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Pop Culture

The Curse of Thug Culture

I think things would be much better for Black people if thug culture would just disappear. Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn on the radio or TV or be in the presence of Black people without hearing the n-word (from other Black people)? Wouldn’t it be great to not see Black men looking like they are too stupid to dress themselves properly with their pants sagging showing their behinds? There is something wrong with popular Black culture today. It has been co-opted by a thug loving, prison loving, crime glorifying, education shunning, and lawless underclass (underclass not poor) that has no intention of fitting in with society or advancing the lives of Black people. The last point is highlighted because it is the most important point. Thug culture is a style of music, fashion, so-called “art”, and an attitude that does NOTHING to advance the lives of anyone who consumes it. It only makes the producers of this music, fashion, and art rich. Many of the thug culture stars are ex-cons or men who have publicly acknowledged committing crimes. Much of their music and films are about crime, admiring criminals, and dressing, speaking, and acting in ways similar to prison inmates. They call showing the world their reality.


Let me give you an example for comparison. There are some White folks who are obsessed with serial killers. They read about serial killers, watch documentaries, buy paraphernalia, and even write to them in prison. But you won’t find many White folks or academics saying “that’s just their way of showing their outrage with the system”, or “that’s their way of expressing themselves”, and “it’s just entertainment”. Most people will think the mentioned behaviour is bizarre, unhealthy, and may mean that the obsessed person condones murder or may want to murder someone.

Here is another example. There are some White people who are into goth culture. They dress in Black, paint their skin white, get piercings, dye their hair black and unusual colours, they dress is unusual ways, wear Black lipstick, make and listen to music and poetry about death and depressing things etc. Goth culture involves a style of music, fashion, art, and an attitude just like thug culture. But do most White people think it’s “normal” and are there academics and influential community leaders promoting and defending the culture? Not that I’ve noticed (other than people who support freedom or speech, expression, fashion, and art in general terms). But no one will say that if you don’t like goth culture then you hate yourself, you are a sell-out, and you need to embrace it. Most parents don’t think it’s healthy and question if there is something wrong that made their children turn to that culture.

Here’s one more example. When rock and roll first emerged it was rejected by many in society. It was called the devil’s music and was associated with sex, drugs, and crime in the minds of people who disliked it. One can not deny that some of the music was about sex and drugs and did promote acceptance of those things. Rock also involved fashion, forms of art, and an attitude. But was most rock music about crime? Was it about ex-cons promoting their lifestyle? It was definitely rebellious but no one would say that rock music is mostly about criminals and the underclass. Rock culture was associated with young people but older people were not pressured to like it. If someone disliked rock music they were not called “un-White”, self-hating, or sellouts. White people are also allowed to freely dislike heavy metal, speed metal (scary), opera, country music, techno, disco and whatever music and White culture they want without being called self-hating or being pressured to like it.

The point of these examples is the the Black “community’s” treatment of thug culture is very strange when compared to White people and to other cultures as well. Hip hop culture didn’t start until the 1980s so it is a recent cultural addition. So why are people acting like hip hop and thug culture are such an important expression of Blackness? Are rock music or goth culture important aspects of being White? No. One might say that older forms of art and expression are more relevant (e.g., classical music). Music like calypso, reggae, and traditional Latin and Asian music are regarded more highly than modern, synthesized pop music. Also, classical music, calypso, reggae, and traditional music doesn’t focus on crime or the underclass. But that isn’t the case with Black folks.

Our problem is that thug culture is being associated too closely with average, mainstream Black culture instead of just a small aspect of the culture. It’s a problem when that thug culture is so strongly associated with crime when Black people are having so many problems with high crime rates and being thought of as criminals. It’s a problem when your rejection of thug life is seen as self-hating and a rejection of being Black instead of just a rejection of a particular lifestyle, music, fashion, and art. Black people should have the freedom to choose whatever culture they want that advances their minds and spirits…I don’t think thug culture can provide this advancement. I think it’s time for thug culture to be pushed outside of the mainstream and listening to it should be cause of parent’s concern. It’s time to stop acting like the culture is harmless and doesn’t imply anything about the mental state of the people who listen to it. There is something wrong with Black people who like to use the n-word and listen to it in their music. There is something wrong with women who listen to music that is misogynist and made by ex-pimps (e.g., Ice T), child abusers (e.g., R. Kelly), former drug dealers (Jay Z), and gang members (Snoop Dog) and men who at one point made the streets unsafe. There is something wrong with people complaining about the Prison Industrial Complex yet dressing and acting like they are a part of it. There is something wrong with feeling threatened on the street and then listening to the very people who are threatening your safety. It is not normal and it is not healthy.

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