For this reason, a lot of people say hip hop is an integral part of the civil rights movement. "I would suggest that you might get a better read of what's going on in the world of Black people today by listening to DMX on It's Dark and Hell is Hot than by listening to repeated broadcasts of Martin Luther King speeches," writes author Todd Boyd in his book The New H.N.I.C.: The Death of Civil Rights and the Reign of Hip Hop.
But there is a dark side to packaging black rage as entertainment, let alone as an engine of civil rights. Hip hop celebrates some of the absolute worst in our community: thugged out gansta violence. We explain away this aspect of hip hop music by saying, hey, they’re just keeping it real. Meanwhile our children stare at hip hop sociopaths with adoring eyes. They emulate their mean sense of entitlement, their broken English, and their violence, because this is what the popular culture tells us it means to be black. By empathizing and making excuses for the thuggish behavior of certain black athletes, musicians and actors, we train our children to be just like them.
In this sense, hip hop is more than a raw depiction of black urban life. It’s the commercialization of gangsta life. Ultimately this is no better than the simplistic images of black life that we’ve seen for so long in the pop culture. Our willingness to uncritically embrace hip hop is dangerous because what we really need to be doing is challenging simplistic and destructive media depictions of black life, not rallying around them.
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