Once, I had a weed dealer that would deliver to the house. Just another cat trying to make a living on the block. Once afternoon, she and I were talking in the vestibule of my apartment building and one point, I did or said something that made her laugh,
“You ain’t hood at all, are you?”
I looked at her and smiled,
“Nah, miss Lady. I’m an educated negro. I don’t need to be about this hood life,”
She smiled and let out a laugh, “yeah, I hear that. This block is too hot.”
Then keep your goofy ass off of it, I’m thinking. But she left before I could ask her the realest question I could ever think of: Man, what made you hit the block to begin with? To be honest, I never thought of it until now. It’s not just the thought of, ‘What makes a person wanna sell drugs?’ Duh, the answer is money. But the real question I’m asking is, as a black person, what drew you to look around and say to yourself, ‘It ain’t gonna get no better than this, so I guess I’ll trap’?
The answer, I guess, can come from being a product of your environment. Well, that’s strange because my dealer and I grew up less than a block away from each other and…I’ve never thought about selling drugs in my life (well, maybe as a fore thought when the struggle got too real but even then…). We could say that she had no guidance or that the guidance she did have, led her down the wrong road? She could have a Master’s and just got dealt a bad card in life; the only person who knows the answer is her.
Black people live a world all our own, which is a beautiful thing when one thinks about it. We’ve gone from 500 years of all-my-life-I-had-to-fight to having a black man running the very country that we were brought to in bondage: look at that beautiful sight. But, let’s go back to the idea of being a product of our environment:
Think about a few things: black people were snatched from a completely different continent, shipped across thousands of miles of ocean…to pick fucking cotton, grow tobacco, sugar cane and rice. Now let’s think about this: the same people who brought us over also snatched away our language, our culture and told us, ‘you niggers will never even be considered human beings’. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know this story, but at the same times, there’s another story. Those same people, who, at the same time, had their culture ripped from their hands and took it upon themselves to remake and shape us into such a distinguishing people. We created our own culture, our own language, our own cuisine; we’ve given the world music that was never heard before: jazz, blues, rock-n-roll and Motown. We are forever looked to for inspiration in everything because we’re that swag.
Black people have stood the test of time, proving on more than one occasion, in numerous different ways that we are some of the most, if not the most, innovative, resourceful, creative and intelligent people on this planet. Here’s the thing, though: if we can create, innovate and teach, why do we chose the corner?
We rap and sing about the allure of fast cash, flashy cars and selling dope; but hold up…who told you that we all were like this, want to be like this?
”Ain’t nobody saying you gotta be like that!” you might be shouting at the page, but let me ask you this: why are we?
Granted, there is no blueprint out yet that I know of that tells blacks how to act, but I do know that just because when we decide to get an education or don’t run the streets, we’re ‘lame’; once upon a time, getting an education was the best damn thing a black person could do. Oh, my God, you’re going to college! Baby, go and get that money! Why? Because we were never meant to have it, we were never meant to be considered intelligent; we were never supposed to leave the plantation. Yet, when the opportunity arises, how many of us will jump at the thought of going to school? Because an education equals money: the more education you have, the more you can make, right? The math is that damn simple. But instead of doing big things with reading, writing and arithmetic, we’ve traded it in for bombs of dope, bullets and handcuffs. That’s one hell of a step back.
Don’t get me wrong, there are more young blacks out in this world who are starting to realize that hood life is not the life that they want. They are starting to see that an education is the key to closing this Pandora’s Box of stereotypes that’s been hanging over us for all these years: lazy, violent and ignorant. Lazy…violent…and ignorant: three words that have been used to describe us for decades. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be damned if anyone associate me with any of those words and I firmly believe that many share my sentiment.
Am I saying that we need to stop rapping and listening to these tracks that talk about trap life? I’m not telling anyone that they can’t make their money, but since when is trapping the only way for blacks to make money? You know, for as creative as we can be, as determined as we are and as stubborn as black folks can get, being seen in such a light must be sickening and frightening that we push such an image out onto the world; the image we pushed out onto the world. Lemme tell you story:
I once went to a college in southern Illinois. The school was predominantly white and truth is, I didn’t give a rat’s because I understand that diversity doesn’t sit everywhere and frankly, I just wanted to get away from home. It wasn’t until I met this white girl who lived on the same floor as I did in the dorm. We were cool; she wasn’t troublesome or anything. She listened to rap strictly; Gucci Mane was her shit. Nevertheless, she didn’t bother me. One afternoon, she’s taking me to pick something up from a store near the school, having no car of my own. A song on the radio came on and I just happened to know the lyrics, because, shit, I’ll listen to anything once. But it was what she said to me that made my brain do a 360. And I quote, “Are you sure you’re not supposed to white and I’m not supposed to be black?”
Yeah, that’s some ignorant shit to hear, especially when you’re sitting in the car with an ear infection. Instead of getting upset, I merely told her that it was music and you can listen to whatever makes you happy. But it wasn’t the music. It was the fact that what she knew of black people came from the shit that she was listening to and watching. Granted, these white kids grew up on farms or on places void of diversity, but what they knew of blacks was what they saw on TV or heard on the radio. I’m not giving them benefit of the doubt, either, so don’t think I didn’t check that girl later when my ear cleared up!
Now, this young woman thought that all black people listened to rap music, that’s number one. Number two: she was willing to believe that any black person who stepped away from that hood mentality was some sort of weird fascination and, oh, they speaks so well bullshit. We can argue that it’s whites who are still holding onto that image, but where the hell else would they be getting it? Who else is glorifying sex, murder and mayhem as hard as we are? Who is telling kids and young adults that it’s lame to have dreams that involve graduating college, instead, why not party at the club, pop a Molly and run with the thugs on the block? Don’t worry, the class will wait…
Now, I do understand that the image sells the records. Again, I’m not stopping anyone from making money, but the question still remains: why is this the image that we continue to feed on a daily basis? Not one black person can say that they have never been on the bus, in a car or what have you, and seen some shit that made them hang their heads. The words are almost always the same: Now, why they gotta go and do this? See, this is why folks can’t have shit…why they always think we act like this. It’s this image that black people have all seen and the reaction is to hang their head and just ponder…why we gotta act like this? It’s not a judgment, but an honest question that every black person has asked.
It’s not that we don’t know how to act; indeed we do. Hell, we are some of the most dignified people around. Let’s ask ourselves a quick question: If that’s not who you are or not what you want to be, why do we continue to look at this image as the shit to be? Granted, if you live that trap life, do what you do. But, I’m not talking about you specifically; I’m looking around and asking why we make our own shake their heads in shame?
When we see young men and women glorifying this behavior, it makes us cringe a little bit because we all fear what the new generation is going to do when they come to bat and it’s their turn to show the world what we’re capable of. Not to say that this upcoming generation is lacking education, passion or dignity; not at all. It’s merely holding up the question of: Are they going to break that mold and reshape how we’re seen? Every generation brings something new to the table and it will be very interesting to see what the young ones will add to the pot.
As it stands right now, they seem to be doing fine; we have more young men and women gravitating towards education and realizing at earlier ages that the streets isn’t where they wanna be. But at the same time, there are still some who want that trap life. And the strange thing about that is, we know what the trap life brings. Yeah, yeah, you get the money, the attention from the opposite sex; yeah, yeah, you get to get the flash and glitz. But at some point, you know you’re gonna get picked up by the police. You know that you can’t do shit with a felony drug charge on your record, thus, keeping you in the game because you’re disenfranchised; you can’t get a loan for school, housing, or a well-paying job because that background check…the Domino Effect is real.
Each time I think of this, it almost makes me want to pull aside a drug dealer and ask: “Man, if you know what the real result of this is…is it really all worth it?” Yes, there are socioeconomic factors that can lead to a person doing what they do. Some can’t sit and struggle; that’s understandable. It’s also easy to simply say, ‘I wanted the money.’ I get that but what I don’t get is: If we know, why do we continue to put ourselves in the line of fire that the system designed to fuck us up?
So, here we are: knowing that what we’re doing is going to land us in jail, we know that if we go to jail, it’s a wrap: no school, no job, no decent housing. We know the consequences to those actions…we know. It’s a like a little kid who knows they’re gonna get in trouble if they do something Momma said not to do. That same kid is probably gonna think that they don’t deserve a whooping when Momma catches them. Why did the kid do it? Watch him shrug his shoulders.
So right now, the answer as to why we feed the negative image remains to be answered. Yeah, yeah, we know why we trap; we know that that sells some of the most fire tracks we could record but does that mean that we have to promote that image within ourselves, knowing what we know will happen if we do this trap shit? We know how we’re going to be seen by the outside world the more we do this.
Instead of feeding the system that meant to oppress and suppress, why not starve the system instead of giving it fuel? Why should we continue to allow them to wrangle us in jail like cattle? And if that analogy hit a cord, it’s because we know how they see us, so why confirm the image? The system doesn’t care if we trap or not. The system isn’t designed to stop and go, ‘Hmm, I wonder why they do x, y, and z?’ The system is in place to have us fall and not get up. Falling already fucks up your day, think about breaking both of your legs in the process.
Maybe that is why they call it Trapping to begin with; the idea that it’s a trap for us to fall into? Okay, that’s an easy assumption to make, but that still opens the door to ask: If we know it’s a trap, why do we fall for it? I’m not saying this is our entire fault, but too many rappers have come out on tracks and off, saying that that life isn’t the life to have; none of them advocated it. None of them advocate jail; yeah, they rap about it, but use caution because a lot of it is a warning.
Rapper T.I. has a song called Da Dopeman, where at the end of track, he openly states that the trap life is a dead-end street that ends with jail or death. Granted, the song paints a picture of a young man who saw no other option, which is fine, but in the end, that choice led to the very thing that black people fear the most. Black people hate the thought of jail; it’s almost worse than death because none of us want to go through the system’s revolving door. But it happens, unfortunately, yet at the same time, could it have been avoided? Of course, but why should that even be a question?
The real question, overall, is: Why do we glorify this image of players, pushas, pimps, ratchet and the like? If this isn’t who we are, then what should we be? Who are we? Think about the time, when, as children, we were asked, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Eyes would light up and we would be so quick to say, “I’m gonna be a fireman!”, “I’m gonna be a doctor!”, “I’m gonna open a business!” And it was never ‘I wanna be’, it was ‘I’m gonna be’, when we gave the answer, like we were speaking it into existence. Such a passion, that we already had our futures planned in our small minds.
Take that same question now and ask ourselves: What do we want to be? Fuck how the world sees us, we’re gonna do our thing one way or another. Fuck the system because we’ve proved that we can take that down without a second thought. So if we can take the system apart, if we can demand civil rights, a competitive education, to not be seen as ¼ of a man, why are we still struggling with ourselves like this? Why are we still making our own turn their noses up and say things like, “See, this is why we can’t have shit”?
Black people, when we put our minds to it, can be extremely hard acts to follow; we go hard as hell when we get started, regardless of the subject in front of us. And that type of intelligence is awesome to watch and we should remind ourselves of it more. Not to say that we don’t remind ourselves how great we are; we call each other Queen and King all the time to remind us of that greatness but it’s one thing to remind ourselves, it’s another to proactively own up to it.
Am I telling people to stop trapping and get an education? I’m not telling anyone to do anything. I’m not standing on a soapbox, waving a baton, commanding the black community to ‘get their shit together’; our shit is together, it’s just that we have this weird P.R. problem that we can’t seem to shake. And in all honesty, we don’t quite know how to fix it. Is it really education? It is really because of a fucked up home life? It is the system? The cause doesn’t matter, really. What matters is: Why do we do the things that lead to this negative image, knowing what we know about the results?
Let’s take it back to the question of, why do little kids still fuck around and do what their parents tell them not to? We can compare notes and say, ‘well, maybe they didn’t think they would get caught?’ ‘Maybe the kid thought Momma would forget she said not to do that’ ‘…hell, maybe the kid just didn’t give a fuck?’ That would be interesting, if the kid didn’t care, knowing that they would be in trouble. No one wants to get into trouble, especially not with Momma. So, that’s like saying the kid wanted to get into trouble, right? Nah, the kid wanted the chocolate. But was that Hershey bar really worth the ass whooping? Not to mention Momma took the chocolate and threw it out.
So, we trap…we get the money…we get caught and now, we have no money. We can’t get jobs, we can’t get to live in the nicer neighborhoods and we’re trapped in a world where we get pinpointed by the police; we’re left kicking ourselves in the end.
But, for what?