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11.09.2011

Wassup with that, my brother!

What is it with these rural white boys puttin' on the dawg and acting like they're some kind of killer drug dealer pimp from a black urban slum? I know, I know, rap music, videos, pop culture and all that razzmatazz. Still, how much stupider can a 13 year old possibly look than to have their jeans hanging down below their asses showing their Spongebob tighty-whiteys, cap on sideways, shoes so big that even if they did lace them up (and they don't) their feet still slide around with every step, and swaggering along with one arm hanging straight down like they broke it and the other up over their chest, flicking their wrist like they got a booger stuck to it. This is the height of style? With different clothes, in the 70's it was superfly and in the 40‘s it was the zoot suit. Same swagger, different times. But it was always black.

Racism is such an odd paradox in this country. While it is still alive and flourishing in so many ways, white culture, youth especially, has been embracing and integrating black cultural creativity for the past century. Jazz music, rock and roll, R&B, rap and the lifestyles they rode in with are all born of American black society. At first white acceptance came only after white musicians picked up the beat but that facade is gone. What bothers me about this rap/hip-hop clothing trend isn’t the absurdity of the costume. It's the complete disconnect between what and where the urban black is that bore this 'style' and the white posers who immitate a look who's roots they don't understand in the least. The same was true of jazz in the 1920's. The difference was jazz and blues were an attempt to rise up and feel better about life through the music - a message everyone could share. Rap wallows in it, takes you down there and celebrates some fairly unkind and unsavory behavior. Big difference.

But the message and influence of the message is lost on the white boys. They think it means being a lost soul caught between violence and poverty is cool. 'Gonna pop a cap in yo face' is an empty expression of pride. Pride. Think of that. I'm going to shoot you in the face for no reason. Whatever happened to becoming astronauts, cowboys, and firemen? At least in cowboys and indians, you didn't shoot the other "good guys" - for all the other racial stigma it carried - and it was a game of bygone eras. In druglords and pimps everyone is a bad guy and they inhabit 21st century American streets.

There is huge gap between the black and white poverty rates, domestic violence, education and other cultural success indicators that make it clear we live in 2 different Americas. I think if our kids are going to buy the music, imitate the trappings and pretend that they can in any way relate to the American black experience, they should understand the reality of it. Otherwise boys, go back to your chinos, tees and skateboards. You should never mimic what you don't understand.