Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2003 / 19 Elul, 5762
Rap: blood on Blood
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | A couple of years ago, I was walking through Central Park after a softball game when a young black kid - maybe twelve years old - came up to me. He'd noticed the red bandana around my head, and he asked, "You Blood?"
It took a moment for the question to register, and when it did, it cracked me up; I doubted the gang recruited white middle-aged college professors.
The kid glared back at me and said, "You'd better watch what you wear." Then he wandered off.
That moment came to mind this month with the news that an aspiring teacher was murdered in Brooklyn - according to witnesses, because he laughed at a Bloods member for flashing the gang's signature hand gestures.
Anthony Bartholomew, 21, a new father who was pursuing a career in education at Kingsborough Community College, was shot in the temple during the West Indian Day Parade. The killer, wearing a red bandana around his head, escaped into the crowd.
Gang-related violence, of course, claims thousands of victims each year - a disproportionate number of them, like Bartholomew, young black men. This is hundreds of times more than are killed by police, but if you judged the situation according to the rhetoric of civil rights groups like the NAACP, you'd think rogue cops posed a far greater threat to the average black person's well being.
Then again, to confront gang violence, such organizations would have to take on hip hop - which is shot through (so to speak) with gang ties.
Gangster rap, specifically, is woven around the theme "If you disrespect me, I'll kill you." Hence its vicarious appeal to adolescent white boys, seething with Oedipal resentments, and its deadly appeal to adolescent black boys, grasping at the mirage of racial pride.
To be sure, hip hop's pantheon is a pathetic testament to gangsterism: Deceased rap icons Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were members of the Bloods and Crips respectively, and their mutually fatal rivalry was fueled by gang loyalties.
Veteran rappers Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy and Lil' Kim scatter their lyrics with references to gang violence to underscore their street credibility. And current rap sensation - and multiple gunshot victim - 50 Cent is widely assumed to be a former Blood.
If black leaders ever come to terms with the fact that the gangster is really just the new minstrel, if they ever have to courage to declare that Snoop Dogg is really Snoop 'n Fetchit, that P. Diddy is really P. Sambo, and that Lil' Kim is really Lil' Jemimah, then perhaps the tide of black-on-black violence will begin to ebb.
Until then, the likes of Anthony Bartholomew will continue to die for those leaders' silence.
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