Hip-Hop Political Agenda
That was fun yesterday, but it's time to get serious for a minute. It seems like every day I keep reading about this Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which is Russell Simmons' group. Of course I like the idea of getting people of my demographic involved in the political process. I don't even beef because they're being inculcated into the belief that the Democrats are their friends. Most Black folks think that, so why should hip-hoppers be any different? Thing is, somebody has to step up and challenge them with something different; let them know that there's an alternative to expecting "them," i.e. the government, make everything better. In that spirit, I'm looking at the 15-item HSAN National Agenda to see what kind of modifications a conservative or moderate could make so it would actually be workable. THE NATIONAL AGENDA 1. We want freedom and the social, political and economic development and empowerment of our families and communities; and for all women, men and children throughout the world. Certain phrases, while I understand very well what they mean, are problematic for me. "Such-and-such [insert kind here] empowerment" is one of them. The problem is that it objectifies the "empowered." They're not an agent in getting their own power. Political empowerment? You have to make your own political power. The government can't give that to you. There's more room for argument on the point of economic empowerment, but among the hip-hop generation/audience, there's not really a shortage of money. There's a shortage of knowledge of what to do with it, and a poor understanding of the relationship between end$ and mean$, but that's something we have to fix ourselves. 2. We want equal justice for all without discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, creed or class. Okay, whatever that means. I think we just about got it, though. 3. We want the total elimination of poverty. How? What level of poverty? Are you talking Bangladesh poverty or are you talking hot-running-water project poverty? 4. We want the highest quality public education equally for all. Here, here! 5. We want the total elimination of racism and racial profiling, violence, hatred and bigotry. By whom? Good concept (you know it's a pipe dream), but who is going to do the eliminating and how? Seriously. On a practical level, if somebody is particularly sensitive about racial issues, ze can't even tell racism or bigotry from plain ole dislike. And while the argument can be made that racism should be against the law, I have the right to not-like anybody I please for no other reason than the fact that they breathe a combination of oxygen and nitrogen. They can dislike me for the same reason. 6. We want universal access and delivery of the highest quality health care for all. I'm in favor of this, but I don't think it can actually be done. From what I understand, there's a tradeoff between access and access. That is, if when everybody can just up and go to the doctor, nobody actually gets to see him; I know that's how it was when I went to the free clinic (for the first and hopefully last time in my life) last year. I got down there at about 730a and didn't get out until about 1145, and the doctor still didn't take care of my problem. Later, I found out that I still had a few days left on my insurance coverage and went to a regular doctor, who had me in and out in about 35 minutes, problem taken care of. We all know how I feel about the prescription drug racket. 7. We want the total elimination of police brutality and the unjust incarceration of people of color and all others. Take off the specifier "people of color". Sometimes it's necessary for the police to use force, but some of those jokers take it overboard. 8. We want the end and repeal of all repressive legislation, laws, regulations and ordinances such as "three strikes" laws; federal and state mandatory minimum sentencing; trying and sentencing juveniles as adults; sentencing disparities between crack and powdered cocaine used; capitol punishment; the Media Marketing Accountability Act; and hip-hop censorship fines by the FCC. Now we're getting down to the hip-hop specific stuff. Okay, the mandatory sentencing stuff is on point. There's no legitimate reason a judge should be hamstrung from using his own intellect to determine the appropriate sentence for a convict. It's politically expedient, and it makes lawmakers look "tough on crime," but it basically amounts to overdosing the prison system. As far as capital punishment, I'm not against it per se, but there are far too many innocent people being executed by the state for me to cosign. (And here's a question for my Christian brothers and sisters who think capital punishment is biblically mandated—or at least justified: who's responsible when an innocent person is put to death? Does that make us all guilty of murder? I don't believe God will get caught up in the "we thought we were doing the right thing at the time" excuse.) I'll get into hip-hop censorship a little later. But here's a taste: down with censorship, up with responsible lyrics. 9. We want reparations to help repair the lingering vestiges, damages and suffering of African Americans as a result of the brutal enslavement of generations of Africans in America. No. I don't mind reparations in concept, but it's never gonna happen. Not ever. Let's move on to something else more productive that can be done. How 'bout lowering the rate of unwed childbirth? (I will NEVER use the word "illegitimate" because not one person in the world can tell me that having married parents axiomatically means anything about the child. There are certain statistical likelihoods that go along with the traditional Western family structure, but not being born into such a situation does not de-legitimize a person. Fuck that. [Yes, I take it personally.]) 10. We want the progressive transformation of American society into a Nu America as a result of organizing and mobilizing the energy, activism and resources of the hip-hop community at the grassroots level throughout the United States. Here we go with the spelling. Then organize, mobilize, and change. That's our responsibility as Americans. Not right, responsibility. 11. We want greater unity, mutual dialogue, program development and a prioritizing of national issues for collective action within the hip-hop community through summits, conferences, workshops, issue task forces and joint projects. Again, make it happen. 12. We want advocacy of public policies that are in the interests of hip-hop before Congress, state legislatures, municipal governments, the media, and the entertainment industry. What public policies might those be? I see your lips quivering but you haven't said a word. 13. We want the recertification and restoration of voting rights for the 10 million persons who have lost their right to vote as a result of a felony conviction. Although these persons have served their time in prison, their voting rights have not been restored in 40 states in the US. I think it should depend on the felony. Extortion, embezzlement, insider trading? You better believe they should forfeit the right to vote. 14. We want to tremendously increase public awareness and education on the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. I think the public is fully aware of the "pandemic" of HIV/AIDS. The fact that people are still catching it at a high rate is not because they don't know about it, it's because they don't care, or they think that it can't happen to them. I've mentioned a couple times that the same groups that have high rates of HIV/AIDS contraction have high pregnancy rates. There's obviously a disconnect with the idea of using condoms, but I don't know that it necessarily stems from not knowing, it's just a reflection of poor gratification delay skills. Condoms do generally lessen the sensation, and they do necessitate an interruption in the action, but come on! And they're FREE, for cryin' out loud. They're available at schools, clinics, Planned Parenthood centers (don't ask me how I know about this stuff, just let it suffice that I do.) I know many people who don't like the fact that kids can get condoms at school, but I think it should be pretty clear that they're not making the kids take them. On the real, they need Jesus. Hip-hop about that! 15. We want a clean environment and an end to communities in which poor and minority reside being deliberately targeted for toxic waste dumps, facilities and other environmental hazards that destroy the health and value of our neighborhoods. True that. NIMBY is strong when you can generate some political power. Take care of point number one and this one will fall as well. Basically, this list seems to me to be good-sounding ideas but not much that's really actionable. Some of my friends might make a larger statements about progressives in general, but I'll just leave it at that. Still, within these points, I think there is some room for us to get in there and do something. The hip-hop generation is a younger version of us! All 15 of those items, at some point, we believed in. We still do believe in a few of them, but we just think there are other, non-governmental ways to go about accomplishing them. Let's get out there and make something happen.