If black Americans want to see a reversal of the troubling trends preventing our progress, we need to revisit and remake the rap song "Self-Destruction."
The cultural call to action was released in January 1989 as the only single by the Stop the Violence Movement formed by KRS-One. The rapper created the collaboration in response to violence in the black community. The issue was personal for the rapper because his close friend DJ Scott La Rock was murdered in 1987. The song featured a number of hip-hop pioneers, including MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Heavy D, and Public Enemy.
The hook, "self-destruction, you're headed for self-destruction," plays after every verse. One of the song's most memorable lines was delivered by Kool Moe Dee.
"Back in the '60s our brothers and sisters were hanged. How could you gang-bang? / I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan and I shouldn't have to run from a black man."
Anyone watching the music video today would be struck by how open the artists, mostly men, are about naming the problem and taking responsibility for addressing it through the platform they had at the time.
The loss of strong male leadership and an unwillingness to courageously confront obvious issues are slowly draining the black community of its energy, spirit, and resolve. Only a great awakening can reverse that trend.
The recent murder of rap artist Young Dolph provided another opportunity to honestly confront the violence in hip-hop. Dolph, born Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., was shot and killed while buying cookies in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. The murder of Young Dolph was addressed on "The Breakfast Club," and one of the radio show's co-hosts said that fans of hip-hop glorify and celebrate all the wrong things, then wonder why atrocities like this happen.
That admission alone was a major breakthrough.
Rap is a relatively young genre, but the fact remains that 51% of deceased rappers were murdered. Homicide does not account for more than 10% of deaths in any other genre. Young Dolph, 36, was older than many of the rappers on this unfortunate list, but several rappers, from the Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur to King Von and Pop Smoke, were in their early to mid-20s. If the keepers of hip-hop culture don't deal with its violence problem, the genre won't exist in 20 years.
The sad reality is that hip-hop culture is a microcosm of America. The statistics for deceased rappers match the 50% of black males between the ages of 15 and 24 for whom homicide is the leading cause of death. At 13% of the population and about 50% of murder victims, the homicide rate for black Americans is about seven times higher than the rate for white Americans. Many of these victims are innocent bystanders and children. In fact, there are many more black schoolchildren shot and killed every year than unarmed black men fatally shot by the police.
The glorification of violence in rap music is deeply embedded in the art form and culture. That means there are a lot of people — including many black artists, DJs, producers, and executives — who would lose money if shows like "The Breakfast Club" ever took a stand and refused to promote any artist who made murder music to a catchy beat. They also have no incentive to change because the public, including many of the same black people who claimed Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer, have no problem bopping their heads to black men who brag about "shooting n*ggas" 20 times in a three-minute video.
There is another reason black people across the country are headed for self-destruction: the abandonment of any sense that we are responsible for addressing any of the issues plaguing our communities.
This allergic reaction to responsibility is often paired with rhetoric about all the systemic issues that need to be fixed in order for black people to expect peace in our neighborhoods.
An Instagram post from Jemele Hill after Young Dolph was murdered captured this line of reasoning perfectly. In it, Hill quickly claimed the notion of "black-on-black crime" is rooted in racist ideas about inherent black criminality. She then talked about a recent change in Tennessee gun laws that allows people to carry handguns without a permit. She also claimed that institutional racism contributed to the violence, in the form of higher rates of poverty and fewer resources for education and housing. She ended her post with these words:
"Fix the issues that invite violence, and we will lose less people. But when you have entire communities full of people who are hopeless and feel like they have nothing to lose, violence will be a mainstay."
Hill never said who is responsible for fixing these issues, but given my familiarity with this line of reasoning, I'm certain she means the white people who black liberals generally claim are in charge of most American institutions.
This cannot continue. The mentality that says that black people must have material needs provided for by benevolent actors in the government and other institutions in order not to kill one another is a recipe for turning free people into wards of the state.
This needed change will also require addressing another group — the guilty white liberals who think it's their job to rescue the black community. They see black people as damsels in distress and themselves as white knights fresh out of anti-racism training. These are the types who are always criticizing "whiteness" and harassing other white people online about being better allies and comrades.
I often speak about the connection between these guilty white liberals and the self-professed oppressed class of black liberals. Those two groups have a symbiotic relationship with each other and a parasitic relationship with everyone else. The learned helplessness of the black elite is working its way into every corner of black culture.
That is why anyone who focuses on the things black people can do today to improve our chances of success in this country (e.g., marriage before children) should expect to be accused of "letting white people off the hook."
I don't say any of this from a place of disdain or hatred. Quite the opposite — I say it from a place of love. Love protects, but it also corrects. Any father who doesn't correct his children can't say that he loves them. This principle is applicable in other contexts as well. The book of Proverbs says, "The wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Ignoring self-destructive behavior allows it to spread.
Members of the black leadership class know this. They practice discipline. They just focus it in the wrong place. They have no problem telling white people to abandon their "privilege," to take responsibility for sins they didn't commit, or that "silence is violence." What they will not do under any circumstances is use their bully pulpit to demand that black lives must matter to black people first before they matter to anyone else.
This is not a denial of the ugly history of racism in America. It is a realization that it is unrealistic to expect someone to treat my life as priceless when I treat it as worthless.
If the Black Lives Matter movement was serious, protesters would take their fight to abortion clinics, record labels, radio stations, and the communities where a small number of young men have no problem shooting at their enemies on crowded streets in broad daylight.
They would also know that any group that thinks it can subvert God's plan for the family — husband, wife, and children — and thrive over multiple generations is fooling itself. No amount of guilt-inspired donations can replace the impact of strong, stable, and loving families.
Black leaders in previous generations fought for freedom and equality. Today's most influential black outlets fight for cultural paternalism. They act as if low-income black people have no agency. Even the young rappers of the 1980s knew better. They made direct moral appeals to their peers because they believed it was possible for people, even those in difficult economic circumstances, to distinguish between right and wrong.If love is measured by attention and correction, then it is clear black liberals love white liberals more than life itself. It's time they wake up and realize they are taking us down a path of self-destruction.