Trying to be hip I only wear skinny neck ties. Along with my mod suits and tight pants, it is the physical manifestation of my desire to stay relevant, at least fashion-wise. It is a losing battle but that is the story for another day. The New York Times has a different affectation. The Old Gray Lady does her hipster-best to cover Rap as coolly as say The Source or Rolling Stone.
For instance, an article by Jon Carmanica in the Thursday January 17th edition focuses on the latest Rap rage, a man known as ‘ASAP Rocky.’ He is a “stylistic admixture supreme,” writes Carmanica. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds cool.
Here is the problem with artists like ASAP Rocky.
In the context of the current impassioned national discussion on gun violence, there he is on the front page of The Arts section posing in front of an AK-47 assault weapon. Like the late Tupac, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent and most of the genre’s artists, ASAP is attempting to project the image of, “Don’t mess with me because I’m a gangsta.” And shooting, getting shot at, and especially surviving a gun shot wound is how you get street credibility in RAP. But at what point do the Rap tycoons recognize just how unhelpful their prevailing ethos is to their own communities?
A forceful argument can be made that the way brutal violence is depicted in music videos, TV shows and film contributes generally to violence in real-life. But nowhere in media is the message as specific and relentless as it is in RAP, where gun violence is constantly glorified and almost never condemned. In RAP bad is good and nothing is badder than gun violence.
So what are the consequences of promoting gansta-style gun-toting? I don’t know; which is why I applaud the president’s executive order directing the Centers for Disease Control to probe the relationship. “We don’t benefit from ignorance” Mr. Obama said during his stirring speech calling on Congress to take action this week. “We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”
I do know some deeply disturbing facts that no one can deny.
-In 2012 in New York City 96% of all shooting victims were black or Latino according to the NYPD.
-In 2012, 97% of all shooting suspects in the city were black or Latino.
-African-American males between the ages of 15 to 19 are “nearly 5 times as likely as their white peers and more than twice as likely as their Hispanic peers…to be killed by firearms,” according to a 2009 Children’s Defense Fund report.
Who is rapping now?
In Chicago the situation is dire.
In 2012, there were 532 homicides in the Windy City. That is 127 more deaths than in the Afghanistan War over the same period. 75% of the Chicago land killers and 75% of the murder victims were black. Put another way, black youngsters are slaughtering black youngsters far more effectively than al Qaeda or the Taliban are killing Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
And still, they rap the praises of the urban gunslingers. Instead, the grieving parents of dead Chicago teens should invite the high rolling rappers to the funerals of their dead kids.
In the context of the president’s big push to reduce gun violence, he can expect support from Latinos on both sides of the political aisle. A November 2011 Mayors Against Illegal Guns survey found that 69% of Hispanic voters support restrictions on the sale of high-capacity weapons, while an overwhelming 86% favor criminal background checks for all gun sales. And in terms of the 2d Amendment and the much debated Right to Keep and Bear Arms, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey only 29% of Latinos believe it is more important to protect unlimited gun ownership over gun control.
Aside from the Presidential Inauguration, on Monday January 21st we commemorate Martin Luther King Day. Fifty years after hundreds of thousands flocked to Washington to hear the civil rights pioneer proclaim his Dream, the president should call on this nation to put down its heavy weapons and curb gun violence. And he must make special specific mention of the urgent need for people of color to stop killing each other whatever the lyrics say.
Geraldo Rivera is currently host of "Geraldo at Large" on Fox News Channel (FNC), which is also nationally syndicated by Twentieth Television. Rivera recently celebrated 40 years in journalism.