All We Wanna Do is Take the Chains Off

“Be Free” by J Cole isn’t a song I listen to that often.  The truth is: I can’t. Nowadays, whenever I hear the lines:

All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is be free

I hear the (slightly paraphrased) last words of Eric Garner:

All I know is I can’t breathe
All I know is I can’t breathe

It makes me think of his wife and his video death and it’s just so god-damn depressing.  The song leaves me very nervous, weary and reminds me how hopelessly out-of-touch I am with real world problems.

If there’s one thing I will take away from 2014: it’s that this world is so fucked.  Between disappearing airlines; kidnapped Nigerian school girls, Malala, and the litany of racially charged shootings of young black men in the U.S.  I have never felt so simultaneously lucky and guilty that I was graced with the good fortune to live on this temperate, sleepy Island while my brethren trying to go to school in Nigeria or Pakistan are being persecuted, kidnapped, shot and raped. Or are being choked to death on the streets of New York; or shot in the back in the suburbs of Missouri; or on a subway platform in San Francisco; or on a playground in Cleveland; or a hundred other places and times young, unarmed black men have been shot by authorities in the last year or two.

It’s embarrassing.  I actually can’t stand to read about it, because I’m embarrassed that people still react like that in this day and age.  It’s disgusting to watch the media and politicians try to rationalize or subjugate this type of behaviour – this type of epidemic.

And I’m in denial
And it don’t take no x-ray to see right through my smile
I know

All year, I saw the stories about young black men being shot pop up and I would devour the information like a nebulous made-for-tv movie.  I’d skim the stories, read the social media hashtags,  scan the photos, but I couldn’t sit and really absorb the information. I couldn’t watch the sobbing parents nervously reading prepared speeches to angry mobs outside of courtrooms and pundits calling for cooler heads to prevail over the calamities of injustice.  I didn’t want to.  I’m not a racist.  I know these shooting are bad.  Why do I have to know all these details?

It took me a while to realize why the details matter.  Why everyone should have an image of these boys and men when they hear the names Michael Smith, Travyon Martin, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and the hundreds of other unarmed, young black men that were shot to death by authorities. It’s because this is real and happening right under our noses. If we don’t pay attention and really work to understand why this is happening –  it will be happening on our doorsteps next.

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I was re-reading one of my favourite books, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley that I was reminded of one of my favourite quotes, by Black Panthers leaders Eldridge Cleaver:

There is no more neutrality in the world.
You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.

It may seem a bit far-fetched to feel that up here in Canada, in my self-exiled bubble of kisses, unicorns and giggles, I can help stop police brutality against young black males in the United States but I really believe, in a small, minuscule way, it’s true.  I have to.  Otherwise, what’s the point of caring?

Please give me a chance
I don’t wanna dance
Something’s got me down
I will stand my ground.  

It’s so easy to be apathetic.  I loathe apathy. Even Kurt Cobain was disgusted with his predicament having become the poster child for apathy when I believe it was his hyper over-sensitivity and cripplingly insecurity that was perceived as apathy by the media.  I understand apathy  is a natural part of growing up, but adults without opinions or adults who are too lazy or too preoccupied with their own mundane lives to educate themselves and develop some sort of understanding on the greater crises facing our world today are the worst.

J Cole is anything but apathetic.  He’s travelled throughout Ferguson.  He uses his music, interviews, social media and image to give a voice to the struggles that he remains connected to.

Ooh, I’m letting you know
That it ain’t no gun they make that can kill my soul
Oh, no

So what do can we do about the persecution of young black men in the United States?  It starts within yourself.  You can begin by examining your own stereotypes about all races and types of peoples and coming to terms with how they evolved and how they impact the ways you interact with people.  You can educate yourself. You can educate others.  You can donate to charities that support causes that are important to you.  You can volunteer.  You can write your politicians.  You can create art that is inspired by things that matter to you.  You don’t have to drive to Ferguson and join a riot to show your support for the families of these fallen men.  You can live your life in a way that honours their memories and help create a generation that does not fear young black men or police or tolerate injustice.

All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is be free
All we want to do is take the chains off
All we want to do is break the chains off.  

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About preetybird

Just another run-of-the-mill mysterious microcosm of magic, music, merriment and malevolence.
This entry was posted in hip hop, police brutality, race relations, rap and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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