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I know, I know. Former rapper Luther Campbell, the man who brought us such vulgar classics as “Me So Horny” and who, along with the other members of 2 Live Crew, once professed to be “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” isn’t exactly the staple of the community one would turn to in times of socio-political and economic strife for answers. But every now and then you have to separate the man from the message. Admittedly, I can’t say for sure if this is one of those times.
No stranger to the political system, 21 years ago a copyright suit involving one of 2 Live Crew’s tracks made its way all the way to the Supreme Court in what’s now considered a landmark infringement case. Nowadays, though, “Uncle Luke” is more concerned with political activism for the sake of engaging and uplifting that Black community, or so he says. In a two-part series with The Root, Campbell offered this insight on how African Americans can break some of the vicious cycles we’ve been repeating for decades.
“[B]lack people, basically, we just got to stop hating on each other. I mean we are a very separate and segregated race of people. We have so many issues within our race that we don’t want to admit. We don’t want to talk about our issues. We’re waiting for the white knight to come and save us.
“We are so easily influenced. We’re so [eager] to get on a ship because some white man told us to get on there. We’re still getting on those ships, the wrong ships, right now today. That’s what got us over here. Until the race comes together and stops being so segregated and stop hating on each other and start praising each other, then we will not see some major change. It’s hard. It’s hard-core. I don’t think I will see it happening in my lifetime. I wish.”
It was on this point that I was ready to argue that Campbell offered useful insight. Just the other day I was lamenting how Black people love to keep one another humble, as even when we witness the great success of one of our own, reminding people “where they came from,” so to speak, by way of dismissive taunts and divisiveness has become a social media sport of sorts, by and large. And though I wanted to argue we seem to have a certain susceptibility to valuing entertainment over education and flashiness over finances, I had to remember we’re in the land of capitalism, merely following the lead of the folks who wrote the book on the traps we fall prey too — and they would too had they not had the advantage of deciding the rules by which certain people get to play. That, Uncle Luke, is “what got us over here” not seeing a big shiny boat pop up on the Ivory coast and thinking, “ooh that looks fun, let’s hop on!”
It was at the point that Campbell regurgitated the stale if “we protest when a white man shoots a black person, then we need to be protesting every week, ’cause it’s more black-on-black shooting than anything” argument that I realized the former mayoral candidate wasn’t really saying anything at all.
While I do think it’s silly that we still somehow manage to consider light skin versus dark skin and natural versus relaxed debates worth keeping up in the face of things like, oh I don’t know, genocide at the hands of police. This idea that Black people don’t own up to their own mess simply isn’t factual. There have been numerous outcries about violence in our communities, particularly in Chicago, the thing is raising someone in a good home and the notion that “it takes a village” only gets you so far when that village can’t bring home the father that’s been in prison for decades due to the lack of drug-policy reform or help you get into college or even find a job that will put food on your table, clothes on your back, and gas in your tank all at the same damn time due to systemic discriminatory practices.
I’m a proponent of not getting caught in societal traps that now seem so obvious to me, but there’s also an overriding lack of compassion and understanding that, for some, selling drugs (or robbing a bank to pay for cancer treatment for your child) really does seem like a more viable option for sustaining life than trying the old American way of pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps or expecting assistance programs to actually provide assistance. Black people gladly expose our issues, the problem is some of the loudest voices tend to do so like the preacher in the pulpit condemning the lost souls in the crowd rather than standing beside one another and asking what each other’s issues are and how we can help overcome them on a grassroots level and then in society as a whole.
On the issue of segregation and lack of interpersonal praise, Campbell was right about us: We do sometimes lose the plot. But while there’s a need for a greater sense self-accountability in these areas, what can’t be forgotten when these wanna-be pundants choose to critique us is Black people could sing kumbaya and hold candlelight vigils every night in perfect African diaspora harmony and that still wouldn’t prevent us from being stopped and frisked and gunned down unarmed or shorten the unemployment line and give us greater access to health care. Until those burdensome realities are eliminated, or at least reduced, it’s going to be very hard to convince those among us who may not be going about things the best (or legal) way that there’s a better approach to living