From Hip Hop DX
By Aliya Ewing & Anthony Springer, Jr.
I was one of the millions of early voters this time around. I made the trek down to a local shopping mall on my lunch break, waited patiently in line, got my voter card (we have electronic ballots here in Nevada), and made my way to the machine. When I got to the machine, I marked my choice—Obama/Biden. After stories of electronic machines flipping votes, I double checked my choice on the screen, and checked again when I got my paper receipt.
I walked out of the voting booth cynical, nearly certain that Nevada—known to be a libertarian leaning state—wasn’t going to vote for the black guy. Yeah, racism runs DEEP out here. It ain’t the Mississippi of the west for nothing.
And I waited.
When Election Day rolled around, my eyes and ears were glued to the TV and the Internet, patiently waiting for a confirmation of my worst fears. Aside from some minor issues, there were no major scandals, no hanging chads, and no massive purging of names from the voter rolls (that we know about.
Election night rolled around and before I knew departed my graduate seminar, the race had been called.
Barack Obama was named the 44th President of the United States.
January 20, 2009 marks the end of an error, but as “yes we can” turns to “yes we did,” where do we go from here?
While the Obama victory in without a doubt a historic turning point in the United States, we must remain vigilant. Simply put, it ain’t all good. At best, we’ll see people try to close the book on racism; at worst, we’ll see a rash of hate crimes. Though we must remain vigilant against violence, the former has much more dangerous consequences for communities of color.
Many will hail this Obama victory (falsely) as the death blow for racism, proclaiming that an outbreak of equality magically struck the country. As though 400 years of slavery, decades of government sponsored Jim Crow Laws, the Trail of Tears, Christopher Columbus, a backlash against immigration, and gay rights have somehow become non issues.
We know better, and as the adage goes, “act like you know.”
Yes, an Obama victory does mean that we’ve made (some) great strides, but a victory for one is not necessarily a victory for all. This is a time for the Hip Hop generation and other progressives to build on this election and force a conversation—a real conversation—about the importance of economic justice and equal rights. We need to force a real conversation on the effects of poverty. Simply put, a black man in the White House doesn’t mean that it’s all good and the hoods of America will suddenly become bastions of prosperity.
While we must keep a watchful eye over our government and defeat political apathy in our communities, each and every individual that makes up this thing called Hip Hop has a job to do as well.
There’s a moment just before history is made that seems to swelter with electricity. Simultaneously anticipating the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; I wondered what the outcome would be. Will I have to somberly recite to people the mathematics of the Electoral College yet again as I had to in 2000? Will I have to look my son in the eye, as my parents did to me, and make some wistful tale of how “one day” he just might be able to become the First Black President. Would we march in the streets? Would we riot? Would lives be lost?
Thank God no.
Now, there’s a sense of relief. People feel like they can exhale while still in disbelief.
I’ve never believed in any presidential candidate the way I do Obama. Being a skeptic and conspiracy theorist at heart; I still understand that he can’t make miracles happen, but still, I see positive change ahead for our future. But as the balance of justice slowly tilts closer to left, what are the possible side- effects to our progression as a people?
There were a lot of hot sixteens kicked during this election cycle, but it’s time for all of us in this thing called Hip Hop—artists, executives, radio personalities, and journalists—to step up to the plate. While we’re “ready for damn change, so y’all let the man shine” (© Young Jeezy [click to read]) sounds good, the industry needs to shine too.
Election Day proved that life is about more than making it rain, stuntin like your daddy, and fuckin these hoes. There’s no reason that consumers of Hip Hop should be led to believe that life for a young black male is limited to rap, sports, or prison—or for a black female to think that life is limited to rapping or the pole.
We are better than that.
Hopefully, this new administration will give artists the boosts they need to go out and make better music. The ’90s were considered a golden era of Hip Hop because of the balance. Yes, the game had its problems, but we lost the desire to fight the power when we became the power. We overdosed on success, got high on complacency, and fast tracked our way to self destruction.
We journalists need to look for the next generation of talent and stop following the status quo. For too long, we—and DX has at times been guilty of this as well—have been content to co-sign the bullshit, when we know better. If our children can now be anything they want to be, Hip Hop can too.
As Obama begins to “reach across the aisle,” hopefully rappers will too. The era of petty beefs need to come to an end so we can usher in an era of building. Hip Hop is a viable economic force, and we need not forget the power of the dollar. Nor should we forget about the good things that your favorite rapper does in the hoods across America. Jim Joe Emcee will always proclaim that nobody cares about the good works he does in the community.
Now is the time to care.
Now is the time for rappers to proudly talk about what they do, and now is the time for us to listen, to read, to comment on, and support the folks doing the work. Now is the time for journalists to tout the philanthropic works of the rappers we cover, instead of assuming that “nobody wants to read that shit.”
And you the reader, must prove us wrong, because if nobody reads that shit, we can’t write justify writing about it.
Finally, Hip Hop needs to treat its women better. I’m not suggesting that you go out and wife the first model chick you see, but at the very least, we can respect the humanity of everybody that makes this game go round. Strippers, models, and yes, even groupies are people too and though “it ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” strap it up, keep it safe, keep it respectful and get your swerve on. Who knows, maybe if we men started treating the women better, more of them would come out of their shells… but I digress.
This is a tricky one. I’ve never been able to take a firm stance on the topic because I understand both sides of the argument. On one hand, I want a position because I’m qualified, not a quota filler. And I understand that my boss might be fair and just—so why penalize him even if he’s an equal opportunist? On the flip side, there is a need to help those who aren’t given a fair shot at a career because of the bigotry in this world. So in this situation, what are we to do?
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in how perfectly President-elect Obama fits the mold of the American Dream. It‘s so easy to view his story of overcoming humble beginnings and think to oneself “If he can do it; we all can.” While that mantra proves to be reality for some, the fact of the matter is that one story does not erase the countless others. President-elect Obama’s position is not the mark of the eradication of all racial injustice in the workplace or elsewhere. He has opened the door for change, but there are still obstacles we face.
And just who is “we,” you ask? Not just African Americans. By doing away with Affirmative Action it also effects religion, sex, national origin, skin-color, sexual orientation, and of course other minority races. Is it fair to no longer support the advancement of a vast number of all discriminated people because one Black man was elected President? Is it possible to no longer consider Black Americans a disenfranchised people because of one massive exception to the rule? That doesn’t sound right to me; but food for thought.
I sincerely hope to see this level of connectedness with the Obama campaign as we do with his administration in the months to come. There are a lot of people who are into the hype of it all, but aren’t considered about the aftermath. It’s like the misconception about marriage—it’s not an “event”; it’s a “journey.” President-elect Obama’s position isn’t simple a day to celebrate; it’s the beginning of a possible revolution for not just Black people, but for all of us. We will have bad times and good times. We are gonna have to push for that change; it won’t always just be granted to us. People of all backgrounds have come together to make history happen; but it better not stop there. Now that the door has been opened, let’s rush in and shake shit up.
As we all proved this week, we have strength in numbers. But numbers mean nothing if we aren’t working towards a common goal and determined to make it happen. Look at how the protests of the ’60s and ’70s have shaped our world for the better. Look at what we are capable of doing. We have had the highest young voter turnout in over 50 years. But Obama can’t just be a figure head. You can’t rock an Obama shirt on November 4th and stash it away on the 5th. You don’t gather in thousands to celebrate in the streets November 4, 2008 then make excuses for why you don’t want to gather in thousands to protest injustice at some later date. Don’t talk about it; be about it.
Michael Jackson talked about the man in the mirror and Ghandi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Real change comes from within and all of us that make up this thing called Hip Hop have a role to play locally. So where do we go from here?
Self-doubt has been the dismantler of dreams for centuries Whether you want to be the next big thing in the music industry, an entrepreneur or a teacher, get your grind on, perfect your craft and make it happen. The more positive examples our youth see, the better off we’ll all become.
Take care of the children. I’m sure we all know some youngsters that have seen too much, too soon. Take the time out to talk to some kids who might be going astray. Talk to them about what they see on TV, what they hear on these records, and what they see in these streets. You might just save a life.
And finally, take care of yourself. Save some money, eat better, and get politically active if you aren’t already. You’ll thank yourself later.
Obama—with the help of millions of voters—proved that anything is possible.
Our time is now.