I highly recommend that you read the entire chapter written by Dr. Park here. However, if you're short on time, What follows is my response to his work. There are a few points that I sought to respond directly to because I thought they were of prime significance. I post it here because one must know that racism (systematic, educational, institutional, and all the rest of its forms) are the bedrock of Hip-Hop culture. There would be no Hip-Hop without racism. Therefore it provides additional framework for the discussion in this blog. Here's a large portion of my response:
In Democracy Matters, Cornel West talks about the irony and the hypocrisy of the “American democratic experiment” in that the nation’s founders were trying to escape the empire while creating one of their own. They were seeking their own freedoms, yet simultaneously enslaving others. It’s a deeply harrowing concept to me. I’m inclined to suggest that the “experiment” had failed at it’s outset because it had compromised it’s own founding principles. Historically speaking, the concept of “liberty and justice for all” has never been an American reality. And so we continue to pledge our allegiance in the hopes that one day, someday, we will get it right. But what is the pledge exactly? We are taught to approach it like a prayer, when it’s actually a pronouncement and a promise—a promise that often seems to have been terribly, irreparably broken.
Dr. Park prescribes that “we need to accept each culture as it is.” This is an extremely tall order for dominant, normative culture. Blacks can relate to and appreciate Native Americans, Latino peoples (and others), because we each have been systematically terrorized and marginalized by the dominant group. Yet, normative culture lives in constant willful ignorance and denial of the realities that exist at their own hands. African-American culture is the house that oppression built.
|Rap music forces us to hear the heart, the hurt, |
the pathos and the pain of the projects.
Yet, that’s the beauty of African-American culture. We took lashes, and developed thick skin. We bent over to pick up cotton, and picked up an even stronger work ethic and resolve. We took the scraps that the slave master gave us, and made soul-food. We took those tattered and torn textbooks and dilapidated school-houses, and built brilliant scholars and HBCUs. We took the brick buildings, vacant lots, abandoned buildings and poor-excuse-for-playgrounds of the projects, and turned them into fortresses to incubate the next generation of overachievers, canvasses for urban art, dance floors for community parties and arenas for rap battles with perfect natural acoustics.
But one must not remain angry. Dr. Park presents a powerful hermeneutic of the cross and suggests that the dying to self demands “forsaking our outmoded identity means negotiating a new boundary by negating our old self that was negated by various oppressors.” He goes on to recommend that, “As long as we have racial prejudice within, we cannot fight against racism without.” I am convicted again that the cross renews us and demands that we like Christ would, despite the abuse, by the power of the resurrection, rise to walk in the newness of life—a life that is guided by grace. The grace of God has been so freely given to me. I must give it to those around me. This is hard, but God is love.