was given a discount price tag. During that period, European slave traders began to use the existing beefs between tribes to trade Africans for commodities.
As Walter Rodney wrote in "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa," "it was so easy to set one against another that Europeans called it 'a slave trader's paradise." The worst part of the trade was the exchange of Africans for weapons. According to historian, Joseph Harris in his book, Africans and TheirHistory, "kings were sometimes given firearms to raid neighboring areas in exchange for prisoners of war." In America, the technique of making the slaves fight against each other was perfected. Herbert Aptheker wrote in American Negro Slave Revolts, "the dividing of the victims against themselves, the use of spies and the encouragement of traitors" were powerful tools to keep the slaves from rebelling.
This divide and conquer strategy was also used in the ‘60s during the Civil Rights /Black Power Movement as the FBI, through its COINTELPRO program, played Black activists against each other. This caused the destruction of groups such as the Black Panther Party and led, ultimately, to the formation of "street gangs" in California. It must be noted that, according to Mike Davis in his book, City of Quartz, the purpose of the original gangs was not to promote Black-on-Black violence, but to protect the ‘hood from white racist gangs such as the "Spookhunters.”
But, after the destruction of the Black Panther Party, gangs such as the Bloods and Crips were formed, and they saw "the enemy" as other Black men. This was escalated by the introduction of high-powered assault weapons and crack into the 'hood, which Gary Webb in Dark Alliance alleged was a government conspiracy. Simultaneously, you had the growing popularity of Hip-Hop and it was not uncommon during the ‘80s for Black lives to be lost over gold chains, Troop jackets, Jordans, or other articles of clothing worn by their favorite Hip-Hop artists.
So, this leads us to where we are today, with people being beat down for $180 sneakers that cost $12 to make in some sweat shop, and young Black men being killed over candy. Psychologist Dr. Bobby Wright suggested that Black people have been psychologically programmed to kill other Black people. In his essay "The Psychopathic Racial Personality," he wrote, “historically, the European system has encouraged the killing of Blacks. Because Blacks have been led to believe that they are part of the psychopath's system, they simply follow the practice."
We have been conditioned by these historical events to consider Black-on Black conflict not only a cultural norm, but a reason for celebration that is ingrained in the minds of the children, often in very subtle ways. Even something as simple as a Freestyle Friday on "106th & Park" conditions the young Black mind to accept Black-on-Black aggression as normal behavior. Unfortunately, when this "dissin'" is carried into the streets, there are no celebrity judges to hold up score cards - only EMS workers with body bags and toe tags.
Back in 1989, Kool Moe Dee, as part of the Stop the Violence Movement, said, "I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan/ So I shouldn't have to run from a Black man." Unfortunately, until we deal with the origin of Black-on-Black violence, we will always be “headed for self destruction.”
Joe Blackmon a.k.a. "Blackman" is a composite character representing all of the Black men who have died senselessly.
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott represents the Militant Mind Militia. He can bereached at (919) 451-8283, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the web at www.militantmindmilitia.com, on Twitter at @truthminista.