Rapper Lil Boosie, whose real name is Torence Hatch, appears at a news conference in New Orleans, March 10, 2014. (Bill Haber/ Associated Press)
Before I jump into my critique of black folks' celebration of rapper Lil Boosie's release from prison last Wednesday, I'll share my opinion on popular criticisms and stereotypes of black people. The criticisms include, but are not limited to: sagging pants, materialism, loud music, irresponsible parenting, littering, destruction of property, promiscuity, illiteracy and a propensity for criminal behavior and violence. Let's go.
According to dominant culture, there have always been issues with descendants of African slaves: Lips too big, nose too wide, skin too black, hair too nappy, music too devilish, pants worn too far below the waist. Some form of internal lacking on the part of blacks, an inarticulable aspect of our essence, always prevents us from being viewed as human beings, always. The same curious mechanism prevents an unarmed black person, fatally shot by police or a white person, to be viewed as a murder victim. It's a total mystery.
Some critics like to blame the N-word (Nigga) for black peoples' second class citizenry. The same people suggest that if black folks stop saying the word "nigga," they'll stop being treated like "niggers." To this notion I say, the only people who want the N-word to disappear are white liberals who feel guilty that the conditions which created the word still exist, and those wishing to appease them.
Critics also bring up self-determination. This is laughable. If every black person in the U.S. suddenly earned a PhD, do you think the white male establishment would simply hand over its respect and the wealth of the nation to them? Or, is it more likely that new restrictions and societal roadblocks would be erected?
This is why I tell young black men to sag their pants down to their ankles if they like, and to be as loud as they want. I tell them, remain who you are because no matter how much you assimilate, you will not be viewed as a human being by those wishing to view you otherwise. History as my witness.
Free Lil Boosie
My older sister is snapping her fingers to the beat, cognac swishing around in the pint she's holding, a lit blunt dangles from her burnt lips -- she is in a trance dancing to Lil Boosie's "Mind of a Maniac." Lil Boosie, born Torrence Hatch, is a Baton Rouge rapper with rough edges. He raps about surviving on the impoverished streets of Louisiana, battles with the police, crime, murder and money. He is a mouthpiece for many who live the life he raps about -- the life he also lives.
Boosie's criminal record makes his street credibility rock solid, with cases ranging from marijuana and gun possession, to first-degree murder. Boosie beat the murder rap.
Last Wednesday, social networks exploded with celebration upon Boosie's release from Angola prison where he served 2 years.
Some fans on Twitter even began referring to Boosie as a political prisoner, citing the prison industrial complex and systemic racism as the cause for the rapper's legal problems. This is where I step in.
Lil Boosie is a victim of a society that treats black people like a virus, like suspects, like cattle. Disenfranchised and enclosed in a community filled with police cameras, limited resources, drugs and guns, Boosie behaves the way he believes he has to in order to survive. With these realities in mind, it's understandable why countless fans relate to him.
Lil Boosie is not a political prisoner.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been wrongfully imprisoned for 32 years, spending 28.9 of them on Pennsylvania's death row. 15 of the 35 police officers involved in collecting evidence in Abu-Jamal's case went to jail for evidence-tampering. Mumia was tried by an overwhelmingly white jury and was a target of the FBI's COINTEL program due to his membership in the Black Panther Party. Mumia Abu-Jamal is currently imprisoned for promoting freedom and equality for all people. What was Boosie imprisoned for? What is Boosie's overall message to Black America?
The thing I find most detrimental about the "Free Boosie" campaign and the jubilation surrounding his subsequent release is not that a misguided black man is free, nor that he has unyielding support from fans, but that the system is winning -- we've become confused about who is qualified to lead us.