is the title of this New York Times op ed by Ta- Nehisi Coates. Coates focuses on an album by hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, "Good Kid," of which he says
it perhaps has the most to offer to those shocked into action by the senseless massacres we’ve endured over the past few years.> Before exploring the contents of the album he continues by writing:
This particular moment has shined a light on a gun lobby that argues for maximum firepower and minimum responsibility. If history is any judge the moment will pass, and most of us will find ourselves again lost in our daily and particular business. When that time comes, there will be others of us who live in places where senseless shootings remain a corrosive constant.If you are going to read the op ed, you do not need to continue below the cheese-doodle to my additional words, including the final two paragraphs of the op ed.
If I have not yet convinced you, please keep reading.
Coates writes from the perspective of someone who grew up in inner-city Baltimore at a time it was wracked by crack, by Saturday-night specials, by gang violence. He writes as one whose experience of daily life was similar to that about which Lamar's lyrics are so powerful.
It is a life that many of us here, and many so shocked by the violence in places like Aurora and especially Newtown, have no concept.
It is a reminder that gun violence which shocks us is a part of the everyday life of far too many of our young people. Or as Coates writes of himself,
I’ve spent most of my life in neighborhoods suffering their disproportionate share of gun violence. In each of these places it was not simply the deaths that have stood out to me, but the way that death corrupted the most ordinary of rituals. On an average day in middle school, fully a third of my brain was obsessed with personal safety.That is the life of some of my current middle school students, who when they leave the cocoon of safety we provide return to neighborhoods of violence, perhaps not as violent as they were some years past, but still more violent than anything near where I live, not so very far away, in Arlington Virginia.
Perhaps that is why, even as I am not by nature a regular listener to hip-hop, I do pay attention. Here the work of my friend Jasiri X comes to mind. Consider for example his terrific hip-hop video on Trayvon:
Perhaps I am more sensitive to the power of this type of expression not only because of the students I teach but because my nephew saw this several decades ago and did his senior paper in college on the rise and impact of hip-hop.
I listen to the lyrics and realize two things:
1. I have no real concept of the life, the world view expressed in work like this
2. The voices represented in work like this needs to be heard as we consider policy - the lives affected are just as important as those lost in Aurora, Virginia Tech and Newtown.
I said above the fold I would offer the final two paragraphs of the superb op-ed by Ta-Nehis i Coates. Let me conclude with those:
The world I lived in, and the preserve of Lamar’s album, was created not by mindless nature but by public policy. It is understandable that in the wake of great tragedy we’d want to take a second look at those policies. But in some corners of America great tragedy has bloomed into a world that does not simply raise the ranks of the dead but shrinks the world of the survivors. “Good Kid” shows us how gun violence extends out beyond the actual guns.
Here is an album that people grappling with policy desperately need to hear. It does what art does best in that it bids the monotony of numbers to sing.