Hip Hop

December 23, 2012  |  Culture

This week’s #hiphoped conversation has really stuck with me. The discussion of Chief Keef’s music aural filth caused us to realize something significant. We are in danger of failing this generation in some profound ways. The youth have always had something to say. Historically, the resulting question, then, has been “Are we listening?” In the case of this generation, the query that pains me is “Do we even know how to listen anymore?”

I’m officially an old man.

I can hear the insatiable anger in Keef’s music. I even understand why it’s there. We’ve coming off of one of the bloodiest summers on record in his hometown, Chicago – black and brown kids murdered by their peers at a rate that would make the klan jealous. Many of the schools there are more segregated today than they were when The Supreme Court issued the order to integrate in 1954…

…but all that does not justify the (self?) hate-speech that record companies are peddling as art. But then I’m reminded that this is a discourse that has long been in effect. Create an image in the popular consciousness of urban youth as savages, and the world will not mourn them when America eats it’s young.

On the other side of that discursive coin is the reality that there are caregivers and teachers who work tirelessly (and invisibly) against incredible odds to create beautiful lives for young people. It is these overwhelming and everyday victories that are never represented. The popular narrative that has our young men thinking that all manhood is heartless and violent is the same narrative that communicates to teachers that you are not effective unless you are Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds’.

Our struggle is not to save this generation, as the narrative or the politicians would have us believe. They are smarter than we ever were. They already have the tools to save themselves. I’m beginning to think that our job is to render them visible in an Ellisonian way, so that they see themselves as worth saving. That means we’ve got to listen – no matter how hard it is.

#hiphoped is a weekly twitter discussion that meets at the intersection of Hip hop and education, media and culture, positive vibes and social responsibility. Join the conversation each Tuesday from 9-10 EST.

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