It’s going to happen again.
It might happen next year. It might happen next month. Shit, it might have already happened today.
Somewhere in America, a young Black male will be killed. Maybe he’ll 16. Or 23. Or 11.
There are thousands of possible ways that he’ll die, but you can say with 99% certainty that he’ll get shot.
Maybe he’ll get shot by the police while stealing a bike. Or maybe he’ll get shot by a stray while walking to basketball practice. Or maybe he’ll get shot because his shoes were too nice. Or maybe he’ll get shot because he was trying to shoot someone else. Or maybe he’ll get shot because he asked someone for directions, only they thought he was going to rob him. Or maybe he’ll get shot because he didn’t look like he belonged on the street he was on. Or maybe he’ll get shot because his barber shot someone last week, and the guy he shot came into the shop to retaliate. Or maybe he’ll get shot because he shot someone last week.
There will eventually be a trial about this murder. This trial will get some press coverage. And during the coverage, someone—maybe the defendant, or the defendant’s lawyer, or the district attorney, or the judge, or the family of the victim, or the family of the defendant, or a reporter, or a columnist, or a person leaving a message on the columnist’s column, or a popular blogger, or a TV pundit, or a Twitter personality—will find a way to connect rap music to the murder.
Maybe they’ll even appear to be conflicted about what they’re saying by beginning a piece with a paragraph letting everyone know they enjoy rap music too.
Maybe they’ll explicitly say “rap music killed him.” Maybe they’ll be dangerously (and lazily) racist, using terms like “thug music” and making sure that, when they refer to rap music, they always put “music” in quotes. Or maybe they’ll be more subtle, using terms like “helped cultivate a nihilistic environment” and “reinforced a culture of learned helplessness.” Maybe they’ll even appear to be conflicted about what they’re saying by beginning a piece with a paragraph letting everyone know they enjoy rap music too, and proving their rap cred by name-dropping J Dilla and Talib Kweli.
Maybe, as happened during Michael David Dunn's trial for Jordan Davis’s murder, someone will imply that a rap song has any blame whatsoever for the cowardly, murderous intent that causes a man to shoot multiple times at a truck despite no reason to fear for his safety and also have such a callous disregard for life that he orders a pizza afterwards.
Anyway, it will happen again.
And when it does, when someone tries again to put rap music on trial instead of the actual murderer—or the justice system, or income inequality, or substandard schools, or the prison-industrial complex, or how "the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy," or anyone or anything else that may have had an actual, tangible influence on the crime—by asking or implying “Did rap music cause this murder?”, my answer then will be the same as it is now:
(And fuck you.)
Pittsburgh-native Damon Young writes about things. And, @verysmartbros, he (occasionally) tweets about things too.
READ MORE ESSAYS BY DAMON YOUNG
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