Walter Scott, Freddie Carlos Gray, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and countless others have represented an upswing in attention paid toward black males gunned down by police officers throughout the nation over the past couple of years. Obviously, Hip Hop has inevitably followed suit. Everyone from J Cole, T.I., Talib Kweli, Kendrick Lamar, Crooked I, Young Thug and everyone in between have delivered their thoughts via rhyme, tweet or interview. It’s their responsibility right? Hip Hop’s connection to black culture has always been bound tightly against white supremacy in ways that could be described as either subtle or flat-out confrontational. Pushing back against authorities who abuse their power is essentially necessary. This makes the overwhelming silence from the same Hip Hop strange considering the current news cycle revolving around Sandra Bland.
For those out of the loop, Bland was a black woman found dead in a Houston jail days after being detained following a routine traffic stop where she allegedly assaulted a police officer. According to reports, the Prairie View A&M graduate was on her way from Chicago for a position at the esteemed Historically Black College’s agriculture department. Contradictory accounts of events leading to her death (or murder) and unreliable video footage sound as fishy as a Baltimore paddy wagon ride leading to a severed spine. Bland was my age, 28-years-old.
In addition to the brutal assault of teenager Dajerra Becton along with the shooting deaths of Rekia Boyd, Aiyanna Jones and Shereese Francis, the “Say Her Name” movement has emerged as a singular voice in police violence against black women. A much-needed movement that hasn’t been mentioned much within Hip Hop. Even with the controversy regarding Bland’s death, there hasn’t been the amount of force seen as with the men mentioned above. Only a handful of artists mentioning Bland on social media including Nicki Minaj, OG Maco, 9th Wonder and Trina. However, there isn’t a major push behind it like the many dead black man hashtag movements.
Then again, the disenfranchisement of African American women has become the norm and Hip Hop has always reflected various angles of black America. There’s a specific reason why many rallied behind Kendrick Lamar and YG during their various Grammy snubs, yet didn’t give Minaj the same appreciation this week during her MTV Video Awards. Yes, the visual for “Anaconda” is nothing but an ass shaking-fest(that I thoroughly enjoy). But, the underlying themes of racism or “cultural smugging” are still present. In fact, she was eventually given the “angry black women” title before Taylor Swift inserted herself into controversy and later reconciled with Minaj. Unfortunately, this is fairly common. No one even dared to question Dr. Dre’s alleged beating women of color ranging from Michel’le to Denise “Dee” Barnes. Then there was the moments where both Action Bronson and T.I. threatened violence against Azealia Banks for her now standard annoying Twitter rants. Regardless of how stupid Banks’ tweets are, those types of statements rarely get checked. At this point for many, it is what it is.
The pain and brutalization of black women by police rarely gets noticed. Recently, things reached a tipping point as Bland became yet another victim. This is the same woman who fight hard for black men facing over-policing through various video post and becoming an active member of the Black Lives Matter movement. A look at Bland’s Facebook page also shows that she was an avid fan Hip Hop. Maybe it’s time the culture unites to return the favor and do something. While everyone laughs at the ridiculousness of Action Bronson vs. Ghostface Killah, Meek Mill’s string of tweets or Drake’s ghostwriting allegations remember Hip Hop’s duty to the community at large.