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Gun Violence In America: Don't Blame The Victims — That Means Rappers Too

The recent shooting of Takeoff, a rapper, is another sad incident of gun crime in the U.S. But those blaming hip hop culture for contributing to gun violence ignore that rappers themselves are also victims. And the real point is that in today's America, nobody is safe from gun violence.

Gun Violence In America: Don't Blame The Victims — That Means Rappers Too

Fans wait outside State Farm Arena in Atlanta to attend the memorial service for Migos rapper Takeoff on Nov. 11

A.D. Carson

Add the name of Takeoff, a member of the popular rap trio Migos, to the ever-growing list of rappers, recent and past, tragically and violently killed.

The initial reaction to the shooting to death of Takeoff, born Kirsnick Ball, on Nov. 1, was to blame rap music and hip hop culture. People who engaged in this kind of scapegoating argue that the violence and despairing hopelessness in the music are the cause of so many rappers dying.

Even within hip hop culture, the continued violent tragedies have led some artists, like Jim Jones and Fat Joe, to go so far as to claim that rap is the most dangerous profession and rappers are an endangered species. It’s troubling. As Lupe Fiasco raps in “On Faux Nem,” “Rappers die too much.”

The plague of U.S. gun violence

But as a rap artist and scholar, I always feel compelled to push back on the notion that the plague of U.S. gun violence is unique to hip hop culture or rap music. As a professor at the University of Virginia, I live in Charlottesville, a place that has recently been besieged by gun violence.

Like many places across the country, the city has seen an increase in shootings, and on the night of Nov. 13, 2022, the university campus was locked down for 12 hours, with students, faculty and community members sheltering in place as police searched for a gunman who shot five people, killing three.

During the lockdown and for days afterward, I endlessly scrolled social media for updates. My phone incessantly chirped from text messages and the university’s emergency notifications.

Gun violence is everywhere, all the time, and as unpredictable as it is predictable

I found myself frantically engaging in a ritual too familiar to far too many Americans of reading the texts and alerts and scrolling my phone for news. Part of this ritual, too, was sending students a message to let them know I’m available to talk or listen or try to answer questions. I shared the numbers and links of the professional counseling services offered by the university.

The lockdown was lifted Nov. 14, shortly after police arrested the suspect in the campus shootings. On the same day, another man was arrested in Charlottesville for “concerning and threatening social media posts” against the university. The man, a convicted felon, was arrested on several weapons charges and possession of a controlled substance.

Nipsey Hussle was killed in front of his Los Angeles clothing store in 2019

Ringo Chiu/ZUMA

Blaming the victims

Violence is the American pastime. Gun violence is everywhere, all the time, and as unpredictable as it is predictable. We Americans anywhere, including at the University of Virginia, should not be surprised that it happens here so often. But if we’re surprised, it’s only because we haven’t been paying attention. According to the most recent statistics, the U.S. homicide rate in 2020 was over seven times greater than those of other industrialized economies, and guns accounted for 80% of those homicides.

But when gun violence happens to rappers, it’s as if people believe they can’t be victims, too. After each of the recent fatal shootings of rappers, the conversation has predictably veered into blaming the victim.

Some said 30-year-old Rakim Hasheem Allen, professionally known as PnB Rock, should not have been wearing his jewelry in the Los Angeles restaurant where he was robbed and killed in 2022.

Apparently, Adolph Thornton, Jr., 36, whose stage name was Young Dolph, should have known better than to go back to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, which had 346 killings in 2021, a record number.

Some believed the 2020 killing of 20-year-old Brooklyn drill rapper Pop Smoke, whose legal name was Bashar Jackson, was a product of him accidentally divulging too much information on social media.

Some thought Nipsey Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, who was 33 at the time of his death, was lax on taking adequate security measures, which led to his being shot and killed in front of his Los Angeles clothing store in 2019.

All of America is living with the normalization of gun violence

Even after the horrific shooting of 27-year-old Megan Pete, professionally known as Megan Thee Stallion, who survived the incident, the casual condemnation of her – the victim – has clouded public conversation.

On Twitter, she took rappers to task for using her violent assault for attention. She implored them to stop using her shooting “for clout.”

Specifically, on his new album, “Her Loss,” Drake insinuates that she lied about the incident, rapping, “This b–ch lie ‘bout getting shots but she still a stallion.”

Unable to escape gun violence

Regardless of their social environments or criminal backgrounds, all of these young rappers, 28-year-old Takeoff included, were victims of a common American fate – gunfire.

In the days before Takeoff was killed, there were nine mass shootings in the U.S.. One of those incidents during the Halloween weekend was a drive-by shooting near a Chicago park where children were trick-or-treating.

Blaming the violence that occurs on rap musicians relies on a circular logic: rap is to blame because the person who was shot or murdered was a rapper.

All of America is living with the normalization of gun violence. That doesn’t stop politicians from attempting to tie events like the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, or the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, to rap. You can’t escape gun violence in America no matter your profession or where you hang out. You can’t escape it in school. You can’t escape it in church. You can’t escape it in a synagogue.

You can’t escape it in a park. You can’t escape it in a grocery store. Or even at the nation’s Capitol building. Wherever you go in America, even on campuses like the University of Virginia, you might be a victim of gun violence.

Gun violence casts a perpetual shadow over the U.S., like the star-spangled banner flying high in the sky. It should be a reminder that the victims of these tragedies, including rappers whose lives are taken, are also threaded into the fabric of America.

A.D. Carson, Assistant Professor of Hip-Hop, University of Virginia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Society

To Tackle Hunger, Brazil Needs To Tackle Racism First

The fight against hunger should be a top priority in Brazil — provided it's addressed as a whole. And to do that, the country needs to face its structural racism issues, an issue newly-reelected President Lula da Silva vowed to tackle.

Photo of a man carrying food packages as residents of a favela in Santa Cruz, Brazil, receive aid.

Residents of a favela in Santa Cruz, Brazil, receive food packages.

Jones Manoel and Tiago Paraíba

It’s 2023, and over half of Brazil’s population is impacted by a hunger crisis. That is the shocking news from the Brazilian Research Network on Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security (PENSSAN).

After making strides in the first part of the 21st century, by 2020, hunger in Brazil had returned to 2004 levels. But now the problem is even worse. According to PENSSAN, 125 million Brazilians, or 58% of the country, face food insecurity, defined in various stages of severity by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, with technical “hunger” being the most severe. The number of Brazilians facing hunger has jumped from 9% to 15%, a return to 1994 levels, which corresponds to 33 million Brazilians.

This stunning step backwards has occurred in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic is not solely to blame. An economic crisis, lack of agrarian reform, inflationary effects on the cost of food, and a systematic dismantling of public policy to assist poor families have combined to make a bad situation worse. In Brazil, already one of the most unequal countries in the world, that has meant that in the past two years an additional 14 million people have found themselves dealing with hunger on a daily basis.

In the 1940s, the doctor and anti-hunger activist Josué de Castro called Brazil “a country of the geography of hunger.” In Brazilian history — from the colonial period to the development of capitalism and the formation of the Republic — high prices, deprivation, a lack of access to basic rights, and hunger have been present in the daily lives of working people. Concentration of land-ownership and wealth in the hands of a few have marked Brazil’s history.

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