Having to put the words, Kanye West, White Supremacy and Gentrification in the same sentence might have seemed random a couple years ago but in 2018 anything is possible. Our politically correct culture continues to fade away with each new Trump headline and political parties haven’t felt this divided and divisive since the days of separate water fountains and amendments created to give minorities basic human rights. Kanye wearing a Make America Great Again hat this past April was a throat punch to the culture with Ye fans alongside Hip Hop lovers still feeling the aftermath of one of the most vocal rappers trading in his backpack raps for designer lines about the woes of “free thinkers”. Now when I mention “the culture” some might think I mean pop culture or celebrity culture because Mr. West has strived to be the most discussed celebrity on the planet for better or worse but I actually mean Hip Hop culture. The culture that stems from Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and people of color wanting to create art from their often times harsh realities.
Hip Hop is now Pop culture and the mainstream world from different backgrounds are listening to Kendrick Lamar, Migos and Cardi B which sounds like a dope step towards inclusion until the term gentrification comes up. According to dictionary.com, gentrification can be the process of conforming to an upper or middle-class lifestyle or making a product, activity, etc. appealing to those with more affluent tastes. Middle to upper-class white people have been cherry picking what they want to take from other cultures to make it fit into their lives since Christopher Columbus “discovered” America and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Major cities become less diverse when POC can’t afford the rising rent in their own neighborhoods. High rise apartments and Starbucks coffee shops inevitably take their place. Cultural fashion like cornrows, Timberlands and Air Force Ones become trendy ways to look edgy and most of the people earning millions off of streetwear culture aren’t directly related to the brands and lifestyles that paved the way for the Yeezys of today.
More recently the OK sign has been connected to white supremacy with a rise of popularity among Trump supporters (coincidence?) and the segment of the population that prefer the days of segregation and the economy growing from world wars and factory work. While white supremacy and the reappropriation of the OK symbol is obviously horrible and a reminder that our society still has a long way to go when it comes to equality among gender, race, social class and sexuality, an interesting angle in all this neo-nazi activity is the similarities this symbol has to the Bloods gang sign. The Bloods were formed back in the 1960s in Los Angeles, California and looking past the criminal behavior of gangs, members join them in search of protection. Whether it be the danger of the streets, opposing gangs or just the systematic oppression of poor minorities, there’s a reason why gang culture is still thriving and even being celebrated in mainstream culture.
We can rap-a-long to YG songs and rock bandanas at music festivals but can’t find a better solution for criminal reform and changing the school-to-prison pipeline that’s trapped so many young minorities that can’t see a future beyond the harsh realities that they’re currently facing. Poverty stricken areas or areas with concentrated levels of violence can be cleaned up so they can transform into the next trendy area to live but can’t be improved for the original residents that lived there. Gentrification is wiping the culture and character away from so many places and we’re going to reach point where minorities will need to revolt to be felt, seen and heard. America has definitely evolved past a very toxic culture of enslaving others but it’s time to make this country great for everyone. Not just the people who can afford this country’s luxuries.
So how do we do that? We treat America’s issues like an AA meeting and admit we have a problem. Admit that we have issues with racism, classism and even fascism to a certain extent and work to eradicate those problems. The politicians we put in office shouldn’t have connections and support from hate groups and they should be able to understand to keep a society stable we can’t focus solely on our own issues. Global problems impact our country as well and putting ourselves in a bubble won’t free us from the turmoil other human beings create. If seeking solutions for the future is too much work, my last tip would be to look at the past. Truly reflect on the history of this country and remember that history repeats itself when it isn’t addressed and resolved. Let’s stop living in reverse.
Article By: Marcel “The Messenger” Jeremiah