Will the "Critical Race Theory" Fight Lead to the End of Hip Hop?
"CRT" is currently the big bad evil guy of the conservative cinematic universe, with their efforts largely appearing as a bid to eradicate Black history and culture
D.L. Chandler | Guest Contributor
Critical Race Theory discussions are inescapable due to hollow utterances from conservative pundits, along with the yellow-bellied at large who believe it will somehow infiltrate minds and radicalize young students. What the lily-livered among this vocal contingent of critics forget is that CRT does not have the ability to further expose well-known truths regarding America’s sins. But this calculated pushback could have the detrimental effect of keeping Hip-Hop outside of the classroom and – and, perhaps, off the airwaves and away from the group of listeners the music is ultimately created by and for.
CRT is currently the big bad evil guy of the conservative cinematic universe, an ominous figure with a bejeweled five-finger gold-plated ring ready to snap the unaware into witnessing revelations of America’s dark history and the horrors done to people of color under the cover of a dwindling democracy.
In truth, critical race theory is none of those fantastical things you might see coming from an angered media figure or politician who believes this will be the end of “America the Great” as we know her. What can be easily researched and delivered in simple terms is that critical race theory is a scholarly, university-level examination of how systemic racism is part and parcel when it comes to American society.
Via critical race theory, scholars and activists take measured aim at how America’s rise not only begs investigation, but demands that it explains how social institutions inform race politics and wholesale systemic racism in America in modern times. If “Chicken Little” pundits were honest, CRT could be simplified as theories that depict how these institutions created clear lanes of advantages and disadvantages, with White people gaining the lion’s share.
CRT emerged int the ‘80s and ‘90s the by way of legal scholars such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, Derrick Bell, Cheryl Harris, Alan Freeman, Mari Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III, and Patricia J. Williams. This group theorized that racism is something all people of color regularly, particularly Black people, combat as American society forges on. Acknowledging this would cheapen the appearance of power some White people at the top of the educational and financial tiers currently wield, especially under the rule of law, which is how these social institutions have managed to thrive.
The concept of CRT began forming in the 1970s, and even earlier according to some. It isn’t meant to be a pathway to punishment for slavery, Jim Crow laws, zoning, and other factors. CRT theorists aren’t even calling White people themselves racist, but what they are saying is that social institutions are practicing an insidious brand of racism that could be lessened or even eliminated. Still, it will take the support of White people within these institutions willing to weather the glare.
Organized attacks from its critics grew stronger under former President Donald Trump’s haphazard reign in the White House. Those attacks are a quiet cousin of Trumpism albeit less plainspoken.
There are six states that have passed legislation and successfully banned any anti-racism instruction in the classroom; there are two states where those attempts have failed and nearly 20 states in all have plans to pass or are in the process of passing laws that ban anything that brushes the CRT orbit.
The Hip-Hop Connection
Hip-Hop music does not have a direct link to CRT. Historically, however, it has been an audio vehicle of dissecting the happenings among Black youth. Beyond the music, the culture of Hip-Hop commands a massive influence on fashion, language, expression, and other genres of music.
The late C. Delores Tucker became infamous in Hip-Hop circles as one of its many critics, especially of artists who created music under the so-called “gangta rap” banner. The late Tupac “2Pac” Shakur, Eminem, KRS-One, and more have fired lyrical jabs at Tucker’s anti-Hip-Hop stances.
In fairness, Tucker was correct then and it is remains true now that Hip-Hop has a misogyny problem. But just as it was back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, for all the acts that reveled in debauchery, there were dozens more who promoted messages of unity, hope, pride, and historical allegiance to the legacy of Black and brown people the world over.
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Tucker would recoil in horror to the over-the-top delivery of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “W.A.P.,” yet both women have shared with the world their intellectual depth and the capacity of being more than their sultry, brash images. Hip-Hop still offers a plethora of opportunity for educational bridge-building, and programs across the nation have plucked leaders and educators from that space to lead the charge.
Still: What happens when conservative media or politicians decide to shake their rusty pitchforks angrily at Hip-Hop culture? Would this art form that hallowed colleges and universities erected fields of study for face legislation meant to keep its presence out of classrooms?
Critical race theory is just one cog of a larger effort to spark a long-awaited and difficult conversation about systemic and institutional racism. But as true with any tough discussion, the other side of the debate is clarity if not an agreeable conclusion.
Hip-Hop culture dwells just outside the periphery of the tunnel-vision of conservative talking heads. What happens if anti-CRT sentiment spreads beyond classrooms and organizations? Will digital service providers find themselves in the crosshairs? Would Christian or straight-edge Hip-Hop acts get a pass?
As conservatives forge alliances across state lines against CRT, the collective finding merit in knocking Hip-Hop of its influential perch could grow in strength. But Hip-Hop is still evolving after nearly 50 years of existence.
Like CRT, Hip-Hop has been misunderstood, targeted, and conspired against. For the disciplines to withstand the onslaught of critique, it will come down to the ingenuity of the people who push the boundaries of thought and sound forward that will ensure their continued development and survival.