A few years back, a local news story got my attention. Two mothers--with a total of five children between them--decided to leave their respective apartments and meet with a third woman for a ‘Girls Night Out’ at a local bar. Mother number one had a nine year old watching her other child; mother number two had an eleven year old watching her two young siblings. According to published accounts, about one o’clock in the morning, the nine year old began screaming for his mother. Of course, the concerned neighbors called the police. After a bit of investigation and waiting, the two mothers came staggering home drunk--and were promptly arrested and their kids were turned over to Child Welfare workers.
One Rap Video offering flashed on my TV recently, which reminded me of this story. Interestingly enough, a young, vivacious mother walked out the door of her house, to jump into a ‘tricked up car’ with some of her girlfriends to head ‘out on the town’. This ‘hip mother’ left her pre-teen daughter to care for the house, while she hit the streets to ‘get her roll on.’
Welcome to the electronic plantation. Massa IS back in town.
Gone are the whips, chains, and beatings of old. Old man cotton may be gone, but has been ‘replaced’ with Nu Skool rap tracks, sagging and bagging ‘gangsta’ style of individuals of our OWN race, and the ever-present whip of the ‘No Snitch Code’.
You never HEARD of this term? HOW can I call this SLAVERY?
Well, IF you remember your history (or have read the Willie Lynch letters) Black slaves were treated/handled thusly:
*Men and women were pitted against one another for leadership.
*Education was held to be ‘useless’ and ‘illegal’ by Massa.
*Entertainment was held to be higher than Empowerment.
*Children were thrust into adult situations to force them to grow quicker.
*Marriage was discouraged & families were broken up quickly.
*Men were ‘coddled’; Women were ‘cauterized’.
*Color, Class, Economics--even Religion were used as weapons.
Am I getting through?
Sadly, the results of this new plantation abound. The statistics and body counts are piling up in schools, juvenile facilities and prisons across the country. Expulsions, suspensions, and dropout rates among young Black males--and now Black females--continue to march upward. Street gang recruitment is reportedly starting at the grade school level in some parts of the country. Lastly, our modern day ‘massas’ are completely without shame in playing the ‘race’ card and the ‘sex’ card—as effectively as the slave owners of old.
And, Yes, there WERE Black slave owners ‘down south’.
On the electronic plantation, the chains are made of INVISIBLE materials. Sound waves, rap tracks, and infrared scanning; MP3s, CD, turntables, vinyl sound cards.
Many of the ones with the lash today were freed by the Civil Rights struggles of yesterday. They are fully aware that the Black churches of yesterday were strong and the center of our communities. The new massas have infiltrated and corrupted the Black Church, making her weak and allowing everything from hip hop ministries, to full-blown crunk services in its doors. Many of the religious symbols that some of us hold dear have been incorporated into the ‘gangsta’ and ‘hip hop’ lifestyle--from crosses to Bible verses.
NEW TOOLS--OLD SLAVE OWNER MINDSET?
It’s OK to have ‘religion’ on this plantation—as long as it ‘persuades’ you to serve the Hip-Hop/Rap ‘massas’ in a more ‘docile’ mindset.
They ‘like’ religion; just not ‘good’ religion.
They ‘like’ holiness, purity, and virtue--during the daylight hours.
They ‘like’ the Bible…as long as you don’t read it, live it, nor believe it.
Oh yes--the new hymn; the new ‘field song’? Dollars matter--lives DO NOT.
Now, there are more than likely some who may think that I’m being a little harsh. Comparing Hip-Hop/Rap to the ‘plantation’? In public? On the printed page?
“Well,” some may be thinking as the smoke is pouring from their ears, and they are snapping their fingers, “this is the music for OUR generation!”
Balderdash! Music is one thing, but murder, child abuse, and sexual immorality are something else. For the life of me, I can still remember the Isley Brothers saying “Fight The Power”, not “Off Some Cops”.
But, I digress.
Let me provide a few quick examples regarding life on the old plantation and today’s modern electronic counterpart--based upon my travels and interaction with young people.
RULES OF THE ‘NEW’ PLANTATION:
First, the electronic plantation--like its older ancestor--has a specific language, which must be used by the participants in order to be considered a ‘legitimate’ member. The deliberate misspelling of simple words, or the insertion of symbols where letters belong may not ‘look right’ on an employment application or a high school exam...but so what? Education is held to be something for losers.
Second, the electronic plantation--like its older ancestor--has a specific rivalry pattern determined by the ‘high tech massas’ (accountants, producers, clothing designers, talent scouts, television/video executives) of the Hip Hop/Rap industry. Only ‘certain’ members of the genre are cleaned up (criminal charges disappear, drug/sex appetites go into the closet, mainstream language used), covered up (clothing, hairstyle, traditional morals are put forth) and ushered out for public consumption in the mainstream. These new ‘HouseRappers’ are constantly held up as the people to emulate. Meanwhile, the ‘FieldRappers’ are still struggling in the business, still chase and emulate the ‘bling’, and still mangle, curse, and shoot. Some of them are ‘held up’ to emulate as well.
Y’all KNOW who you are. Why should I give you ‘free pub’?
MALE AND FEMALE ‘MASSAS’:
Let me interject a point of information. A ‘high tech massa’ does not have to be of one particular race, or one particular sex. There are a host of Black ‘massas’ --male and female--firmly embedded into the Hip-Hop/Rap business. Unfortunately, they never see the ‘success’ of their ventures…lining either the jailhouse, or the morgue. Once more, they keep THEIR children AWAY from their ‘art’.
But, let us march on. Third, the electronic plantation--like its older ancestor--is only concerned with the wealth generated; not the lives obliterated. The general public rarely sees--or hears--about the dangers of ‘too much consumption’ of the plantation wares--unless a death results. Crime rates, OOW births, STDs, lowered literacy rates, dropout rates, etc. are thought of as being ‘unfortunate problems’ of society, but can never be laid at the doorstep of the ‘high tech massas’ home.
Up to this point, I’ve mentioned three similarities to the old plantation system. This fourth point is even a bit more twisted, and I have to go back to the old plantation system once again. Massa just is not all that willing to have a stake of truth inserted.
Some folk have been on the electronic plantation for so long that they not only refuse to leave, they make big money by bringing in ‘newer human performing’ slaves--at younger and younger ages. Independent producers and recruiters use money from the drug or gang trade to put unsuspecting ‘performers’ up on the auction block of fame and public recognition. Now we have middle school children being ‘shuttled’ from one venue to another--sometimes on school nights--to let the public get a ‘taste’ of a future electronic slave. “Hang the curfew laws and getting up early for school mama; your own Lil G can be the next Hip Hopper on a box of GRITS! Just let ‘us’ take him around to the sites tonight!”
THE WAY OFF--BEGINS WITH THE MIND:
Several friends of mine who are still in the education game let me know that they have students who have made straight Fs--repeatedly--and are not phased by their poor academic performance. Of course, these same students have the latest electronic toys--BUT you can’t get some of them to carry paper, pencils or textbooks to their classes.
That is--IF they decide to go.
It was MORE than forty years ago that the Civil Rights movement really made it into the public consciousness. However, it was TEN years after this--in New York City--when the Hip-Hop/Rap genre was born. Ten years LATER, in 1984, Hip-Hop/Rap started to smooth out its appeal and presentation enough to go mainstream on Black/Urban radio stations. By 1994, the MTV/Hip-Hop/Rap connection was starting to bond. Today, the electronic plantation is doing a booming business, with ignorance being held as a highly sought virtue--and the ‘breeding stock’ of new talent is endlessly trotted across MTV, BET, and other music video screens and C.D. cases--while 70 percent of this product is purchased by WHITE males.
There is only ONE way to be free of the electronic plantation.
It’s called ‘Escape through Deliverance.’ AKA--Bankrupt the massas!
Like a cigarette smoker, alcoholic, or drug addict has to put up a major league fight to truly break their habit, those who truly want off of the electronic plantation must ALSO WANT to be delivered from Massa and his/her crew.
It starts with a reduction of consuming the offerings from the plantation.
It means having the guts to invest some of your disposable income into things that will uplift your family, instead of tear it down. It starts with focusing the long term vs. the short term. It continues with the realization that there is more to life than what comes through some headphones and C.D. players, or from a television screen. It continues with the firm realization that there are consequences for actions taken, relationships neglected and responsibilities avoided.
It ends when one is not only free; that one has the courage to free others.
The clock, though, continues to tick away…as newer methods of enslavement are discovered and practiced. Once upon a time, it was ‘forbidden’ to show elementary-school aged children involved in Hip-Hop/Rap productions. That taboo has been broken.
More and more videos are showing eager and anxious children participating in everything from the throwing of gang signs, to mimicking the crotch grabbing and butt shaking moves of their older siblings--all in full view of the photographer’s camera. In some segments of the community, that would constitute child abuse.
On the electronic plantation, this is merely business as usual. Is it any wonder we’re seeing more young people facing the prison and the unemployment line rather than the school, the church, or the family? They aren’t interested in the long term; interested in knowing that if you get a criminal record NOW, you won’t be able to get much of a job LATER.
Firing a few people for saying a few things on the airwaves only seems to enrich and empower the wicked and the exploiters. MANY of them have a plan B and a plan C AND the lawyers and accountants to have their vacations result in fatter contracts down the road. The ONLY way to make a point with Massa; the ONLY way to make impact with THIS crowd of high-tech pirates is to make them walk the bankruptcy plank with their wares firmly chained to them…like they have chained our communities for a number of years.
MIKE RAMEY is the author of THE MANHOOD LINE. A syndicated, monthly column written for men from a biblical, business, and common sense perspective. It appears on fine websites around the world. Send Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2007 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
Used by permission, BlackandChristian.com, 2007.