Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Every time an unfortunate act of violence claims the life of a Black man, social media is set ablaze with the popular saying, “We have to do better.” While I’m sure the intent behind this saying is positive, the truth of the matter is, the “we” portion of it needs to be updated to “I”. I have to do better is the more appropriate position and perspective to have in regard to the unnecessary violence that plagues some of our communities in America. If I truly care about the lives of Black boys and men, I would be willing to closely examine how my consumption habits help to popularize the mindset and embolden the philosophy that it’s normal and rewarding to take the life of another Black man.
Before you automatically become defensive and write off your consumption habits as merely being entertainment, remember I’m talking about holding myself accountable. You don’t have to hold yourself accountable for your consumption habits because you are probably right, music is just entertainment. It couldn’t possibly have the power to motivate you to improve your life economically, move you to tears during funerals or get you through a treacherous breakup. Maybe I’m weak and the exception to the norm because I use music to cope with the challenges that I experience in life. Perhaps listening to one of my favorite songs of the year, Tomorrow’s Not Promised by Trav Da Poet had zero impact on my days starting off on a positive note. Perhaps the angelic voices of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin have never transported your soul to heaven for a few moments. Maybe in your younger years, you never set foot in an unscrupulous club and felt compelled to get overly rambunctious when Pastor Troy, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boys, or Down For My N’s was played. You are absolutely right; music is just entertainment and has no impact.
I’m not attempting to paint the foolish perspective or narrative that music is capable of making anyone do anything, but what I am saying is that music influences what’s considered acceptable and has a significant impact on culture (the way we talk, dress and ultimately the mindset of some of the youth). Our ancestors were people whose spirits were moved by the rhythm of the drum, but somehow those of us who are older than 28 years of age have convinced ourselves that music with a negative message is just entertainment so long as it has a banging beat. This philosophy makes perfect sense, because many people say they don’t even listen to lyrics; they just like the beat. This explains why the tweets and posts about the lives of Black men mattering go unheard. Your words don’t have a banging beat. And even if your words had a fire instrumental, per your philosophy, the audience wouldn’t hear the words, because like you, they are only listening for the beat.
Until we take a closer look at ourselves individually, it doesn't matter how outraged we proclaim/pretend (pick one) to be by the latest death. It doesn't matter how many creative tweets we conjure up about Black men deserving better because an unfortunate amount of Black men and boys will continue to receive bullets instead of the "better" that most of us know we deserve until the "we" becomes "I." For me, taking a closer look at myself includes examining my consumption habits that contribute to popularizing the lyrics and the energy that fosters the mentality that it’s perfectly normal to resolve any perceived slight or form of disrespect with a gun. Over the course of the last several years, I’ve made a concerted effort to drastically decrease the amount of negative content that I consume visually (tv) and musically. Additionally, I’ve started to document conflict resolution skills that I will one day share with my young son to ensure that he never feels it’s ok to harm others. (On another note, since the verdict just came down, this image is dedicated to the jurors, judge and Kyle Rittenhouse)
Back to the original intent of this blog. What exactly is the purpose of being a saint on Sunday that becomes fully immersed in the presence of the Lord while listening to Take Me To The King, but turning around and dancing to lyrics that applaud and celebrate the murder of Black boys and men Monday – Saturday. Does God’s spirit magically abandon us the moment we leave church or put our Bible down? Why does our spirit or relationship with God never compel us to hear him saying, “you are a bit too old to still be enjoying the content that you are consuming and popularizing lyrics that could potentially have an adverse impact on the youth?” I’m willing to admit, I’m too old to still be enjoying some of the songs on my playlist. Maybe after I read this blog a time or two, I'll find the gumption to emulate my ole ladies overwhelmingly positive playlist. One can pray and hope for growth right?
Ultimately, I think we feel comfortable ignoring our spirt when it tells us to do better on this front, because many of us live in “safe” environments where we aren’t likely to experience the negative elements that come along with the mindset and philosophies that blossom from the music that we push on to the youth. You grew up understanding the importance of Barry White, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, and Prince, because your parents played their music for you. What type of content are you playing for your kids, but more importantly what songs or albums are your listening habits helping to popularize when it’s just you and your Apple Beats headphones? Are you actively and purposely contributing to the self-destruction algorithm that’s dedicated to destroying the lives of Black boys and men?
In closing, We don’t need to do better, I need to do better.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my novel titled Knewgoat: A Black Man's Journey To Greatness In The Hell That Is America.