“I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society; that’s what you’re telling me, penitentiary would only hire me, ” roars Kendrick Lamar, a rapper from Compton, who was the recipient of the Generational Icon Award in the California State Senate.
Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is a relentless and viscous look into the id of a young black man raised in the comically-labeled “post-racial world.” The blood soaked headlines of the past few years, accompanied by the unveiling of the deep prejudices in government institutions, have made To Pimp a Butterfly a powerful retort to the retrograde diagnosis of the ills of America’s black communities.
When assigning blame or cause to the recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, and inevitably the next community, some pundits and politicians have been quick to quietly use frames of violence and outrage as evidence of the moral degrade of a certain (cough black cough) demographic. These views are, of course, false and maliciously incomplete.
In one of the most eloquent and compelling articles in recent memory, Ta-Nehisi Coates forcibly reminds us that the recent unrest that has violently erupted is, in fact, a result of the systematic oppression of African-Americans that has persisted far after the Emancipation Proclamation. Past the horror of slavery and the Jim Crow era, Coates carefully details the prevalent racist housing policies that barred the black community from entering the middle class in the 20th century, setting the stage for the impoverished neighborhoods that are now predominately inhabited by African-Americans.
Coates offers reparations as a solution to the modern apathy to the plight of the black community. He argues that reparations go past financial remedies to a clear injustice; they implore us to come to terms with a moral debt that has faded from our collective memory along with the quiet horrors that so many families have had to face.
In 2015, voices like Lamar and Coates are forcing us to acknowledge our participation in the violence that has gripped our televisions, even though they know they should not have to.
Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Full Article Here.
Image: Rapper Kendrick Lamar before the California State Senate