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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Latest from Stanley Crouch...

It's open season on hip hop's thug



Monday, May 14th 2007, 4:00 AM


I recently participated in a "town meeting" at John Jay College with students, faculty members, media professionals and law enforcement executives inspired by the "60 Minutes" segment "Stop Snitchin.'" That report looked at black community attitudes toward the police, police conduct in the black community and the influence that certain hip-hop artists have on discouraging black people from cooperating with the police.

In the report done by Anderson Cooper, Geoffrey Canada smacked the problem right in the face.

As a Harlem community worker with 20 years of experience dealing with and nurturing young people, Canada said that the message coming out of hip hop was deadly and irresponsible. The lyrics imply that cooperating with the police is being an Uncle Tom. Canada found this reprehensible and said that it amounted to saying to criminals that the community was theirs to have.

Prof. Douglas Thompkins began the discussion by pointing out that, no matter what the history of police community relations had been, he saw that the black community needed to change its attitudes because losing the rule of law means that black people live in subhuman conditions in their own communities and those inhuman conditions were created by violent criminals.

There were many of the usual explanations for crime, such as slavery, poverty and police harassment that came from the audience of students and from some John Jay professors, but the panelists - with one exception - did not give in to the regular line of excuses. Almost everyone rejected the idea that black or Latino criminals were helpless victims buffeted around by external influences. They made choices; they had to be accountable.

Thompkins has credibility. He served 18 years in prison and was the leader of a Chicago street gang. He understands that police overreaction or excessive force is something that must be factored in and protested against. Thompkins said that when refusing to cooperate with police became synonymous with minority identity, that attitude brought a kind of hell to the black and Latino lower-class communities. In summarizing, John Jay Prof. David Kennedy felt that we are on the verge of a new kind of civil rights movement in which the people oppressed by crime move to liberate themselves by reprimanding the police whenever they resort to excessive force.

But that is only one part; the other is that they make it clear to criminals that they are not going to be protected by the community which they are busy destroying at every opportunity. While the worst of hip hop is not entirely responsible for negative attitudes toward cooperating with the police, it has become a part of the problem.

Kennedy saw that discussion as the beginning of the new era in which everyone has to take responsibility for the degree of crime that takes place in lower-class communities and move to make whatever changes are possible. Those possibilities are numerous and I think we will begin to see them take place sooner rather than later.

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