Editorial: Beyond Banning “Bad Guns” and “Arming Good Guys”

This is a very thorough, well researched article focusing on the nuances and complexities behind Gun Control.  Writer, organizer, talk show host,  Subhash Kateel goes all the way in and changes a lot of the conversation by busting down the myth behind policies like Stop-and Frisk and everyone owning a gun in country’s like Switzerland being safe. He also busts down the myth that if we get rid of all the guns everyone will suddenly be safe.. This is a definitely must read that drops tremendous information and provides insightful solutions. It originally ran on Kateel’s site http://www.letstalkaboutit.info/2013/01/beyond-banning-bad-guns-and-arming-good.html

-Davey D-

“Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27)

“…and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” (Surah 5:32)

SubHash Kateel of Let's talk About It

SubHash Kateel of Let’s talk About It

It was those verses, from three different faiths, all swirling around my head as I watched the carnage in Sandy Hook on TV several weeks ago.  2012 marked a year in which many people I know had already lost so many loved ones.  For a while, I had no thoughts, no analysis, no theories…just verses.

Then the debates emerged.  To say that they became poisoned by posturing, divisiveness and sanctimony is both understandable and an understatement.  People’s anger, sadness and defensiveness charged a discussion in ways I haven’t seen since 9/11. In our current climate, it is increasingly hard to see how some of the alternating proposals flowing from these debates, namely, a “good guy with a gun” in every school or a generic “gun control” that bans all bad guns (“assault weapons”) and gun accessories (magazines, pistol grips etc.) will be anything but a distraction from truly understanding and addressing the root of what is causing people to die.

My own beliefs on the culture of violence have put me at odds with many friends.  I consider myself a progressive to the bone. I am pro-immigrant, anti-war on drugs and anti just about any war based on false pretenses and built on destruction.  Like many people, I have seen enough needless death and violence to know how much I hate it, whether it comes from the barrel of a gun, the blade of a knife, the missile of a drone, a US-issued Stinger in the hands of the Taliban or a baseball bat. But even though my parents never owned guns, I grew up around many people that did and I have always believed in what the Second Amendment fundamentally stands for. I never saw the label progressive as meaning a little left of liberal.  To me, it always meant that we address the root cause of every problem we face in a way that challenges ourselves as much as we challenge the powers creating those problems.

As a community organizer, I witnessed with my own eyes a War on Drugs that left communities littered with drugs, violence and mass incarceration, a War on Terror that terrorized communities and an undeclared War on Immigrants meant to “secure communities” that has left many families torn apart. So when I hear folks recite the mantra of “gun control” or “a good guy with a gun” as the cure-all for the culture of violence in this country, I pause.

For another “banning of bad guns” or a “giving all good guys guns” proposal to be held up as a solution to any of this madness means that we are answering our own questions with self-serving facts that reinforce what we are already thinking. The actual facts don’t support any side of this debate completely and desperately scream out for new solutions.

The facts behind “the facts”

Among the most self-serving facts are the constant comparisons between violence in the US and what Piers Morgan calls “the civilized” world. So yes, America leads most of Europe in an intentionally misleading measure of violence called gun deaths. But over half of US gun deaths are suicides that may have still happened without a gun and over a third of US murders take place without any gun whatsoever.  For perspective, if every suicide in gun death-less Japan happened with a gun, it would have a much higher gun death rate than the United States because it has way more suicides. If all gun murders in America miraculously disappeared, we would still have a much higher murder rate than Japan.

Murder Stats from 2009 UN Data, Gun Stats from Small Arms Survey

Murder Stats from 2009 UN Data,
Gun Stats from Small Arms Survey

Gun rights advocates who point to Switzerland’s’ high rates of gun ownership and low rates of murder are rightly reminded by gun control advocates that the Swiss also have significantly stricter gun laws than the US.  But gun control advocates, while pushing to ban “assault weapons,” also forget that hundreds of thousands of those Swiss guns are full-fledged automatic weapons which have been illegal to the general American public for decades and not semi-automatic “assault weapons” (a term that means virtually nothing).  When comparing the US to countries that don’t have the same history, population, land mass or (lack of) access to a social safety net, people leave out the only country in Europe that even slightly compares to the US in size and population, Russia, which has way fewer guns per capita (9 vs. 89 per 100 people) but more than twice the murders. Even Yemen, which the media often describes as an anarchic open air gun market/haven for terrorists, has much less murder per capita than Russia.

Strangely, when you only compare European countries to other European countries (see graph), you see that all have stricter gun laws than the US but the ones with more guns tend to have fewer murders.  While there is no proof that one causes the other, for how good the UK has been at eradicating gun possession (or not), it still has more murders than Germany or Switzerland which have five times more guns. European countries do have horrific mass killings far less frequently, but the scale of the ones that have taken place (even in the UK) are no less shocking. Norway, an extremely stable country with a strong social safety net, strict gun laws and extremely low murder rate had a horrible mass shooting in 2011 by a neo-Nazi at a youth camp that killed 69 people, twice as many as America’s worst modern-day mass shooting, the Virginia Tech Massacre.  Even, peaceful, gun-less Japan had a deadly sarin gas attack on its subways that killed 13 people and injured thousands in 1995.

An honest look at “civilized” Europe would tell us that our gun laws can use a few more regulations, our country can use a better social safety net, having more guns doesn’t mean more murder, having “assault weapons” doesn’t mean they will be used in mass murder and sometimes, you can do everything right and still have insane mass killings. Oh, and calling European countries the “civilized world” is really dumb and freaking racist (that’s means you, Piers Morgan).  You can’t fit that into a meme.

School Bombing in bath, Mi 1927

School Bombing in bath, Mi 1927

A basic accounting of mass killings on US soil, not “school shootings,” “mass shootings” or another carefully concocted term, should really help us question why anyone is recycling the idea of an assault weapons ban or more “good guys with guns” as a serious solution.  The largest American school massacre took place in Bath, MI in 1927 after a deranged school board official set off bombs in a schoolhouse killing 45 people, mostly children.  It is highly unlikely that any “good guy with a gun” would have known to stop a school official or that banning any gun could have prevented him from secretly planting bombs.

The worst domestic violence-related mass killing took place in 1990 after an angry ex-boyfriend set fire to a Bronx club, killing 87.

One of the first high profile mass shootings, the Texas Bell Tower shooting of 1966, was perpetrated by an ex-Marine who killed 16 people after shooting at University of Texas-Austin students and staff from a school clock tower using a Remington 700 bolt-action (non “semi-automatic”) hunting rifle still widely used today.

The worst American school shooting, the Virginia Tech massacre, was committed in 2007 with zero “assault” or high-powered weapons. Many of the 33 murdered students were killed with a .22 caliber pistol (with no high capacity magazine), among the least powerful and least likely to be banned of any gun in America (or Europe).  Both UT Austin and Virginia Tech had armed police on the scene at some point.

Oklahoma City Bombing

Oklahoma City Bombing

Perhaps the largest civilian massacre (with the exception of 9/11) on US soil since Wounded Knee, the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma Federal Building, was perpetrated by a First Gulf War vet who chose a truck and fertilizer-laced explosives to blow up the relatively secure government office, killing 168 people including 19 children of the same age as those in Sandy Hook.

Columbine, one of the most high profile school shootings in recent memory, took place six years after the Federal Assault Weapons Ban’s passage at a school with an armed security guard.  Neither the banning of a bad gun nor the arming of good guys was enough to stop needless slaughter in any of the above circumstances.

To really grasp how much of a failure political quick fixes have been, one must only visit Stockton, California.  A week after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Stockton marked the 23rd anniversary of a crazed gunman opening fire on a playground full of Asian American school children at the Cleveland Elementary School, killing six and injuring 30.  The unreal bloodshed set the stage for the first Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. While many news outlets made the links between Sandy Hook and the Stockton schoolyard, none highlighted how much California’s conservative, liberal and “centrist” policies had failed the people of Stockton.

California has by far the toughest gun laws in the country, laws so tough that some gun manufacturers refuse to do business in the state.  It has the mandatory minimums and the three-strikes laws that conservatives hold up as the real answer to violent crime.  It has every zero tolerance policy in schools and anti-gang injunction on the streets that would re-elect either party’s get-tough politicians.  Yet even with the toughest of all types of laws, two decades after its own version of Sandy Hook, Stockton is considered one of the ten most dangerous US cities.  Its murder rate in 2012 is set to double what it was in 2011.

Quite simply, policies like “assault weapons bans,” “SWAT Teams in Schools” or “Tech-9’s for Teachers” don’t and won’t eliminate violence because they are not meant to. They are proposed because they make politicians look good, make liberals and conservatives feel good in their respective positions and give us another excuse to put off working together to find real solutions to stopping violence.

Another Failed War?

Stop and FriskGun and accessory bans, specifically, don’t stop murder for the same reason the War on Drugs never stopped drug addiction or Prohibition never stopped alcoholism (except that neither drugs or alcohol have been enshrined in the Constitution). In addition to their inability to tame large illegal markets, the enforcement of our gun laws plays out on the street the same way the enforcement of our drug laws do…badly.

Drug addiction has always been the disproportionate domain of White folks but the Drug War’s jail cells have always been disproportionately reserved for Black and Brown folks-so much so that the prison system has been called “the New Jim Crow.” Similarly, “common sense” gun laws are rarely enforced on middle class socially maladjusted rural/suburban kids like Adam Lanza. Black and Brown folks are far less likely to own guns than White folks, more likely to live in places (e.g. Washington DC, Chicago) where gun possession is severely restricted but also more likely to be stopped, frisked, arrested and jailed on gun charges.  The least unevenly enforced gun laws at the federal level still jail disproportionately more Black folks than Whites.


Inherently unequal gun law enforcement is nothing new and predates the War on Drugs by a couple centuries. In fact, most of the country’s early gun laws were obsessed with preventing Black and Native American folks from owning guns.  What has hundreds of years of gun control in Black communities, through the eras of the old and new Jim Crows, produced? Today, Black men are six times more likely to be victims of homicide than White men.

The liberal understanding that the Drug War failed miserably and destroyed communities it claimed to protect doesn’t seem to translate into an understanding that the same criminal justice system tasked with leading the failed War on Drugs would be tasked with making a “War on Gun Violence” successful.  Whenever I ask my friends what would be different, I am merely told, “we have to do something” or “it’s a start.”

Proposed gun bans are effective, however, at creating artificially high demand that floods the country with whatever gun or accessory is at threat of being banned.  In this respect, they do the opposite of what they were meant to, much the same way those Parental Advisory warnings from the 1990’s probably encouraged my friends to listen to more violent music.  Several older gun shop owners have told me that there wasn’t such large-scale demand for “assault weapons” until the first push to ban assault weapons in the early 90’s.

AR 15

AR 15

As we speak, AR-15’s (one of the guns used at Sandy Hook) are moving off the shelves at guns shops and gun shows at a rate as high as a dozen an hour per dealer.  By the time the ink is dry on any weapons or magazine ban, at least a million more AR-15’s and even more high capacity magazines will be in the hands of Americans.  Regardless of the rhetoric, assault weapons ban proponents admit that no ban will retroactively seize any of these newly acquired guns or magazines.  But none of this seems to stop the same media outlets, who refuse to make the man that shot the children at Sandy Hook a household name, from running a virtual 24 hour infomercial for the AR-15, selling more than any Bushmaster ad campaign could imagine.  Is that really a good “start?”

Much distresses me about this entire debate.  For one, some of my liberal friends that lament “the other side’s” ignorance on things like climate change similarly ignore the basic statistics saying that more Americans are killed with bats, knives or bare fists than assault weapons or the government research describing the last assault weapons ban’s effectiveness as tenuous at best.  They also keep insisting on banning things that are already illegal (machine guns ), that semiautomatic rifles are never used for hunting, or that rifles used to kill a 400 lbs. deer at 250 yards away are somehow less powerful, not as “armor piercing,” or less deadly than “assault weapons.”  While hoisting up the need for gun bans and gun buyback programs, which are among the least effective anti-violence measures, they allow all sides of the debate to ignore proactive things like gang intervention programs and other successful anti-violence efforts that are constantly left starving for resources.

Meanwhile, using a culture war on guns as a stand in for stopping violence also gives some conservative gun owners a codependent crutch for fatalistic views on violence that run counter to their own values (personal responsibility, etc.). Many swear off American violence as the inevitable product of evil intent, making stopping it with force the only logical solution.  I swear, for how many gun owners I know that call themselves Christians, you would forget that they belong to a faith that puts a premium on redemption, responsibility and reconciliation.

In either case, the responsibility to stop violence is always someone else’s and can never happen until a mythical world is created where the Brady Campaign and the NRA either completely agree with each other or, depending on whose world, cease to exist.

False Prophets of Peace

Perhaps the worst part of the current debate is that it lionizes politicians as prophets of peace that are anything but.  New York State has hosted some of the most egregious examples. George Pataki, New York’s Republican Governor from 1995-2006, was often lauded as a voice of reason in the gun debate for passing some of the strictest gun laws in the country, making the assault weapons ban in New York permanent (which the current Governor promises to make more permanent). These same gun laws couldn’t prevent William Spengler from killing two firefighters in Webster, New York barely a week after Sandy Hook. But few of the forces that anointed Pataki a centrist savior want to remember that he also cut college programs for incarcerated people.  These programs moved scores of people that I know personally from being participants in the culture of violence to being social workers, computer programmers and legitimate small businesspeople.

Seems like Mayor Bloomberg & Police Commissioner Ray Kelly are heavily borrowing from the sordid legacies of LAPD Chiefs Chief William H Parker & Darryl Gates

Mayor Bloomberg & Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a Mahatma Gandhi/Daddy Warbucks of the gun control world while overseeing a police force (NYPD) that he affectionately calls his personal army (no he really said that).  On his watch, rogue members of his “army” have been accused of planting evidence, murdering unarmed men with impunity, stealing guns and selling them to drug dealers, creating a mass shooting by trying to stop one and many other things that Gandhi would never ever do.

Many gun control advocates still hold up the Empire State as a success story.  But anyone that has actually worked in New York City neighborhoods for longer than five minutes can tell you that the “safe” New York is more a product of policies that turned the city into a playground for the superrich (who feel safe no matter where they live) while pushing many working people into significantly less safe locales both within (Buffalo, Poughkeepsie) and outside the state (New Haven, Philadelphia and Orlando).  Cities in the “safe” New York State like Buffalo and Poughkeepsie have murder rates nearly three times the national average.

Connecticut politicians, whose tears post Sandy Hook are no doubt genuine, are similarly credited with being strong enough to stand up to the NRA, making Connecticut’s gun laws the fourth toughest in the country.  Unfortunately, they never stood up to the realities of a state where one of the wealthiest and most prestigious universities in the world, Yale, runs a virtual company town, New Haven, that is considered one of America’s most violent cities.

Sadly, pro gun and anti-gun politicians share much in common. Both crave a zero tolerance, low intensity police state that uses violence and force whenever it makes their rich friends happy, whether it is conducting selectively dehumanizing stops and frisks, the use of eminent domain for questionable “community development” or breaking up completely legitimate First Amendment activity.  At the same time, almost all have stood in the way of real community strategies that actually stop violence.

A New Way Forward?

With all of that said, there is far too much violence in America. Facts, politicians and politics be damned; when you are a parent attending a child’s funeral, one death is a statistic too many and a problem in need of an immediate solution. Finding real solutions means coming together to do practical things now to stop violence that are based in reality.

America’s reality is 1) the Second Amendment will never ever be repealed and guns will never be banned or even restricted to the point where we will become the UK or Japan. 2) Americans will never have enough “good guys with guns” to stop every murder or insane act of violence. 3) There is far too much violence in America, with or without guns.  4) The things we have tried rarely address the root causes of violence.  5) No one in their right mind wants people to die.

Taking collective responsibility to stop the culture of violence now means working with people we disagree with to come up with solutions not contingent on our collective agreement on the Second Amendment. After talking to many people I trust for the past month, I have heard of a few things we can do now.

stop the violence march-web1.  Preventative gun policy (vs. prohibition).  Calling everything “gun control” doesn’t distinguish between policies that ban things, which just make politicians look good, don’t stop violence but have bad side effects (disproportionate incarceration and increased demand) and preventative gun policies. Amazingly, researchers cited by pro and anti gun control camps who disagree bitterly on everything seem to agree that strengthened background checks (possibly even Joe Biden’s “universal background checks”) work in reducing violence without confiscating anything or putting anyone in jail.

Many gun owners I have spoken to tell me that they oppose any ban but believe that everyone buying firearms should have a reasonably thorough background check to prevent, for example, the severely mentally ill or perpetrators of domestic violence from obtaining guns.  Some have even suggested being ok with background checks for high capacity magazines while opposing their prohibition. Even if the NRA would oppose expanded background checks, very few of their members would. While stronger background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Sandy Hook killings, they may have stopped the Virginia Tech massacre, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the mass shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  Besides better background checks, there are plenty of other preventative gun policies that would significantly reduce violence way better than banning anything.

stop the violence2.  Tax credits and incentives for gun safes and smartgun technology. Connecticut already had an assault weapons ban and strict gun laws.  While no law was enough to stop Adam Lanza from getting his mother’s guns, securing those guns might have stopped something. It is easy to balk at a proposal to proactively help gun owners better secure their firearms until you consider that every year, at least 500,000 guns are stolen, sometimes by relatives and often from homes without quality gun safes.  Those guns are exponentially more likely to be used in the 300,000 or so gun-related violent crimes yearly than the 270 million guns that aren’t stolen. Most gun owners want and would use a quality safe.  Using incentives, as opposed to requirements, to encourage investment in high quality safes could over time potentially keep millions of guns out of the illegal gun market and away from violent crime scenes.  Although controversial, research is also underway for smartgun technology that customizes guns so that only the owner may use them.  While requiring gun owners to invest in controversial and untested technology would be a non-starter, encouraging more research and incentives for future use opens doors to new strategies to drastically reduce death.

3.  Invest in domestic violence intervention and prevention. To understand domestic violence is to understand Adam Lanza’s mother, who intimated to community members that she feared her son’s mental trajectory, as a victim.  The Justice Department says that over half of murder victims were killed by someone they know (almost a quarter by family members).  A boyfriend or spouse kills a shocking third of all female murder victims, regardless of weapon used. Violent intimate partners have also been involved in their fair share of mass killings.  Making sure that there are better support services for survivors and perpetrators while investing in best practices to keep survivors away from violent circumstances and keep high-risk perpetrators away from survivors and weapons can have immediate and lasting impacts on violence. Ensuring that domestic violence institutions are fully equpped to deal with these circumstances is something that pro and anti gun control people can support regardless of their politics.  For example, former US Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, one of the Senate’s most respected progressive members, was both a strong supporter of gun rights and a strong supporter of policies protecting survivors of domestic violence.

United Playza4.  Invest in other creative violence intervention/prevention projects. Gang truces, college degrees for the incarcerated, street violence “interrupter” projects.  Many of us have seen all of these programs have a direct and dramatic impact on reducing “street” violence and transforming lives. But these programs are labor intensive and often require investing in the redemption of people walking away from the culture of violence. Research shows that these programs are much more effective than feel-good things like gun buy back programs.  But when budgets are cut, they are often the first programs to go, when they are funded at all. Whether it’s the government, Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns or the NRA funding them, ensuring that they are effective and well resourced must become a cornerstone of any fight against the culture of violence.

5.  Create holistic treatment of the violently mentally ill or chemically addicted.  The most welcome, yet first to be dismissed, conversations post-Sandy Hook emphasized this country’s crisis in mental health and substance abuse treatment. The mental health link to Sandy Hook was downplayed partly by well meaning activists with legitimate fears that folks with mental illness (who are more likely to be victims than perps) would be scapegoated as potential serial killers. That doesn’t change the fact that in Florida, where I live, the number of people that are being declared a threat to themselves or others is skyrocketing while the services for them are disintegrating.  Yes we need better background checks to prevent the sliver of mentally ill/chemically addicted that are a threat to others from obtaining weapons, something that is completely doable. But we also need to make sure that we are creating holistic and effective care.

6.  Create more peace building institutions.  A big mistakes made in this debate is assuming that you can create a peaceful society by forcing people to give up their guns (even rhetorically). Martin Luther King, a gun owner, didn’t become a proponent of peaceful resistance because of gun laws. He made a conscious commitment to it. To create a peaceful society, we need to spend way more time encouraging the creation of things like effective conflict resolution programs in schools (that aren’t just for overachievers) and less time getting boiling mad over divisive debates.

gun-control-about-control7.  Creating a different gun culture.  America’s gun culture isn’t going anywhere, but it doesn’t have to be inherently intertwined with the culture of violence. Martial arts instructors, despite knowing twelve different ways of killing someone with their fists, are in my experience among the least violent people I know.  Additionally, acknowledging that we had 14,000 too many murders last year (about 9,300 with a gun) is to acknowledge that murder and violent crime have dropped for five straight years and that we have over a 100 million gun owners from all walks of life that aren’t committing murderous acts of violence. Gun club organizers, firearms instructors and gun shop owners are, in fact, in a unique and far better position to positively stop gun violence than those that want to wish them out of existence.

In Aurora, Colorado before the theater shooting, there were two people that thought something was not right with the shooter, his psychiatrist and the owner of the gun range that the shooter unsuccessfully tried to join. Our current culture war has created a scenario where that intuition never prevented tragedy. Encouraging a culture where people that spend every day with people with guns can detect early warning signs and find proactive, non-“creepy big brother” ways to address those signs could stop scores of violent acts before they start.  Additionally, encouraging a culture where gun owners actively support anti-violence work seems like a better use of time than demanding that Mayor Bloomberg and the NRA’s Wayne La Pierre shake hands.

Will these things stop all murder 100%? No.  Will they stop much more violence than any unproductive culture war debate with mostly symbolic legislation? Absolutely.  Will they give us ways to work with people we don’t agree with to stop violence that we all agree has to stop? Definitely.

The starting point can’t be waiting for the right law or right fully armed/disarmed society.  We(I) have to take the collective responsibility to address our culture of violence as it appears in our lives.  As a man, that means taking the responsibility to address the way that us men are often socialized to express anger, depression and cries for help.  As a friend, that means investing in the redemption of friends and family that wish to walk away from the culture of violence they once participated in. As a community member, it means making sure the institutions that keep people truly safe and healthy survive.  It also means challenging ourselves to come correct with our best thinking and actions. After talking to tons of gun owners and non-gun owners, I realize that the best parts of us believe in building a better and safer world for the people we care about.  The sooner we can put our best beliefs forward, the sooner we can do that.

Subhash Kateel is the co-host of Let’s Talk About It!, a real talk radio program that talks about the real issues that affect the lives of real people. Subhash Kateel has been organizing immigrant communities for over twelve years. He was the initiator of the detention and deportation work for Desis Rising Up and Moving and of co-Founder of Families For Freedom, a multi-ethnic network of immigrants facing and fighting deportation in 2002. He was also an organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition helping to develop community responses to ICE raids, detentions and deportations. Besides facilitating some of the most sought after know your rights trainings in the South East, he helped lead the We Are Florida! campaign that successfully stopped an Arizona-style anti-immigrant bill from passing in the Florida legislature. He is now the co-host of Let’s Talk About It! He has called many places home, including Saginaw, Michigan, Brooklyn, New York and now Miami Florida.

Don’t forget to check out our show every Wednesday night at 7pm right HERE.

Editorial: Stop Calling These Imposters Hip Hop


they do not do or cover all its elements of the hip hop culture

Emile YxThis version of Hip Hop that the worlds media promotes globally, is a strange sissified version of its true self. It consists of middle-class fakers acting like gangsters, so-called hardcore rappers, so-called underground heads and so-called superstars killing each other, while the white controlled global media celebrates. Who are these imposters?

Hip Hop is the MC (not rapper), DJ or turntablists, B-boys or B-girls (not breakdancers), Writer (not graffiti artists), BeatBoxer and students of Knowledge of Self. These according to the founders of the culture are the main elements of the culture. Now you have world media calling EMINEN, 50cents and the rest of the multi-nationally backed “rappers”, the upholders of HIP HOP CULTURE. Excuse me, but do they b-boy, write, MC and DJ ? HELL NO! so why do we perpetuate these lies. They have no right to call what our ancestors created and gave as a voice for the people, whatever the hell they wish to call it. Strangely enough we just allow this bullshit to continue without any protest. We even reduce ourselves to speak their names and titles they named what we do. Hip Hop elders have not been approached in their research about the culture, they just named things as they wished. We sit in front of the TV and hear them spread these lies to the world and accept this powerless position they have put us in. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH. It is time to set the record straight. These titles that make up the HIP HOP CULTURE are titles that practitioners of writing, MCing, B-boying, DJing, Beatboxing earn and no just given to anyone. It is something that is earned with time, dedication, research and sacrifice. Nowadays everyone is a rapper and maybe they are right, because an MC earns that reputation for skill as well as ability to be the “master of the ceremony” (Where the name MC comes from by the way). Many of these rappers are studio rappers that have no stage, microphone or crowd/ audience control skills.

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

Afrika Bambaataa & Kool Herc

A true MC or Hip Hop head would not lie to the audience about fake bling, bling that he or she does not have, especially knowing how many youths are listening to them on the radio and watching them on the TV. A true B-boy or Hip Hopper learns the history of the culture and gives respect to those who have gone before. Those like Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, MC Cowboy, the Rock Steady Crew, The Nigga Twins, Pop Masters Fabel, Phase 2 and Mr Wiggles to name but a few who contributed to the REAL HIP HOP culture.

There are also hip hop histories in countries around the world and those contributions by those individuals have to be given the credit that they deserve. This new mentality of forgetting the past as quickly as a new song hits the number 1 spot on radio or MTV, is a global mentality. This eliminates respect for elders and those that pave the way. It also separates the younger practitioners from those who have experience and who could help them not repeat the mistakes that they have made before these young kids who are now earning millions. It is my opinion that it is for this very reason that the gap between the elders and next generation are made bigger by record companies and the entertainment industry. Their intention is to keep these younger artists as blind to the realities of the industry as possible. EXPERIENCE CAN NOT BE DOWNLOADED.

Aerosoul Art Do you think that classical music lovers would allow the world media to call their music “Screeching noise” or simply rename it whatever they wish, without putting up a fight ? I think the arrogance of the world media is because HIP HOP is considered a black sub-culture or street culture. Even the usage of the prefix “sub”, implies something that is lesser than or under what might be considered cultural. Think about it a bit more. We name it b-boying/ b-girling, they rename it breakdance, we name it writing, they rename it graffiti, we name it MCing and they rename it rapping. It is an insult to our creative ability. They control the media and thus feel that they have the power to name whatever they wish and get away with it. Like Michael Jackson being called Wacko Jacko, this is like calling us “Nigger”and “Kaffer” all over again. We internalize the lies they feed us and start to believe what they call us. Attached to the medias version of hip hop are gangs, profanity and violence. The REAL HIP HOP is a powerful tool globally bringing youth together and enlightening them to their true selves. REAL HIP HOP is educating youth, fighting AIDS, exchanging cultures, breaking down racism, protesting against global dictators.

I do this call out to all defenders of the TRUE HIP HOP CULTURE to use the correct terminology and free our culture from their verbal enslavement of it. Only once we do this will we be able to regain the financial control of this multi-billion dollar industry that they have almost taken complete control of. I know that everywhere in the world there are true soldiers of the REAL HIP HOP. Like Mr Devious, from South Africa, who was prepared to die for what hip hop has taught US. In the USA is the Universal Zulu Nation, Eazy Roc and Asia One that started the B-Boy Summit, also from the USA is Poe One and Cros One from the Freestyle Sessions event, in Germany is Storm and Swift of Battle Squad, also in Germany is Thomas of Battle of the Year, in Japan is Dance Machine, in Spain is Kapi, in Holland is Timski, in New Zealand is Norman, in South Africa is myself Emile of Black Noise, we have brothers in Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, France, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Australia and every other country on this planet. We are many my brothers and sisters and our voice can never be silenced, but we have to RE-IGNITE THE FIRE OF TRUE HIP HOP REVOLUTION. We have to insist that MTV Awards and Grammy Awards remove the false labeling of the best Hip Hop Artist, until they are willing to call up a group that have writers, DJs, MCs, B-boys, etc.

I hope that you will forward these thoughts to all those concerned with HIP HOP getting the respect it deserves.And hopefully we will enlighten more youth to the REAL HIP HOP and not the FAKE one that is spread MTV and other media.

Change must come
Emile YX?
Black Noise (South Africa)

Sept 2008

Op Ed: Common vs Drake? Hip-Hop beef needs a funeral and a proper burial

Common vs Drake? Hip-Hop beef needs a funeral and a proper burial
by Brother Jesse Muhammad

Brother Jesse

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pay our last respects to a ‘friend’ that has been dear to many musical artists, fans and readers….that ‘friend’ is HIP-HOP BEEF.”

What forward-moving purpose does Hip-Hop beef serve? Can someone please educate me? I was a little thrown aback by the recent beef that spread quickly throughout the Internet and radio shows involving Common and Drake. Frankly, I found it pretty weak for Common, an artist I respect, to engage in such nonsense.

He supposedly took shots at Drake in his song “Sweet” from his newly released album The Dreamer, The Believer. I wasn’t impressed with the song; too much cursing. I wasn’t that impressed with the album either (I’m still listening to it though to see if my opinion will change). And now it continues with Drake supposedly clapping back in the song “Rich Forever” and as expected Common getting in more lyrical jabs in the song “Stay Schemin.”


No, I’m not siding with Drake. I don’t even listen to him much at all. I got his album along with Nikki Minaj’s just to see what all the hype was about. They didn’t move me. I just think they are doing an excellent job of mastering their moment.

Getting back to the eulogy for Hip-Hop Beef: I love Hip-Hop culture and trust me I’ve enjoyed true lyrical battles in our history but this mudslinging, name-calling, backbiting, buffoonery and randomly picking out other artists just for the heck of it has outlived its usefulness and has become a destructive force. The new trend now is grown men and women using Twitter to take shots instead of sitting down in person to solve our problems. I even read where Young Jeezy said one of his friends was killed due to an exchange of words on Twitter.

When it comes to Hip-Hop, I always sit and wonder who calculates when a beef should start? Who should be targeted? How long it should last? What dirt should be unveiled? Do some artists start beef to make up for poor record sales? Are they thirsting that bad for publicity? Is their marketing and lyrical engine that weak that they need to start a beef to save their careers? If an artist has millions already, why waste time attacking people? Is it out of greed? Is there really a winner in a beef?

Nobody in Hip-Hop can deny that The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been the most critical in putting an end to a lot of the beef in the genre. Back in 1997, Min. Farrakhan gathered a group of Hip-Hop artists at his home in Chicago to call a truce between East Coast and West Coast rappers. In attendance included Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Common (his name was Common Sense then), Tha Dogg Pound, Willie D, Fat Joe and more.

In 2001, Min. Farrakhan was the keynote speaker at the Hip-Hop Summit in New York hosted by Russell Simmons.”Every time you use your rap song against another rapper and the magazines publish your words, the people that love you then turn on the people that you have spoken against. Then, the one you spoke against speaks back against you and his group becomes inflamed against you. When you are a rapper and you understand your leadership role, you must understand that, with leadership comes responsibility. You did not ask for it. It is imposed on you, but you now have to accept responsibility that you have never accepted,” Min. Farrakhan said to the packed room.

He added, “Your potential to change reality is so great that, if you learned the skill of words and how to use words; if you learned how to say what it is you want to say, but say it in a way that gains universal respect, then the rap would evolve to an art form that will never be replaced. It will evolve to be that form that will set the stage for the next phase of its evolution.”

In 2003, Min. Farrakhan sat down with Ja Rule in the midst of his heated feud with 50 Cent. In his conversation with Ja Rule, that aired on MTV and BET, Min. Farrakhan told Ja Rule not to give in to the pressure of his listeners who wanted him to keep dissing 50 Cent but rather “teach them that there’s more to life than beef.

“A war is about to come down on the rap community. When you and 50 throw down, it goes all the way down into the streets. The media takes the beef between you and 50 and they play it, they jam it, they keep it going. Why would they keep something going that could produce bloodshed? There is a bigger plot here, Ja, and this is what I want you and 50 and our hip-hop brothers and sisters to see,” said Min. Farrakhan.

Where would Hip-Hop be if they had fully implemented the guidance of this wise man? As for the beef, let’s throw some dirt on the coffin and pay our last respects.

(Brother Jesse Muhammad is a staff writer for The Final Call Newspaper and an award-winning blogger. Follow him on Twitter @BrotherJesse)

Peep article Here: http://jessemuhammad.blogs.finalcall.com/2012/01/common-vs-drake-hip-hop-beef-needs.html


How Can Hip Hop Save the World? Lessons from a Seattle Youth Service Scandal

On March 3rd, I was invited to speak at an intimate panel at Seattle University called “How Can Hip Hop Save the World?” The gathering, brought together by SU’s Mary Pauline Diaz, featured Mako Fitts, Ready C from my crew Alpha P, and myself, as well as about 10 student participants. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was inspired by the topic, ensuing conversation, and current events to write this article up.

(Photo: Kool Herc, founder of Hip Hop, currently fighting the American healthcare system.)

Before addressing how Hip Hop can save the world, you first have to determine whether it can, and what “Hip Hop” means to begin with. Now although we could debate cultural memory, nommo, and collective experience all day, the truth is that the only thing that brings most of us together under the umbrella of “Hip Hop” is that we, as artists, engage in the artistic practices deemed by Afrika Bambaataa to be the elements of Hip Hop: bboy/girling, emceeing, graffiti, Djing, beat-making, etc. Of course cultural production in Hip Hop is not just limited to that, it also includes secondary extensions of this. For example, independent media/websites/shows such as Seaspot, Flava News, Coolout Network, Untappedmuzik, All Power to the Positive, Seattle Hip Hop Street Fights, Street Sounds, Boombox FM, She Ready Radio, and Zulu Radio are included here as well as bloggers like those at Raindrophustla, Chul Gugich from 206up, Hugh from Blogsiswatching.com, and Miss Casey Carter, writers like Marian Liu and Jonathan Cunningham, even online forum mafiosos like the habitue of 206Proof are Hip Hop cultural producers. Promoters/venues/functions are also hugely important to Hip Hop cultural production (think Dope Emporium, UmojaFest, Obese Productions, an institution like Stop Biting at Lofi (shouts to Introcut), or Ladies First, formally at Hidmo, etc.) Extending even farther out, we can include fashion (think Mint Factory Clothing or CrisisNW Gear), photography (like Ruf Top Productions, and Jennifer Mary), and a plethora of others. Through this lens, Hip Hop CREATES communities around these artistic practices and acts of cultural production. The question then shifts from “Can Hip Hop save the world?” to “Can communities save the world?” and of course, the answer here is yes. But what role does Hip Hop have in this?

As an artist, and like a lot of artists and cultural producers out here in the Northwest Hip Hop scene, I believe in community accountability to the youth. We do not just understand and create art about issues of gentrification, poverty/job creation, educational reform, healthcare, and youth violence prevention, we organize and mobilize for positive changes within our spheres of influence around these issues, for their benefit. I’ve worked with organizations who turn crack houses into community centers and throw Hip Hop Leadership Conferences (Seattle Hip Hop Youth Council & Umojafest P.E.A.C.E. Center), organizations who connect artists with schools, play cafeterias and gymnasiums, and organize city-wide Youth Summits (206 Zulu), collectives who throw multi-day free all-ages Hip Hop festivals with youth showcases (Dope Emporium), business owners who turn their restaurants into activists hubs and performance spaces, who launch community empowerment projects (Hidmo), and I’ve been blessed to connect with other collectives, organizations, and crews in cities across the country who share the same priorities and mission in this work. (Shouts to DeBug in San Jose, W.I.T in Kentucky, J.U.I.C.E and GorillaMic in Los Angeles, IMAN & Coalition to Protect Public Housing in Chicago, B Girl Be in Minneapolis, W.E.A.P in Oakland, and all trues in the PPEHRC, UZN, HHC networks). There’s power in this groundswell.

Through my travels, connecting with “Hip Hop” communities across the country, I’ve also learned that the national policies and initiatives enacted locally on a state, county, & city level have created common struggles & challenges for us. Broadening our perspective on these issues to include the struggles of communities outside our scene allows us to see how these issues manifest in different cities, and facilitates better understanding on how we can enact change in Seattle. One example of this is HUD Block Grants that wiped out public housing in virtually every urban community across the country, shrouding the reality of gentrification and urban economic displacement under the guise of “private-public partnerships”. Another very recent example is the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative (YVPI). Most don’t know that at the time this was launched in Seattle two years ago, former Mayor Nickels was the President of the National Council of Mayors, and it’s not a stretch to say his decision to entrust the Seattle Urban League with a no-bid multi-million dollar grant for executing the project locally was in no small part due to the “New Deal” partnership for the Conference of Mayors and the National Urban League announced at their centennial celebration.

Two years ago, at the time this happened, I was working with Umojafest P.E.A.C.E Center, Mother’s Outreach Movement, Hip Hop Congress, and a collective of over 20 other local Hip Hop and youth advocacy organizations in the Unite for Youth Coalition, who were very much in the trenches of youth violence prevention work. The coalition members were also very concerned with the city’s move to hand these desperately needed funds over to the Urban League, an organization with questionable leadership, a history of unsavory community appropriation, and virtually no track record of notable violence prevention work. Plus at the same time, the city of Seattle was proposing to build a $110 million dollar jail, and the new Seattle School District Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson (who was just fired March 3rd by the school board over the recent scandal) was proposing to shut down six schools. We organized, and began contacting people in the mayor’s office, on the school board, and in the Urban League, and our concern only grew. As community organizers and youth service workers, we were uncomfortable with 1) the disconnect of these conversations 2) the Seattle School District’s questionable management of public funds and their inability to keep schools open 3) the lack of transparency, really the shroud of secrecy over the Urban League’s plans for the violence prevention money. Two years ago, we staged demonstrations, put out articles on the issue, and did our best to engage our communities in the conversation, for the interest of the youth. Were we successful in raising awareness and asking questions? Yes. Were we able to prevent the scandalous debacle that ensued? No.

Today, two years later, after at least four schools are closed, the Seattle Times front page is riddled with stories about the Seattle School District’s financial scandal, how over a million dollars was handed over to vendors that never did anything but get the money, and how the single largest recipient of that money was the Seattle Urban League. This all came out after the Urban League quietly lost the YVPI contract in January, after they spent $900,000 with little to show for it. (Here’s the city’s performance evaluation for the larger half of that amount). I’d be interested to hear how this played out in other cities.

Despite all this, ours was not a lost battle. Quite the contrary, the pressure and spotlight put on Former Mayor Nickels and his administration came right before elections season. Hip Hop ran its own candidate, Wyking Garrett, for the purposes of putting these and other critical issues on the table, and coalitions of urban youth organizations like the Young Voter’s League were hosting their own candidate forums at which Nickels was virtually absent. Although Wyking lost in primaries, the face time we bought with other candidates won us a huge platform to educate others on what was going on in the community, and it was out of these conversations that Mayor McGinn surfaced as a favored pick among young voters. It is the presence of this new mayor which has eventually lead to the space for transparency in the YVPI, as well as for new leadership to emerge from the community. We should not forget or downplay this victory, even if it did take some time, but we should also strive to mobilize quicker, stronger, and more effectively next time by taking key lessons from what went down in our own backyard:

1) Be proactive in creating and/or contributing to the growth of institutional alternatives to the status quo. (Instead of trying to use the master’s tools to dismantle the plantation. This applies to the dying music industry & corporate media model as well as activism and youth service.)

2) Leverage the political process by running our own Hip Hop candidates who will put our issues and interests into the forefront. (Instead of raking up election year funding by remaining operatives for existing political parties.)

3) Keep building Hip Hop as an effective medium for community education and mobilization.
(Think unionizing teaching artists and Hip Hop youth service workers, building coalitions between our businesses, collectives, and organizations, and creating “rapid response” networks on youth policy issues among our independent media outlets.)

Hip Hop is a vast & powerful network. We should not shy away from being active in changing the world from the ground up. The above is only one example of the small atrocities committed daily, and the role our community of cultural producers can and needs to play in intervening and recreating. Even here in our seemingly isolated, burgeoning scene, we are a part of a larger movement with larger aspirations, and there are many reminders of this. (Take our comrades in the Hip Hop communities of North Africa for example). There’s a lot of answers to the question “How Can Hip Hop Save the World?”, but the most important answer is in the alignment of all our efforts and the clarity of our collective vision.

Julie C is a teacher, cultural advocate, and emcee. Her upcoming E.P Sliding Scale is dropping May 2011 from the indy label B Girl Media. Email her at Juliec@hiphopcongress.com, and comment on this story and others at www.Julie-C.com.


Two Words: On Wisconsin! by Tina Bell Wright

Two Words….

Self Determination.

Corporate Fascism.

Your Choice.

TWO WORDS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkFOBx6j0l8

From the debate raging online and via twitter, I see miseducation is alive and well. Workers from teachers to firefighters once called public servants are now being called freeloaders. It reminds me of something RZA said in the documentary, Rhyme and Reason [paraphrasing]:why am I beefing with this brother and he has nothing and I have nothing while these other folks over there have everything and nobody is beefing with them. That doesn’t add up..I deal with mathematics.

Well, here are some numbers to consider:

1. The Walmart Corporation is richer than over 150 countries.

sources: http://www.globaltrends.com/features/shapers-and-influencers/66-corporate-clout-the-influence-of-the-worlds-largest-100-economic-entities



2. And a good amount of that wealth goes to 4 people: The Walton family members who take 4 of the top 10 spots on the Richest Americans list, with net worth totaling 80+ billion dollars.


3. While the pay gap between a company’s CEO and its employees has a ratio of 11 to 1 in Japan and 12 to 1 in Germany, the United States ratio is an exorbitant 319 to 1.

source: http://csis.org/blog/us-tolerance-income-inequality

4. And for the most staggering numbers: the 500 richest individuals in the world have the same income as 416 million people on the poor end of the pay scale….416 million.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/13/opinion/13kristof.html


Probably the two most dreaded words in American politics = class warfare. But they are still embraced quicker than these two hated four letter words: Karl Marx.

The reason Karl Marx is so feared is because he rightfully exposed the fallacy of wage labor.

Capitalism is a way to make money off of other people’s labor. But Walmart could not make any

money without the cheap labor it gets from the workers that make the manufactured goods it

sells [usually Chinese workers making slave wages], or the employees that provide the labor and customer service at its’ stores [making near slave wages with few benefits], or the customers who buy the goods its’ WORKERS produce [and those customers are spending money that they earn working for (sometimes near slave) wages ].

Marx predicted that this alienation (outlined above) would eventually lead to class consciousness…and the truth is, we may finally be seeing forms of class consciousness playing out all across the globe as we speak..from Egypt to Wisconsin…Bahrain to Iran. And the bigger truth is, we have corporate fascists and overreaching leaders to thank. As I’ve said many times, power will take as much as it can get away with and no less…people must fight for what we rightfully deserve. No one will give it to you.

The choices in this country could not be clearer.  On one side is the language of “cuts” and “deficits” and “sacrifices”, but in this language only one side of the coin is being shown. As I tell my classes all the time, one’s advantage is directly linked to another one’s disadvantage. They are inevitably linked. The big lie that hegemony in society perpetuates is that folks gain at no one’s expense. But on a finite planet, the pie of resources is limited. And how it is dished out at the dinner table matters. If one person takes 99 slices, that leaves 1 slice for 99 people to fight over. The other option is a more equitable distribution of resources. Only people that get more and are okay with others having less prefer the former.

What free trade did to the private sector, political corporatists are now trying to do to the public sector…weaken collective bargaining and workers’ rights. Instead of all seeing the reality of a new guilded age where the rich are getting richer, the middle class is being asked to accept the new “reality” and join the ranks of the working poor while big banks get bailed out with our tax dollars so they can horde that cash or use it to open markets overseas.

The truth the U.S. middle class has not been told is that it is expected to join the global race to the bottom, where we will be expected to compete in a global market where workers make less than a dollar a day. They are setting up Americans to “sacrifice” …to get used to a lower standard of living and accept this new world order where a small elite of corporate fascists get 95% of the pie while 95% of the world must fight for the 5% crumbs…including you now America.

Unfortunately it never is the 1% that does its own bidding…it always is the manipulated who have bought in to the narrative that the elite has sold them. People that believe that giving tax breaks to corporations and busting unions will bring jobs to America have no geopolitical sense of reality.

example = http://www.huffingtonpost.com/video/video_4000.html?1298147211

Instead of bashing me and my fellow union members for collective bargaining and securing better wages and benefits, why not demand the same for yourself?! Stop doing the bidding for corporate fascists and start putting your interest first!



Despite the resistance to change by some, resolve and growing class consciousness may be too strong to stop this time. But know this, even where peaceful protest can not overcome police state barbarity, universal law will. The house of cards will fall…it always does.

Two Words:

Stay Strong

Keep Pushing

People Power

In Unity

….On Wisconsin!

For more on this topic. please see my previous note: The Fire this Time: A Few Thoughts on Egypt

Link: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150134175456131


Here’s What We Should Teach Our Kids Today on Ronald Reagan Day

Today, February 6 is Ronald Reagan Day and to be quite frank, I’m happy to celebrate. As folks gear up to pull out all the stops and all the bells and whistles to commemorate what would’ve been the Big Gipper’s 103rd  birthday, I too wanna leave no stone unturned. People all over the world especially our children deserve to know the truth about the man who was nick named ‘The Great Communicator‘.

First let’s start by noting that it’s been fascinating to watch as many in power in particular corporate interest who greatly benefitted from his 8 year reign have been hard at work re-writing history and making one of the most detestable figures to ever reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave seem down right angelic.

In short revisionist history of Reagan here in the US is on par to the revisionism that notable figures like former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have undertaken. If Reagan is getting a historic make over why not do make overs and put a smiley face on notorious figures like Idi Amin Dada, Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet, François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, Benito Mussolini and maybe the founding fathers of the US, many of whom were slave owners… Oops sorry, I went too far.. We are doing revisionist make overs of slavery,  thank to the Texas State Board of Education who want to refer to ‘slavery‘ as ‘Atlantic Triangular Trade’.

Also thanks to the Kentucky Tea Party and their esteemed Senator Rand Paul who want to disassociate the fact that our founding fathers were slave owners. Certainly we won’t dwell on the fact that two years ago congressional lawmakers after insisting on the Constitution be read during their swearing-in (112th congress), they  decided to skip over the parts where it was declared that Black people are 3/5th human.

So today as we celebrate Ronald Reagan Day lets remind the kids what this man was all about.


Should we start be reminding folks that Ronald Reagan was the ultimate corporate pitchman? Should we tell how he started out working for General Electric which as you know is one of the world’s largest weapons makers and that he modeled himself to be the ultimate peddler of corporate interests. He was one of the first indicators that the presidency was no longer for the people but for the corporation. Reagan was the personification. In their new documentary Rendezvous with Destiny, GE lays out how Reagan selling skills laid the groundwork for his assent to being the nation’s 40th president.


Ronald ReaganShould we remind the kids that Reagan was a union buster?  We should dig deep into the archives and look at the Air Traffic Controllers strike of 1981 where Reagan fired 11,ooo workers and ultimately got the union Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) de-certified. Reagan’s mass firing was a major line drawn in the sand. The demonizing and attacks on unions especially those within the federal government have been going ever since.

Should we remind the kids how Reagan ignored the AIDs epidemic that sprung up during his two terms? People were dying all over and good ole Ronnie was steadfast in not talking about the dreaded disease in any form or fashion. The sad joke at the time was he cared more about UFO’s than he did victims of AIDs.  Ronnie was out to lunch on that crises.

Speaking of lunch, maybe we should teach the kids about how Ronald Reagan insisted that ketchup and relish were vegetables as he aggressively fought to push inner city school lunch programs to cut cooked and fresh vegetables from their menus. 30 years later we have a major health problems especially in the area of obesity amongst our youth.. Thanks Ronnie you did good.

Perhaps we should remind the kids that under Reagan, the Legal Aid Corporation was defanged. This meant that unscrupulous landlords, corporations and utility companies were free to take advantage and abuse consumers, knowing that the people they were jacking wouldn’t be able to get effective legal assistance to fight back.

Reagan Gun ControlI could always teach the kids about Reagan’s trickle down economic theory where he fought to allow rich corporations and businesses to cut taxes which would allow them to create new jobs thus benefitting the masses. I guess I should also teach the kids how many of those rich folks who got those tax breaks promptly took their American jobs overseas where they continued to enjoy tax breaks while our economy was turned upside down..

I’ll be sure to teach the kids how Reagan opposed the Equal Rights Amendment even though women at that time and even today still make less than men. we’ll also remind the kids about Reagan’s tricknology. He promised to name a woman to the supreme court (Sandra Day O’Connor) if the ERA was defeated. The end result is as we celebrate Reagan’s birthday he gets props for opening up the supreme court while forgetting that he threw the average everyday working woman under the bus.

We could also talk about how he was vehemently opposed to the Black Panthers and pushed for the Mulford Act which was specifically designed to target and disarm them. Thats when Reagan and the NRA were for gun control.

We should also remind the kids that Ronald Wilson Reagan opposed the 1965 Voting Rights Act which was championed by Dr Martin Luther King. He said its passage was a ‘humiliation to the South’.

The Father of Crack

I guess because so many kids are enamored with rap star Rick Ross, perhaps I could use his popularity as a teachable moment. I could start by letting kids know that Ross the rapper from Miami derived his name from Freeway Rick the drug dealer out of Los Angeles.

Freeway Rick who has been touring the country lecturing against the harmful impact of drugs is erroneously called the Father of Crack.  His South Central LA operations is legendary as he’s reported to have moved up to 3 million dollars worth of product a week,  but that’s only part of the story. Freeway Rick was not the Father but the proverbial God son.. The real Father of Crack was Ronald Reagan. It’s a sore point of contention to Reagan revisionists who bristle at the notion, but we know better.

You see Freeway Rick was allowed to flourish because our government at the time had some dirty war business they wanted to conduct and found it difficult to circumvent the law and limits set up by Congress. Freeway Rick was able to lavish the hood with tons of crack cocaine because of little scheme we came to know as the Iran Contra Scandal . It was the biggest scandal this country had ever known. Even bigger than Richard Nixon’s Watergate.

To sum it up what you had was in the early 80s, the US was beefing with Iran and the US was beefing with left leaning factions in Nicaragua called the Sandinistas. Reagan and his boys wanted to knock off the Sandinistas because they didn’t like their politics and the populus movement they represented. Latin America was on the rise and overthrowing dictators who were backed by the US. Reagan wanted to overthrow the Sandinistas by arming a bunch of CIA backed rebels called the Contras. Since we’re supposed to be a freedom loving country we couldn’t do our bidding publicly, and as I noted Congress wasnt with the program, so Reagan’s senior advisors launched a secret war.

What they did was covertly sell arms to Iran and take the money and use it to fund Contra operations in Nicaragua. Additional money was netted for the Contras through the sale of crack cocaine which suddenly overnight gained huge popularity in hoods throughout the country. Freeway Rick and South Central, LA was ground zero.

LAs notorious gangs became the main traffickers who spread all out the country with Freeway Rick being the kingpin. Some of this is outlined in Ice Cube’s song ‘Summer Vacation‘.


Freeway Rick’s connection to all the cocaine was a notorious drug supplier named Oscar Danilo Blandón who worked with the CIA and was a key link to the Contras. This is where the whole CIA-Crack connection story emerged . They were outlined in the explosive 1996 San Jose Mercury expose and book called Dark Alliances written by the late Gary Webb.

Oliver North

When all was said and done damn near all of Reagan’s senior advisors were convicted, like National Security Council member Oliver North who played a central role and was later pardoned. Reagan the Great Communicator was protected with folks saying he had no idea all this was happening on his watch. The exact term used was Reagan was ‘disengaged’

Supporter of Apartheid

The term disengaged is an interesting one because it’s in opposition to what Ronald Reagan prided himself. Here was a guy who supported South Africa’s Apartheid Regime. He aggressively opposed Nelson Mandela who was in jail as a political prisoner during Reagan’s presidency. Reagan called Mandela and his and the African National Congress a ‘terrorist organization‘.

During the early 80s, worldwide resistance to South Africa emerged including a call from the UN to have an embargo. Recording artists all over the world launched a boycott to Sun City which was a popular resort in South Africa where some of the Apartheid laws were relaxed.

Ronald Reagan Opposed Nelson Mandela. He saw him and the African National Congress as Terrorists

Ronald Reagan along with Israel and Great Britain opposed all of it. Reagan said he supported South Africa because they stood alongside us during all our wars.. He said the best way to get rid of Apartheid was not through embargos but through this term he coined called  ‘Constructive engagement‘. When he first used it left everyone stunned and asking WTF? There was nothing to engage. People were calling for an end to the brutal Apartheid regime and Reagan was opposing it. It was so bad that after he vetoed sanctions, Congress did a rare thing and over rode his veto.  This man who supposedly loved freedom was on the wrong side of history when it came to making sure it was a reality for Black South Africans. It’s no wonder Nelson Mandela didn’t attend his funeral in 2004.

We can go on and on when talking about Ronald Reagan. He was a hero for those who yearned for the days when many people in marginalized communities were behind the 8 ball not in front of it.  Yes when February 6th rolls around.. I will say Happy Ronald Reagan Day and commence to undo the revisionist history the power elite in this country have spent years constructing. I’ll leave with two musical heroes who went in hard on Reagan back in the days. Gil Scott Heron with the song B-Movie and Melle-Mel with his song Jesse.


Melle-Mel recorded praising Jesse Jackson-It one of the earliest rap songs encouraging folks to Get Out and Vote

In the song Jesse, Melle-Mel goes in on Reagan with this classic verses.

See Ronald Reagan speaking on TV, smiling like everything’s fine and dandy
Sounded real good when he tried to give a pep talk to over 30 million poor people like me
How can we say we got to stick it out when his belly is full and his future is sunny?
I don’t need his jive advice but I sure do need his jive time money
The dream is a nightmare in disguise (Let’s talk about Jesse)
Red tape and lies fill your for spacious skies (Let’s talk about Jesse)
But don’t think that DC just did it first (Let’s talk about Jesse)
There’s a lot of DC’s all over this universe (His name is Jesse)
He started on the bottom, now he’s on the top
He proved that he could make it, so don’t ever stop
Brothers stand together and let the whole world see
Our brother Jesse Jackson go down in history

The 30th day that’s in December is a day that everyone’s gonna remember
Because on that day a righteous man, thought about taking a brand new stand
The name of the man is Jesse Jackson and his call is for peace without an action
‘Cause now is the time to change the nation without just another negotiation
He went to the East for human rights to free a lieutenant shot down in flight
Just another statistic and the government knew it, they didn’t even want the man to go do it
Before he left, he called the president’s home and Reagan didn’t even answer the phone
But I tell you one thing and that’s a natural fact, you can bet he calls Jesse when Jesse got back


As we conclude.. lets celebrate Ronald Reagan Day with enthusiasm.. He was a piece of work that has been handsomely made over. If they can do it for him, they can do it for you. That means there’s hope for the most vile among us..



Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Editorial: Why Keith Olberman’s Ouster is Good for Progressives

Keith Olberman‘s ouster is Good for Progressives… This is what author Hadji Williams aka Black Cansenco notes in this editorial as he brings to light a stewing concern amongst many people of Color and their relationship with the Progressive Left.  Are they really listening and should we continue to go along to get along?…This essay brings some heat and will make many feel angry or uncomfortable, but will be cheered and embraced by many more. -Davey D-


by Black Canseco


I’ve seen probably a terabyte’s worth of corporate layoffs and firings in my time—including a couple of my own. And the only time somebody gets shown the door in under a couple hours’ notice Keith Olbermann was is when it’s part of massive layoffs, outright firings due to insubordination, or to distance the company from impending illegal action or perceived emerging PR nightmare.

Now at this point, I’m not accusing Comcast or @KeithOlbermann of any of the above. In fact, I’m content to take the word of all involved that this is nothing more than a straightforward business decision—a numbers’ game (salary + ratings not adding up) and a mutual parting of the ways.

My real concern is the pitchforks ‘n’ torches mentality that mushroomed seconds after Olbermann’s final sign-off. Within hours, Twitter, Facebook and every left-wing online community was filled with OMGs , SMDH, *facepalms*, WTFs and F**k Comcast!… Online petitions to boycott Comcast and MSNBC and get Olbermann back on the air had hit my in-box by dinnertime Friday. Online groups and pages were formed to @draftOlbermann to run for US Senate out of Conneticut. (I’m sure the boys at Bristol would be his biggest campaign donors.) Folks are even being asked to pressure our congress reps to launch an investigation and to determine if Olbermann’s ouster is related to media monopolies or Net Neutrality. Folks are even wondering if Rupert Murdoch somehow cut a backroom deal with Comcast to get Olbermann canned. (Why else would Comcast merge with NBC Universal but to fire Olbermann?)

Are you effin’ kidding me?

I swear haven’t seen White Liberals this wound up since Conan left NBC. (Word to #teamcoco.)

Lookit: I’m an independent; but on most issues, I’m probably about as left as it gets. But now way in hell am I strapping on sandwich boards and cocking back my bullhorn just because a loud snarky white guy with a guaranteed $14 million salary for 2011 and more job offers than all the unemployed folk I know combined just lost his op-ed show.

And it’s not that I don’t care; it’s that I don’t care enough about one guy to canonize him as our Obi Wan Keith-nobi. (And for a guy not shy about his atheist leanings, Olbermann probably finds all this secular sainthooding thing we’re doing a little childish.) And this is a major problem with Dems and so-called Progressive Liberals. For all our self-sanctimony about big tents, inclusion, coalitions and dialogue, we actually idolize and demagogue way more than we educate and engage.

In the last five years, the Left’s increasingly myopic pedestal-erecting, starfucker mentality has reduced most discourse on our own side to only what the current holy trinity of Olbermann, Maddow and Jon Stewart acknowledge. And now that “they” “got” Olbermann, we’re in mourning like he caught a couple rounds while on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. (I guess you could sub Bill Maher for Keith, and add Stephen Colbert and Arianna Huffington or Joan Walsh to round out a Prog Fab Five.)

As someone whose family descends from slavery and knows the civil rights struggle fairly intimately, I (along with most African Americans) have long accepted something that very few White Liberals understand: “Never hitch everything you ride for on one horse—because sooner or later, they’ll (figuratively or literally) shoot that horse.”

Again, I’m not saying that anyone was out to get Olbermann. Not at all. What I am saying is this is a great opportunity for the Left to learn from the right and broaden the number and range of voices and views that we cleave to.

For example: when it comes to news sources, the Left is still way to myopic and homogenized—both ideologically and culturally. Short of Tamron Hall, MSNBC’s formula seems to be “White, snarky Liberal host + Favored Person Of Color Of The Moment as guest sidekick.”

Just because Obama’s in office and Oprah started a network doesn’t mean Black, Hispanics, Asian, and other People of Color should be relegated to playing rotating Robin’s to whichever White Liberal Batman (or Batgirl) the networks prop up.

But it’s not just MSNBC that’s guilty of this. All the major channels operate this way, with nary a peep of objection from the masses of White Liberal/Progessive Democrats.. And this blind spot extends online.

The great irony of social media’s explosion is how anti-social and homogenized the Left’s presence is. If your information or perspective isn’t co-signed by the likes of DaliyKos, HuffPo and Salon or even TPM, you have little or no voice among Progs/Democrats. And if you run a blog that seems to highlight issues disproportionately affecting Liberals of color—gentrification, inner city education, crime, prison reform, jobs, discrimination, lack of representation in Congress, etc.—White liberals tune you out. (It’s no secret that one of Obama’s biggest hurdles in a probably re-election bid his long-dwindling support among White self-identified Liberals and Independents.)

And before anyone pulls the “I Voted 4 Obama!” card, Obama is just one guy. That you helped elect him doesn’t mean you get to ignore the voices and issues relevant to over 100 million Americans of African-, Hispanic-, Asian-, Native-, and Middle Eastern descent. But with very few exceptions, this is exactly what the Left is doing and has been doing for a quite while now.

Until so-called Progressive and Liberal Democrats diversify our own range of voices, discussions, influencers and leadership at every level—politically, economically, digitally and journalistically, we’ll never be mobile enough, flexible enough, resilient enough to be effective in 2012, 2014 or any year any time soon.

Then again we could ignore all this and just focus on important questions like “How long before Maddow and Stewart get canned?” and “When will Obama get mad at the right instead of his base?”

Martin Luther King: The Importance of Black Radio & Using Words as Weapons

This weekend we’ll be celebrating what would’ve been Dr Martin Luther King‘s 82cd birthday and in doing so we should all be mindful of the power of his words. We should be mindful of King’s words as we continue to dialogue about what sort of responsibility those who speak to the public have especially via broadcast medium.

King who challenged Jim Crow laws and discrimination was considered by his enemies to be a rabble rouser who was creating a dangerous climate with ‘incendiary’words. His words were so powerful that former FBI headJ Edgar Hoover saw fit to follow him and try to disrupt his activities via a program called Cointel-Pro.

There were many including some Black preachers who did not want King to come to their towns and speak because he would stir things up. His ability to move the masses was threatening.

Now at the end of the day, King was able to help push through the Civil Rights Bill of  1964 which put an end to most Jim Crow Laws. He was able to  help get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed which ended discrimination practices at the polls. At the same time Kings powerful words so enraged folks, that he was constantly receiving death threats. He also ruffled the feathers of powerful people including President Lydon Johnson after he spoke out against the Vietnam War.

If Kings words were seen as important weapons against discrimination, why are we not seeing the words of today’s far right punditry weapons to support oppression and draconian behavior and policies?

The other thing to keep in mind about Dr King was his shrewd understanding of media in particular radio and what a powerful tool it was. many do not talk about the special relationship King had withJack ‘Jack tha Rapper Gibson and the nations first Black owned radio station WERD founded in 1949 which was housed in the same building as King’s SCLC headquarters on Auburn street in Atlanta.

Gibson is credited with being the first to broadcast King and other Civil Rights leaders on public airwaves. There are stories about how when rallies and special events were unfolding, King would bang on the ceiling with a broom to the studio housed above him, the disc jockey would lower the boom mic and King would speak to the people via radio.

In 1967 Dr King delivered a rare and powerful speech in Atlanta to NATRANational Association of Television and Radio Announcers). The members of this important African American organization were very appreciative as King laid out the indispensable role Black radio had played  in shaping and furthering the Civil Rights struggle. King names off some of the key unsung radio heroes who he says there would not have been a Civil Rights movement had they not reflected the mood of the people and brought critical information to the masses.

King also talks about how radio is the most important and predominant medium in the Black community. It has far more reach and influence than television. He also talks about how the music these Black radio announcers played. King asserted that it helped united people. King pointed out how Blacks and Whites were listening to the same songs and doing the same dances and that the Soul Music these disc jockey’s played had served as an important cultural bridge.

He also talks about how some of them were vilified for ‘creating a climate’ that led to the unrest in American cities. Most notable was the radio announcer namedMagnificent Montague who had coined the phraseBurn Baby Burn to describe a hot record, but was later used a rallying cry for the Watts Riots of 1965.

Montague who was good friends with Malcolm X who had been assassinated earlier that year, was on the air at  KGFJ was accused of riling the people up and causing the mayhem. He had done no such thing, nevertheless LAPD paid him a visit. Montague was made to drop the slogan Burn Baby Burn to Have Mercy Baby.

Below is a special mix I did called MLK vs the Radio.. It contains excerpts from that rare NATRA speech..

I am also posting up the entire speech which is absolutely brilliant  Dr Martin Luther King NATRA-Full speech


Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

If Rappers take Heat for Inflammatory Words Why Can’t Sarah Palin?

I have a few questions that have been nagging me about all the issues falling out around this past weekend’s tragedy in Tucson?

First, there’s been a lot of talk about how accused Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner is mentally unstable, crazed and out of his mind. People are looking at his smiling/ smirking mug shot  and concluding that only a genuine psychopath would display such demeanor after killing 6 people in cold blood and injuring 14 more.

Personally I don’t know.. I never been around anyone who’s killed 6 people so I have no idea how they would act. I would imagine if it was me I’d be remorseful, but when I watch folks like Fox News commentator Glenn Beck telling us he wants to kill filmmaker Michael Moore or  Bill O’Reilly saying he thinks Washington Post columnist Dan Milbank should be decapitated ,they seem to be jovial. They seem to relish in the idea of ending someone’s life.

Is that the mindset of a violent person? Are they all smiles? Is that why Loughner was smiling?

Accused Tucson Massacre killer Jared Lee Loughner smirking

When I heard former governor Sarah Palin unapologetically use gun rhetoric in describing how she wanted to eliminate her political opponents, she seemed pretty gleeful even after receiving complaints. One of those opponents who voiced concern was shooting victim Gabrielle Gifford, but Palin paid her no mind. She never stopped smiling.

Noting that a smiling Jared Lee Loughner indicates craziness, my question is; ‘Just how crazy is he?’

Is he too crazed to hold a political opinion? Does he know the difference between a socialist and a communist? Is he discerning the difference between a commentary from MSNBC host Keith Obermann and one by radio hosts Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage?

Perhaps a mentally unstable  Loughner reacted and followed the leads of the loudest  most ruckus voices around. After all, all the tough talk about ‘don’t retreat and reload’ is not hidden. It’s pretty much mainstream.Such rhetoric along with footage of angry Tea Party folks showing up to rallies with guns threatening to take their country back are shown on the highest rated news stations like Fox. Inflammatory rhetoric expressing violence comes off the mouths of  some of the country’s most visible hosts, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

In a staunchly conservative state like Arizona it’s almost impossible to escape a steady of diet these loud, in your face personalities and their violent rhetoric. Whether he leaned to the left or to the right, there’s no doubt  he was exposed right-wing, Fox News-like pundits   routinely denounce civility in both words and actions. There’s no doubt in mind that had an influence.

580 Freeway Shooter claims he was inspired by Glenn Beck

Now some folks reading are thinking what I’m saying is a bit far-fetched. The argument they’ll try to put forth is it’s not about the speaker it’s about the listener. They’ll insist that the person on the receiving end of a political tirade needs to be RESPONSIBLE for their actions. In other words,  a pundit like Sarah Palin is not responsible for the way someone reacts to her public utterings?

A guy like Glenn Beck who fantasized about killing Michael Moore and crusaded against the Tides Foundation is in no way responsible for the near deadly actions of would be mass murderer Byron Williams, the 580 Freeway shooter who went toe to toe with police while en route to the Tide headquarters where he planned to lay in wait?

I asked these questions because some of the same people defending this violent rhetoric from political pundits  and politicians weren’t too kind when it came to rap artists who invoked violent imagery to make a political point.

The most famous among these is Public Enemy who 2o years ago did the song ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona‘.  Here, they wanted to bring attention to the fact that there were certain politicians who were refusing to allow the state to recognize the Dr Martin Luther King holiday, so they did a song that spoke to it.

Chuck D

In the accompanying video, the group  showed black and white re-enactments of Civil Rights demonstrations which were juxtaposed with images of Chuck D and his armed crew the heading to the office of one of the Senators opposed to the holiday where they handed him a box of poisoned chocolates. As the video ends we see Chuck D blowing up the car of an unnamed elected official.

Needless to say folks went nuts over the video. Chuck D and Public Enemy were accused of fostering violence with some critics stating that there would be blood on their hands if anyone resorted to violence as a result of this video.

Chuck pointed out it was basically political theater, but very few in the halls of power were trying to hear that. As far as they were concerned Public Enemy had crossed the line.


Rudy Giuliani

Another group that caught heat was Queens based group Screwball who had an issue with then Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In ’99 around the time that police shot and killed an unarmed Amadu Diallo 41 times, the group  did a song called ‘Who Shot Rudy?’ The song was widely cheered and accepted throughout many of NY’s Black communities where residents were at odds with the police. Many in the establishment including the Mayor weren’t happy. The group got a visit from NYPD who confiscated their recording equipment and CDs. I recall the outrage that was voiced toward the group..

‘How dare they call for the shooting of a public official ‘? , is what critics howled.

Like PE Screwball was told there would be blood on their hands should any violence go down.


We can list at least a dozen more examples where artists have caught heat over what was described as troubling politicized rhetoric. The list includes Sista Souljah who got a harsh rebuke from then president candidate Bill Clinton when she made racially charged remarks around the Rodney King riots. Clinton went after a Souljah as a way to prove to skittish voters he could stand up to Black leaders.  When he heard that Jackson had invited Souljah to speak at his Rainbow Push convention, he dropped his harsh critic which is now known as Sista Souljah Moment.

Bay Area rapper Paris had his album delayed and he got a visit from the Secret Service when he released a song called ‘Bush Killa‘ which was featured on the album ‘Sleeping With the Enemy’. The track starts off with the mock assassination of President George Bush Sr . That caught folks attention. But what really made people angry and perhaps triggered the Secret Service visit was the inner sleeve album cover that showed Paris in a knit cap holding a rifle ready to shoot the President.

Paris described the song as a ‘revenge fantasy‘ and political art. All conversations along these lines went out the window as political pundits soundly rejected the political rapper accusing him of having gone too far.


In June of 2001, Boots Riley and his group the Coup released an album called Party Music where they had the World Trade exploding. Boots explained that he wanted to show a symbolism of capitalism being destroyed to underscore the political content of his album. It was no different then the video released a few years prior  during the East-West Coast Battles where Snoop Dogg was depicted knocking down a building that characterized the NY skyline. It was symbolic.

When the 9-11 attacks took place, the Coup, who weren’t on too many people’s political hit list, suddenly found themselves under the microscope. The symbolism was taken seriously in quite a few circles. Some wanted to know if this album cover would encourage other acts of terrorism. Words like Unpatriotic and Treasonous were bantered about when referring to a group that had been consistent with their political views for almost a 10 years before 9-11.

One of the more infamous rap songs where an artist came under fire for ‘influencing’ the public into destructive action was Ice Cube‘s ‘Black Korea‘ . This was a racially charged song where Cube targets Korean merchants in the hood for not liking Black people.

Fresh in his mind was the shooting death of 15 year-old Latasha Harlins,a Black girl who was killed by a Korean grocer. It sparked racial tension between Blacks and Koreans in LA and the Black Korea took things to new heights.

Ice Cube

When the Rodney King riots occurred, many Korean merchants were on the receiving end of anger being expressed. Cube was caught in the firestorm and blamed for helping bring harm to innocent people.

Cube defended the song as being a reflection of the political and racial climate at the time. Many others including quite a few political types though Cube was irresponsible with his words.

The point being expressed by citing these examples is that law enforcement and many of these political pundits when on the receiving end of harsh words no longer wanna uphold the ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ adage . Suddenly we’re not having conversations about listeners being responsible. Sudeenly we’re’ concerned about the influence of the artist.

Is the GOP and Right wing trying to have it both ways?

I guess if we had time and space we could have a lengthy discussion about the war around cop killer type songs. Numerous artists ranging from Ice T to NWA and Ice Cube to Mac Dre to 2Pac have all faced not just a firestorm of criticisms but saw their songs banned, concert venues stipulate they could not perform their respective songs, lawsuits, a stinging letter from the FBI, labels dropping them etc. The list is long.

From where I sit, if everyone from the FBI on down to law and order politicos feel that a rapper and his video have undue influence on the public then the same rule applies to these right-wing talk show hosts and politicians like Sarah Palin.  Glenn beck himself said it best.. He’s an entertainer. Sarah palin says she uses colorful rhetoric to appeal to folks.

Well if they’re entertainers and choosing words to ‘appeal’ to folks why can’t the same criticism and censoring actions that that Ice Cube and other rappers had to endure not apply to Sarah Palin and her gun totting rhetoric.  What’s good for the geese is good for the gander.Right?

something to ponder-

Davey D

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Arizona Massacre: When Will We All Own up to the Climate of Violence?

Nothing happens in a vacuum especially tragedies like the one that took place over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Gifford was shot point-blank in the head at the hands of a man named Jared Lee Loughner.

According to reports Gifford is lucky to be alive but when she recovers she is likely to have difficulty speaking…Sadly there  were 5 people who didn’t come home that night. They include a nine-year old girl named Christina Green. She’s the grand-daughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.

There was a District Judge named John Roll, 63.There was Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30. There were several elders including; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Before we move forward let’s think about the people slain for just a moment….Let’s Pause…Let’s Stop, think.. Reflect…

Christina Green

Let’s think about the family of  Christina Taylor Green. Look at your kids. Think about your grandkids. Could you imagine if this was your child that was shot and killed in Tucson?

Think about the fact that the reason young Christina was present on Saturday was because she had just been elected to some sort of student office at school and wanted to further her interest in government. She was eager to meet Congresswoman Gifford to get some pointers. Her distraught parents said she wanted to see democracy in action.

Christina was interested and enthusiastic in a way only a child could be. It was that sort of  innocence and beauty  that was lost the other day in Tucson.

Let’s think about Gabe Zimmerman..He was thirty years old..a young man who by all accounts had his best days before him…Let’s think about him for a moment.

Who was he?  Did he have brothers? Sisters? Kids of his own? What did he mean to his family? How heartbroken are they today? What about his friends? His loved ones?

Congresswoman Gabby Gifford

Think about the 4 seniors slain, John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and Phyllis Scheck. Since when has it been ok to kill the elderly in such a brutal fashion? They were parents and grandparents. How are their families feeling? Think about the pain their loved ones are going through.

Imagine if it was your mom or dad who went down to the store to see their congressperson and never returned? How would you feel?  Think about the pain of losing one of your parents suddenly… Think about that for a minute…Think about losing your sweet mom.. Think about losing your dad.. Think about losing your grandmother or grandfather  to senseless violence. For many such thoughts are unbearable. Such thoughts are unthinkable.

The question we all must answer is how many of us really thought about this loss of life enough to change the way we engage one another in our political discussions and do we really want to?

The Climate of Violence Has Been Building for a While

When thinking about Gabby Gifford being shot and along with those slain Gabe, Christina, John, Dorothy, Dorwin and Phyllis I could not help but think about all the crazy death threats that have been directed at everyone from President Obama in the two years he’s been in office all the way back to my Congresswoman Barbara Lee shortly after the 9-11 attacks

For those who don’t recall, Lee was the lone vote in Congress who said ‘No’ to Presidents Bush’s Post 9-11 Use of Force Act which would’ve increased his powers and resources to wage war against the Taliban.

Lee voted No and next thing you know she was showing up to our church with Secret service in tow. Her office was threatened, she was threatened, there were vicious editorials accusing her of being UNPATRIOTIC..

I heard radio commentators who never served one day on the frontline of any war , talking crazy about how we need to fight, kick ass and not show weakness by talking about peace. During those turbulent times, we were all asked to choose a side and anything not supporting the war effort was deemed less than honorable.

We saw a return to some of those sentiments this past september on the anniversary of 9-11 when there was a proposed building of a mosque/ community center several blocks away from Ground Zero. We had former mayors, sitting senators, a governor and numerous Congressman publicly state that it was wrong for fellow American citizens to build a mosque in an area that contained fast food joints and strip clubs, because according to them, it would be insensitive. The people backing the Mosque were warned that moving forward with their proposal would inflame the masses and that it would lead to violence.

Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by a domestic terrorist named Michael Enright photo by Robert Mecea

In the days leading up to the anniversary  that we heard some of the most vile and insidious things said about our fellow citizens who practice Islam and it wasn’t too long before violence, homegrown American violence, reared its head and mosques were vandalized, bomb threats issued, people assaulted. One unlucky innocent cab driver named Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by an individual named Michael Enright who decided  that the best way to resolve the issue would be through an act of violence.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. I can go on listing all sorts of examples. They range from students in inner city schools being required to shed so-called gang colors from their attire least they enrage the local thugs who will come to the school and cause problems to women being told to dress less provocatively for fear of inflaming the uncontrollable passions of a would-be rapist to gays and  lesbians being told to keep their sexual orientation to themselves otherwise they might upset any number of homophobes.

I bring up these examples to make a larger point. If I, we and us all are being told to calm it down, who is seeing to it that the on air punditry and Fox News personalities to tone it down? No one.. When the subject is approached its called FREE SPEECH. Its called POLITICS.. Its called Americans standing up for their rights. We have all sorts of other euphemisms being used to describe over the top, coarse behavior. When do we draw a line in the sand and say no more? No more to inflammatory rhetoric?

Is Harsh Rhetoric and Violence a Habit We Can’t Kick

Now I’m fully aware that there were quite a few who read this including some who have media platforms where they get to have daily one way conversations with the public who saw my suggestion about reflecting on the loss of life  as corny. It’s something that should literally be dismissed and there are all sorts of justifications.

Some will say that the thought of trying to be civil especially at this day and time when there have been so many attacks launched our way is not happening. They’ll be cynical in thought and say something along the lines; ‘Love and Peace? Fuck that… It’s about No Justice, No Peace.. They’ll have concluded, that part of our problem is we’ve been civil for far too long and its gotten us nowhere. They’ll note that we’ve  been way too nice and all its gotten is more venom and a perception that we are somehow weak. Many of us have come to believe the old adage Nice guys finish last especially in the arenas of love and politics.

Upon hearing about the tragedy in Arizona if the first thing that went through our minds was the hateful rhetoric of a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck vs the faces of those injured and slain juxtaposed with our loved ones, what does that say about us? Did a bit of our humanity die with those slain or was it an affirmation that our humanity has been long gone and we best find ways to get it back?

Sarah Palin

If Sarah Palin was busy erasing tweets, scrubbing her Facebook pages and hiding that infamous map with the crosshairs targeting Gabby Gifford, or some other politico who uttered hurtful words was suddenly consulting PR firms to do damage control and figure out what sort of spin to apply to this incident while the dead bodies in Arizona were still warm, what does that say about them? What does it say about us that we still embrace and give such people who show no remorse validity?

Again, nothing happens in a vacuum and this killing spree was no exception. Many of us, when we talk about violence we tend to see incidents like the one in Tucson as isolated and limited to the person pulling the trigger.

Can We Explain Away Domestic Terrorist as Mentally Deranged?

We wanna explain away accused shooter Jared Loughner as a deranged, emotionally disturbed man who simply needs to be condemned and locked up. We wanna suggest there is absolutely no reason to connect him to hate groups or see him as part of a larger terrorist cell. I guess for many of us, it’s simply too hard to accept that emotionally disturbed people are susceptible to the being recruited by hate groups or partaking in terrorist activities. We like to believe that once we lock up Jared Loughner and throw away the key we’ll all be safe again and things will go back to normal. The question all of us better be asking ourselves; ‘What is normal’?

Sarah Palin's infamous map with the crosshairs targeting political opponents

Is a normal society one where we soundly reject uncivil threatening behavior or is it one where embrace, and even reward it?

Is a normal society one where we take the high road and try and be above the fray or is it one where we scream louder, bully harder, get down and dirtier, and be more violent than anyone else in order to win an argument or political contest?

How many times have we heard our so-called experts explain that negative advertising during a political campaign works? How many times have we heard about the need for any one running for office to hire someone to dig up the most vile and nasty things of an opponents past to use against them? How many times have we seen pundits resort to outright lies, trickery and underhanded schemes to trip up and take down a political opponent? We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to win an argument or a war is to smash on your opponent and show no mercy.

All is fair in love and war, is what we say to ourselves. Is it fair when someone shoots and kills someone to make their point? Is this the type of society we want?

Very few people like to see themselves in that sort of light, yet if you listen to many of our esteemed political punditry and media experts, that’s exactly what we crave. We want aggressive over the top behavior in all arenas. We want it in politics. We want it in our music. We want it in our entertainment.

It doesn’t matter whether or not its an enraged Bill ‘O’Reilly impugning us to not allow Dr George Tiller to get away with anymore late-term abortions as he launched a on air crusade resulting in his death, or  a smug Glenn Beck demonizing the Tides Foundation which led to a white supremacist to seek out employees of that organization, or Beck threatening to kill filmmaker Micheal Moore, or a Jerry Springer where on his TV show he has two sisters fighting each other over a man or a popular rap artists like Kanye West depicting women hanging in his latest video and receiving praise for being artistic.

Like it or not from what we as a society seem to embrace or allow to go unchallenged in our midst… the violence, mayhem  and this weekend’s massacre, is the American Way. We as a country relish such things. We have to own up to it. Anyone saying otherwise has to explain  the undeniable proof of  high TV and radio ratings where civility is tossed out the window. They’ll have to explain the popularity of certain websites and high YouTube views where this sort of madness is routinely played out.

Have we gotten to a point where the thought of being civil is uncomfortable? Has anger and venomous behavior become habits we can’t shake? Have we  fostered an environment where showing compassion makes us marks?

Many of us are caught up in an all too pervasive cycle of violence both directly and indirectly. Death has become all too routine. It doesn’t matter if you live in the hardest of hoods or if you live in the most pristine of suburbs.. All of us our caught up.. ALL OF US.. including myself. We’ve created an environment where the loss of life is abstract and vastly cheapened.

Christopher Jones

Lastly we must put all this in larger context. There was a terrible tragedy in Tucson Arizona over the weekend. It was the same weeknd that we saw 3 young men get killed in a nightclub in San Jose California. It was the same weekend in any city and town USA where someone pulled out a gun or a knife and took a life. Massacres in our respective communities are happening all the time.

Case in point, many of us have shown an interest in what took place in Arizona, but were we empathetic? If so did that same empathy carry over to tragedies closer to home? Last night here in Oakland, several hundred people showed up at a vigil for the senseless killing of a promising 17-year-old named Christopher Jones. He was gunned down a week ago in front of his mother and sisters as he placed his nephew in the back seat of a car . He was not gang banger, trouble maker or anything like that.

Jared Loughner

Like Jared Loughner we don’t know all that led these young men to shoot another in broad daylight in front of his family. Were they part of a hate group? Wete they emotionally disturbed, mentally deranged? Was it too much gangsta rap? Too much Fox News? Or did they take a cue from the larger society that has left violence on the table as away to get points across?

Did the young men who shot Christopher wrap themselves in this climate of violence the way that many of us are saying Jared Loughner did?  If so who’s the next to sip the kool aid and go on a killing spree? Who’s next to tragically die as a result?

At the end of the day do we care? Do we really care about the slaying of Christopher Jones or the 5 people slain in Tucson, Arizona or are they all collateral damage in a society that has firmly decided  that violent loss of life is part of our increasing strident political and social landscape?

something to ponder

-Davey D-

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