The Crack Epidemic: How Will I Make It in Harlem? (Hood Series)


bigl43In the Post-Civil Rights Era, African-Americans are said to be progressing in society; institutional racism is written off as a sad social reality of the past, but now it is claimed that a window of opportunity is available for blacks. During Dr. Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month, Americans reminisce over how racist America used to be as King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech is routinely read and heard.  Society then reflects upon prominent African-American figures such as Barack Obama, and thinks to themselves how far America has come. In a song entitled “How Will I Make It?” Lamont Colemon gives narratives that profoundly challenge the sociological myth of black progress in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Coleman, who went by the name Big L, was not a politically conscious rapper like Tupac Shakur (who routinely drew links between capitalism and the plight of black Americans) or Nas (who constantly discusses fratricidal ghetto life and routinely draws links to the roots of institutional racism). As such, Coleman is free of all of the biases that may come from a formal study of Critical Race Theory and thus provides an organic insight on the status of black youth that disrupts the myth of steady progress.

Lamont Coleman in describing his upbringing states that, “I’m only at the age of 10 and life already seems to me like it’s heading for a dead end. Cause my Moms be smoking mad crack. My dad went out for a fast streetstruck34snack and never brought his a** back.” Coleman grew up fatherless and with a mother who was addicted to crack; the crack epidemic led to an uprising in violent crime as unemployed black youth who were discriminated against in the job market resorted to selling the cost-efficient cocaine derivative to move up the social economic ladder. This era produced an entire generation of neglected children subjected to pre-natal cocaine exposure (often referred to in the streets as “crack babies”), mass incarceration, and social decay in the black community. For Coleman in particular, at only ten years old, he states that, “Nobody knows how I feel, it’s quite ill Cause I had to steal to fill my stomach with a nice meal.” Reading this, one would think he grew up in a third world country, but in reality he was growing up in the heart of America. Heading into his teenage years, Coleman states, “Now I’m at the age of 15, no more fun and games it’s time to get cream… Now every day I creep with the heat, ain’t nothing sweet, I rob for meat. If I don’t steal, I don’t eat.” In such economically oppressive social conditions, Coleman had to resort to crime merely for food. As he lives a life of crime for mere survival, he laments that he may end up in jail but that he is forced into such activities through economic necessity. Nonetheless, he makes a very revealing statement:

“Where I grew up it was a living hell. Then I started to realize – I’m better off in a prison cell. Now I can sleep, now I can eat.” Being born into yk54poverty in the street of Harlem and realizing that being in prison actually makes it easier to eat regular meals is a serious indictment of the socio-economic system of America in the Post-Civil Rights Era. One in three black males can be expected to be under the tutelage of the criminal justice system either through prison time or parole throughout their lives. As prisons become increasingly privatized, rich white CEOS have begun profiting from the mass-incarceration of black youth who are funneled into a life of crime due to the economic conditions that they live in. Eventually, Coleman, after carrying out a robbery, was convicted; however, upon getting out, he quickly finds himself in the same social situation

“It’s getting crazy hectic

Cause I’m broke and can’t get a job cause of my jail record

Before you know it, I was robbing them same ducks”

From growing up in a poor black household, Coleman’s criminal pursuits to begin with had nothing to do with wanting to choose a life a crime, but rather it materialized from economic necessity to survive. Upon leaving jail, Coleman quickly finds himself in the same social situation. Prisons are less about reform, and even after leaving jail there have been no job training programs to steer him in the right direction. Coleman states, ”Either I’mma go to jail or get murdered, but do I deserve it? All I tried to do was live the one life that I got but it seems like I can’t get a fair shot.” Coleman was never given a fair shot due to one basic fact: he was born black in a white supremacist system and, like so many other black youth, either felt he was going to be killed xewk23at a young age or go back to jail.

When it comes to black-on-black crime, the conservative media often attributes it to bad behavior, a lack of morals, or the influence of Hip-Hop. They call for self-responsibility and simply saying blacks need to will themselves into doing the “right” thing. In his song ”Street Struck,” Coleman advocates self-responsibility for black youth in an interesting manner, stating, ”Some of my peeps are still in the game sellin ‘caine. If that’s what you gotta do to maintain, go ‘head and do your thang. But with the cash profit make an investment. And try not to go to the grave like the rest went.” Essentially, he recognized the inevitability of black youth turning to the drug market for survival, but encourages them to use profits from drugs and to turn it into a legitimate enterprise.


Tbig4544he real question is: when will whites began to take responsibility for the unjust social system their forefathers created that has resulted in the drug economy being the only way for black youth to have basic needs? When will whites take responsibility for having created the unjust prison industrial complex, partaking in redlining, and the discriminatory loans that targeted blacks and led to the subprime mortgage crisis and causing a crisis in the black community. The calls for “self-responsibility” among blacks by whites is a way in which they can absolve themselves from having to challenge the white supremacist power structure that they continue to benefit from; essentially, blacks must exercise supreme levels of discipline and responsibility, as they pull themselves out the hood by their boot-straps. Such a discourse also neglects that fact that due to institutional racism, whites who partake in self-destructive behaviors (alcohol, drugs, etc.) are less likely to be harmed by it than blacks due to their extensive social safety network developed from institutional racism.

In the midst of oppression and white scapegoating, Coleman – with no formal study of sociological issues, critical race theory, etc. makes a profound statement:
“In the ghetto, all you can wish for is a better tomorrow. It ain’t getting no better, it’s only getting worse, word up.”

Effectively refuting the myth of black progress in the Post-Civil Rights Era, for black youth, the conditions are only becoming worse.






The Street Scriptures

The Street Scriptures

The vast majority of blacks across inner-cities find themselves born into violent, poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and everybody is struggling to make it out. Kids die young; crying mothers watch in horror as the carcasses of their dead sons, deformed by bullet holes, are hauled off. The face of desperation is illustrated on the face of disenfranchised youth who look to crime as the only way to have what others are given at birth: food, clothing, and shelter. Many don’t expect to live past eighteen years old. They live a life of brutality and profound misery; in the wealthiest nation on earth, they live in utter poverty. Hip-hop emerged within these impoverished social conditions and reveals vividly the plight facing these youth. Nas remarks, “Street scriptures for lost souls in the crossroads.” His one-time rival Jay-Z remarks, ”Never read the Qur’an or Islamic Scriptures, only Psalms I read was on the arms of my niggas.” In these oppressed neighborhoods, the music often conveys both the conditions of the people and the morals which come from the laws of the streets, not religious textbooks.

The album Illmatic served as a street scripture. Coming out in the year 1994, it combined profound lyricism with great vocabulary, a nasty flow, and stories conveying the realities of the streets. In “Represent,” Nas spits, ”Straight up shit is real and any day could be your last in the jungle. Get murdered on a humble, guns blast, niggas tumble. The corners is the hot spot, full of mad criminals… who don’t care, guzzling beers, we all stare.” The line, ”Anyday could be your last in the jungle” refers to the low life expectancy in the hood -many youth don’t see themselves living past 21. .  Nas further illustrates this with the line,” like “crews without guns are goners” demonstrating how difficult it is to survive without resorting to violence.  In the neighborhoods, the drug economy serves as the main source of employment due to the lack of job opportunities.  The hood is called the jungle because of the bewildered, sporadic nature of life there – gun fire, police brutality, and fist fights can occur at any time. There is no source of stability. “Guns blast, niggas tumble” refers to the dead bodies piling up from the various street conflicts. “The corners the hot spot, full of mad criminals who don’t care” is, of course, describing the mentality of the youth on the corner that live with no source of social mobility, causing their source of consciousness and ethics to dissolve.They can’t survive holding onto morals, so they simply don’t care who their violence or behavior affects.

98188-stashIn the classic intro to Stillmatic, Nas spits, “Stepped over dope fiends. Walking out the door, all of us poor. I learned the difference between the snitches, the real ones, and whose soft and the murderous hungriest crews, people jumping from roofs, shotguns pumpin, made it through my youth.” The hood produces many dope fiends – addicts to heroin- many turn to drugs as a coping mechanism for the pain and anguish they face every day in the hood. “All of us poor” refers to the ubiquitous nature of poverty among black youth living in these neighborhoods. Nas proceeds to distinguish between the various personality types he witnessed in the hood from the “snitches” to “the real ones.” Snitches are informants to the police who report drug dealing and crime activity – these individuals are not liked in the hood because their actions often result in youth being victimized by the prison industrial complex or police brutality. “The real ones” refers to the full-time gangsters who truly embody the laws of the streets; despite what was said earlier about “those who don’t care,” within intra-gangs (or the hood in general), attributes such loyalty and bravery are often promoted. The murderous crews Nas speaks of refers to various gangs who have entered into the drug economy seeking to protect their territory via the barrel of a gun.

In “My Block,” Tupac Shakur further elaborates on the social conditions in the hood. He begins saying, ”On my block, it never fails to be gunshots. Can’t explain a mother’s pain when her son drops.” In these neighborhoods, gunshots are not a rarity, but rather something to be expected. Further, Tupac goes on to say, “No rest forever weary. My eyes stay teary for all the brothers I buried in the cemetery. Shit is scary how black on black crime is legendary, but sometimes necessary.” In such impoverished living arrangements, though black on black crime is recognized, youth are pitted together as their only way to survive. Tupac makes this point when he states, “God help me cause I’m starving, can’t get a job. So I resort to violent robberies, my life is hard.” The chorus of the song simply states, ”hard times is all I see,” which demonstrates the ubiquitous nature of struggle that they are in. Then Tupac makes a very profound statement: “From the Start, I felt the racism cause I’m dark.” Nas makes a similar statement: “It seems like the darker you are, the bigger your problems.”

Though they have no degree in sociology, no knowledge of the scientific studies conducted on the correlation of skin color to social The Third World Inside of America: A Critical Look at the Southside of Chicago PT 1standings, nor have they have read a paper on the still prevalent nature of institutionalized racism (even in the age of Obama), they are largely aware of racism in our society because they are the ones who endure it. Indeed, all of the abhorrent conditions described in the street scriptures above are not the result of innate moral defiance within the people, rather, they are created by the legacy of Jim Crow and on-going institutionalized racism. In this society, which creates conditions in which crime is the only way to survive, the young black’s access to social mobility is severely hampered. These street scriptures spread awareness of the on-going legacy of Jim Crow and the systematic structural violence affecting black youth. By calling attention to these narratives, we can challenge the erroneous notion that the end of legal racism and the end of Jim Crow laws led to the end of “institutionalized racism” or real material benefit in the lives of African-Americans.

A Receipt for a Human Being: Ghetto Prisoners Rise!

The first peculiar institution aimed at defining, controlling and confining its black population was plantation slavery.  Afro-Americans are cognizant that their ancestors came to America not on the comfortable mayflower as pilgrims, but on tightly-packed ships as slaves.  While Americans of European descent can discuss their Irish, Scottish, or English heritage, Afro-Americans have been robbed of their heritage to be able to know what ethnic group in Africa they come from – whether the Yoruba, Ashanti, or Igbo, they can only speculate.   The Middle Passage and subsequent forced labor of Africans destroyed the kinship structure of Africans, thus current Afro-Americans have been deprived of detailed information denoting where their ancestors labored, who exactly their ancestors were, and who owned their ancestors.


rootsThe PBS Program Finding Your Roots hosted by Henry Louis Gates seeks to fulfill this void in black history.  In a recent episode, the Queens Bridge poet Nasir Jones is informed that his 3rd great grandmother Pocahontas was purchased for a mere $830 when she was fifteen years old.  Nasir Jones looks upon the receipt issued for his foremother, ponders it for a while, and with a sobering pain inside him laments, “That hurts.” He poses the rhetorical question, “A receipt for a human-being?” It is agonizing for him to fathom that his foremother was considered as a mere piece of property, but Nasir Jones presses on, although nothing could mentally prepare him for the next segment.


ghettoprisonersNasir Jones is shown a picture of a bearded man. Dr. Gates states, “This is the white man who owned your ancestor.”  With ache showcasing in his face expression, Nasir proclaims,” This is the face that my ancestors look at every day? The eyes they looked at. Now I am looking in their world. Now I can see where they walked, what they saw.”  Nasir Jones was able to attach names to faces evoking deep-reflection, though Pocahontas was eventually freed from plantation slavery, along with the masses of black people, centuries later. In a poem by Nasir Jones, he describes people who are ‘trapped in slums’ and are subsequently ‘headed for nothing but the state pen, where they cousins be waiting.’  He calls these people ‘ghetto prisoners’ and in the chorus he protests, “Ghetto Prisoners Rise! Rise! Rise Rise!”


nasbiglSuch a declarative plea from Nasir Jones hints that even in the Post-Plantation Slavery Era, there is a yearning for a type of freedom among black youth that was not solidified or secured in the emancipation proclamation or the Civil Rights Legislation; rather, his description denotes that a more structural and still-present structural system is in place, in which masses of America’s black population are confined to ghettos that are characterized by poor housing, education, and decrepit living conditions.   The purpose of the ghetto according to sociologist Wacquant is to function as a “device for caste control” dedicated to the “containment of lower class African-Americans.”  Nasir describes a social phenomenon, in which the avenues for social mobility are so obsolete that black ‘ghetto prisoners’ live a life that consists of drug trafficking and are subsequently funneled into the state penitentiary, as an ever-present and normalized living condition.


blackprisoner2Indeed, Nasir’s observations stemming from looking out of his project windows are supported by a statistical reality. One-third of African-American men who are in their twenties are either behind prison bars, on parole, probation or some tutelage of the prison system. Wacquant notes that, “The rate of incarceration for African-Americans has soared to astronomical levels unknown in any other society, not even the Soviet Union at the Zenith of the Gulag or South Africa during the acme of the violent struggles over Apartheid.”  Indeed, being killed at an early age or facing a lengthy prison sentence is a common social predicament for Ghetto Prisoners, whose incarceration rates are unparalleled in human history.   In the Post-Civil Rights era in which laws aimed at segregating blacks have been overturned, how does one explain this social reality?  It requires a comprehensive understanding of the various peculiar institutions that have existed in American history aimed at defining, confiding and controlling its black population.


The first peculiar institution that African-Americans experienced was plantation slavery, which Nas’ 3rd great grandmother Pocahontas lincolnendured. Plantation slavery was not ended in order benefit black people or to secure social and economic equality for blacks.  This is confirmed by the words of Abraham Lincoln who said, “If I could save The Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it,” as well as, “I will say, then, that I am not nor have ever been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races.” In reality, slavery was ended because it was no longer economically suitable; America had to compete with Europe and industrialize, and thus plantation slavery would end.

blackcodesAfter the end of plantation slavery with the rise of industrialization, in the south the next peculiar institution would be Black Codes and a system of Jim Crow’s laws.  Such laws aimed to keep Afro-Americans confined and excluded them from all social and political institution.  Many blacks would find themselves back on plantations to partake in sharecropping under a system of debt peonage, a de facto system of slavery.  Those who took jobs in mining and industry would be subjected to the most gruesome and dangerous of working conditions.  During this peculiar institution, segregation would be ever-present in every facet of American life and lynching and violence towards black people would be frequent.


neroesJim Crow’s laws mandating segregation by the law largely came to an end in 1965, though de jure segregation would remain and continue to remain in the present.  Segregation has seeped so fully into American political institutions that it was able to continue even without explicit laws.  In every area of American society, from employment opportunities and housing opportunities, to educational opportunities, segregation is the norm.  During the great migration Afro-Americans would en-masse come to the North, where they would still endure segregation and often violence.  Yet blacks would still serve a positive economic function; in northern areas blacks would be utilized as a source for cheap labor in factories and reservoir for cheap labor for the factories of the city.


queensbridgeThe hyper-imprisonment of blacks is not a product of the enduring legacy of political disenfranchisement and segregation from the peculiar institution of Jim Crow as some have theorized; rather, it is a functioning of a current and systemic racialized peculiar institution that operates even with a black President and the removal of Jim Crow’s Laws.  The era of globalization gave birth to a new peculiar institution known as the hyper-ghetto – jobs were outsourced overseas, and the economy of the metropolis transitioned from manufacturing to knowledge-based services.  As a result, Wacquant notes that, “for the first time in American history, the African American was no longer needed in the economic system of the metropolis.”  Wacquant further highlights that the system in place has “consign[ed] the vast majority of uneducated blacks to economic redundancy.”


For black prison inmates, the vast majorit yearned less than one thousand dollars a month and grew up in a single parent household that jungle received welfare, and a significant portion were unemployed when arrested.  But the ‘black question’ for the United States government is what is to be done with this disposable ghetto population who inevitably turn to drug-trafficking and crime and function as a ‘menace to society’?  This is where the prison system comes into place; according to Wacquant it functions as “a human warehouse wherein are discarded those segments of urban society deemed to disreputable, derelict, and dangerous.”  Furthermore the ghetto contains large cases of police containment and brutality; large mechanisms to monitor the populations, as even the school-systems in black communities are over- policed.  In effect, the Ghetto exists as a peculiar institution to direct its black inhabitants to prison.


prisionPoet Big L, a ghetto prisoner of Harlem, describes his childhood upbringing as a chaotic reality characterized by a lack of food, clothing, and adequate shelter.  The crack epidemic ravished his entire community and his parents were non-functioning. He sees his life heading towards a complete ‘dead end’; he partakes in drug trafficking as a means to survive, yet, he eventually recognizes prison life as something inevitable and even preferable to street life, “Where I grew up it was a living hell. When I started to realize – I’m better off in a prison cell.”  After partaking in a robbery he is given a jail sentence, but even after his sentence was over and he is back on the streets, he makes efforts to pull himself up ‘by the bootstraps’ – yet he eventually finds himself in the same predicament, “Either I’ma go back to jail or get murdered, but do I deserve it? All I tried to do was live the one life that I got.  But it seems like I can’t get a fair shot.”

The reason why Big L could not receive a fair shot is because while the oppression of black people has transitioned and altered as America hasdrugwarundergone economic changes, the fundamental reality of a white over black hierarchy has not.  The current mass imprisonment of black youth exists then in Wacquant’s analysis as a “recruiting of the American state to suit the requirements of neo-liberalism.” Henceforth Nasir Jones raises the fundamental question in Ghetto Prisoners,” Who’s to be praised? The mighty dollar — or almighty Allah.”  This is not to say the mere oppression of blacks is simply a function of class, as Wacquant notes, “because America is the one society that has pushed the market logic of commodification of social relations and state devolution to the furthest.”  Rather, it seeks to make invisible racialized oppression a mask, focusing instead on “urban crime”, “criminal underclass” and “welfare-dependency” code words for blacks.  Food deserts, police brutality, gang conflicts, and shootouts are some of the unique social situations within these hyper-ghettoes that characterize it are separate peculiar institutions separate from mainstream, white-dominated American society aimed at defining, controlling, and confining black youth.  The plea for “ghetto prisoners to rise” by Nasir Jones is then a call to overcome white oppression of the black populations.


Nas enslaved ancestors, PBS,

Ghetto Prisoners by Nas

When Ghetto and Prison Meet and Mesh by Loic Wacquant,

The new ‘peculiar institution’: On the prison as surrogate ghetto by Loic Wacquant

Abraham Lincoln,

Lookin’ out project windows

“I witnessed the murders and police shake-downs. Yo, the hustlas and hoes, drugs and fo-fos. This was the life of every kid lookin’ out project windows.” — Nas

In the nineties, the inner-cities of America were seeking to recover from the devastating crack epidemic and the  “War on Drugs” waged by the Reagan Administration against the black community. The U.S government had no real effort to improve the educational opportunities, employment or  other chances for social mobility for the black communities Drugs would be funneled into these impoverished communities that were suffering from  the poverty that is inevitable for black ghettos  under U.S Capitalism.  Due to the nature of the capitalist system, many manufacturing jobs in the inner-city would be shipped overseas, eliminating the only source of employment for many hard-working African-American families. John M. Hagedorn writes: “The conditions in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods came to resemble impoverished Third World countries, and police harassment was ever-present.” In 1996, Nas released his sophomore album ‘It Was Written.’ In it, he vividly describes a common occurrence in the ghettos; he spits, ”Niggas shoot in broad day light. With the broke mac-10 that don’t spray right. Niggas don’t give a fuc* who they hit, as long as the drama’s lit.”

When the drug economy took over, many youth hustled to make a living, going in and out of jail. The nineties in Chicago was a period in which Yummy Sandifier, a child born into this very lifestyle, was making his moves; while most kids during this time period were trading Pokemon cards, Yummy was trading drugs for profit, committing burglaries and breaking into houses. When Yummy sought to shoot down a rival gangbanger, he shot into a crowd missing his target entirely, and unfortunately he ended up killing a school girl instead. This prompted a widespread police insurgency for young Yummy. Fearful that if Yummy was captured he would tell gang secrets, the child was subsequently executed by fellow gang members at the age of only eleven years old.    The same violence and poverty was the dominant lifestyle in many other inner-cities, including New Orleans, Baltimore, Compton, L.A., Queensbridge, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis as well as others. The ghettoes of America are not impoverished due to a lack of morals, work ethic, or ‘business’ savvy among the population; rather, they are internal colonies which are deliberately and intentionally kept in miserable social conditions by its mother country, America. The U.S. maintains neo-colonies in the Middle East and domestic internal colonies within its borders for access to cheap labor via the prison-industrial complex.

During the Cold War, America was competing ideologically with the Soviet Union over their economic systems of capitalism and communism. As a result of this period, dubbed the “Red Scare,” many corrupt leaders were installed by the United States in countries seeking their independence. Patrice Lumumba was a Pan-Africanist seeking to uplift the colonized people of his country after years of oppression and tyranny from the Belgians. He was dedicated to his people in every way, but fearful that Lumumba might be a communist, he was quickly assassinated by rival forces with full support from the C.I.A. In place, the U.S. selected candidate Mobutu Sese Seko quickly created an authoritarian regime in which he squandered his people’s wealth on personal lavish luxuries while the people of his country continued to starve and had their wealth plundered by American corporations

Similarly, the same situation has regularly occurred for numerous leaders within the black community. Fred Hampton, a Black Panther of Chicago, provided political education classes for youth along with free-breakfast programs. He even worked to forge an alliance between various gangs in Chicago to mitigate the violence. Hampton emerged as a real leader in the black community – and the FBI, CIA and government in general took note of him. A secret government project called COINTELPRO explicitly sought to prevent and quell various radical black movements. In conjunction with the Chicago Police department, the CIA and FBI orchestrated a raid and, during which, assassinated Fred Hampton. FBI, Special Agent Gregg York had this to say:”We expected about twenty Panthers to be in the apartment when the police raided the place. Only two of those black niggers were killed, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.” It was leaders such as Fred Hampton that worked to combat gang violence. One author notes:

“Of course, there’s also the legacy that, without a young leader, I think the West Side of Chicago degenerated a lot into drugs. And without leaders like Fred Hampton, I think the gangs and the drugs became much more prevalent on the West Side. He was an alternative to that. He talked about serving the community, talked about breakfast programs, educating the people, community control of police. So I think that that’s unfortunately another legacy of Fred’s murder.”

Fred Hampton’s murder left a power vacuum and, like in the colonies abroad, the Chicago government would install various corrupt puppet leaders. This relationship between internal colonies and the non-representative government officials is a theme discussed in Nas’ “I Want to Talk to You.”: “As a young black man from the ghetto,” Nas indigently raps, ”Fake black leaders of puppets always talking ‘bout the city budget.” Inner cities are notorious for corrupt and non-representative leadership, one example being Jesse Jackson Jr. who squandered the wealth of the Chicago people (as well as Sandi Jackson). These people are supported by the larger white establishment and should be viewed as puppet leaders within the black community. Nas continues:

“I’m just a black man why y’all made it so hard damn

Niggas gotta go create his own job

Mr. Mayor imagine if this was your backyard

Mr. Governor imagine if it was your kids that starved

Imagine your kids gotta sling crack to survive

Swing a mack to be live cart ack to get high”

The job that Nas discusses creating is, of course, the lucrative career as a drug pusher. Like impoverished third world countries, ghettos achicagochildsoldiersre essentially a war torn area with starving kids. Like the child soldiers in Uganda, the ghetto has its own child soldiers who swing macks and sell cracks. Like the independence movements of the ‘60s, many nations such as Ghana and the Congo were yearning for their independence to make it out of this exploitative relationship in which it’s population was decimated, impoverished and hungry. In the song “Every Ghetto,” rappers Naz and Blitz further elucidate:“Still I’m sayin’ why do we reside. In the ghetto with a million ways to die. What the fuck will tomorrow bring?”

Like foreign third world countries, the ghettoes in America are without stability. “Jay-Z, who said he “was born the day Fred Hampton died,” comments on the sentiments of wanting to escape his internal colony and the desperation he faces:
“Some how some way I gotta make it up out the hood someday. Some how some way I gotta make it up out this life. Some way I gotta make it up out this hood someday”

 Barack Obama was elected- the masses were disgusted by George W. Bush who presided over the mass extermination of black people under Katrina with lackluster care and numerous wars seeking imperial ambition. Thus, a shift was made to a more benevolent form of imperialism. White power presented through a black face and chants of “change” lured black people in supporting Barack Obama. Far from an real “change”, Obama’s presidency has not changed the colonized/colonizer relationship the ghetto has with its mother country.  The government orchestrated assassination of Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, Marc Clarke, is apart of the same imperial logic as the government orchestrated assassinations of Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba.   To sustain the U.S Empire, corrupt leadership is need within the internal colonies and abroad in its neo-colonies. Blacks within u.s borders are subject to search and seizure, killed in indiscriminate attacks of police brutality, subjugated from the war on drugs, and made to suffer from the prison-industrial complex. Similarly,  Obama’s presidency has contributed to drone strikes of innocents in the Middle East and imperial wars  for economic benefits.  In blacks in domestic colonies  suffering under repression  looking to “make it out the hood” and those in neo-colonies suffering under drone strikes, the street scriptures serve as a viable way to link social conditions within the internal domestic colonies and foreign neo-colonies of the American Empire and struggle for independence.



Chiraq: An American Colony

The vast disparities between the First World, which has vast wealth and technology, and the Third World, suffering from wretched poverty and poorblackmanunderdevelopment, is a product of the years of European colonization, exploitation, and genocide that built the current international order. The capitalist economic system is based upon the accumulation of capital; the gluttonous desire for more capital subsequently led to European nations invading other territories, gaining hegemonic control over their resources, establishing joint-stock companies, and utilizing the resources and wealth of other people for the exclusive economic benefit of Europeans.



cecilrhodes3The spiritually deficient materialistic nature of the capitalist economic system results in Europeans perpetually chasing “worldly gain,” which is characterized by endlessly chasing after material items. The current international order that runs on the dominance of the capitalist economic system continuously results in more and more wealth being hoarded by a tiny, rich and white elite. As a result, 2.7 billion people live on less than two dollars per day – which is not enough for basic needs. In 2011 alone, three million children died due to lack of access to food. There is an abundance of food in the world – enough to feed every human being on the planet – but the problem is in the distribution, The global system promotes deprivation and exploitation of the non-white Third World and hoarding by the white, western First World.



iraq32Iraq is among the most recent victims of American Imperialism. After George W. Bush claimed the nation had “weapons of mass destruction,” Iraq was invaded; 1.3 million innocent Iraqis were killed, but Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total, and Chevron profited greatly from oil resources that they lost access to after Saddam Hussein nationalized the commodity. The American invasion effectively turned Iraq into a colony that served U.S. interests. Much of U.S. foreign policy, far from being about National Defense, is actually driven by the need to secure strategic resources that are key to the success of their economies. Globalization is the continuation of Imperialism of the past. It’s based upon accumulating the world’s wealth for the benefits of Europeans, and this global capitalist system was kick-started by the enslavement of blacks. As a result, the tactics, techniques, and strategies the U.S. government uses to oppress foreign populations are first strategized,  practiced, and perfected at home against the internally colonized black community.


Within American inner-cities, blacks are colonized. The seemingly innocuous idiom ‘Chiraq’ used by black Chicagoans to refer their moneyforwar43communities is a linguistic combination of “Chicago” and “Iraq”; it demonstrates the colonized Third World status of blacks in America, showing the conditions of their communities have more in common with Iraq than mainstream America. The “Weapons of Mass Destruction” utilized to justify the invasion of Iraq were never found. If George W. Bush truly wanted to locate and destroy nuclear weapons, perhaps he should have looked at the National Laboratory and Boeing Corporations in Chicago (distinct from Chiraq), which are two leading companies that manufacture weapons such as the B-2 Stealth Bomber and F-16, both of which were utilized in the war on Iraq. Chicago contributed 2.5 billion to the Iraqi War; money that could have be utilized to revitalize the ghetto, provide social services, and employment opportunities was instead utilized to decimate the Iraqi people. An old saying by the organic intellectual Tupac Shakur rings true: ”They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor.”


During the Iraq War, the Abu Ghraib Torture and Prison Abuse scandal took place when Iraqi prisoners of war were forcibly stacked upon eachjonburge other as animals, urinated upon by prison guards, sodomized, raped, dragged by their penises with ropes, had phosphoric acid poured upon them, and had fierce dogs attack them. This was often portrayed as an isolated incident, not representative of America, but these simply are torture techniques pioneered from the prison chambers of the colonized Chiraq; in a series of incidents, a Chicago Police Detective Jon Burge suffocated routinely suffocated black prisoners, used electric shock upon a prisoner’s genitals, held guns to prisoners’ heads, and burning them with radiators in an effort to get colonized black youth to confess to crimes they did not commit.



According to George W. Bush, the Americans brought the Iraqi people freedom and democracy. The existence of Iraqi politicians are held up assaudioil poor of Iraqi self-determination, despite George W. Bush effectively turning Iraq into a U.S colony, enabling western corporate control over oil. Similarly,  in the Post-Civil Rights era, the rise of black politicians is often held up as proof of black progress. However, even these black politicians are puppets in a neo-colonial situation. For Lil Bibby, the aldermen in his neighborhood was Sandi Jackson, yet the drug economy remained the dominant industry in the black community; Sandi Jackson used campaign money to decorate her home with lavish goods, and falsified tax returns for more wealth. In this way, the rise of black politicians in Chicago far from being evidence of black progress; it is actually a colonial tactic similar to the way the U.S. operates in foreign counties by throwing legitimate leaders, such as Patrice Lumumba, and replacing them with notoriously corrupt leaders, like Mobutu, who bought lavish material goods and allowed western corporate exploitation of Congo, all while his people starved.

The stores, businesses, and other enterprises in the black community are owned by foreigners who then take the wealth outside of the community, resulting in dilapidated and slum like conditions. For unemployed black youth, the dominant industry is the drug economy; the colonized youth Lil Bibby states:

“Remember back when I ain’t used to have a quarter? I started posting on blocks like ‘Place ya order.’ Now I’m riding in Coupes and I’m flipping Porches. All from spitting these bars to a couple courses. I been locked up, shot at and damn near died back when I was 16.”

bibby34Fundamentally, these colonized communities seek to set up political, economic, and social orders where repressed blacks are often lured into a life of crime that then makes them a object of the prison industrial complex. Thus, the name ‘Chiraq’ reveals the neo-colonial status of America, an area utilized by white elites to maintain a steady supply of cheap labor to fuel the prison industrial complex, despite the existence of black politicians all of which makes the presence of black politicians as nothing more than a tactic in the continuous colonial oppression of blacks.



Though blacks now live in an era in which overt legal racism has ended and public appearances of racism are largely condemned, racial justice in the “Post-Civil Rights” era is illusory, as the state has taken on other efforts to maintain the white over black hierarchy through the discriminatory ‘war on drugs’ launched against blacks, the ever-expanding prison industry which re-enslaved blacks, and by the fundamental reality that anti-blackness has been so solidified in society that it was able to maintain itself despite the removal of overt discriminatory legislation. While the tactics utilized to maintain black oppression has changed over time, the anti-black reality of all American social institutions has not.





Sources Use:


Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A living Black in Chicago by Paul Street.





Did Civil Rights Acts improve the living conditions of Blacks?

The civil rights movement is often romanticized as having been victorious; the mainstream public discourse purports that racism, as a factor oneimpeding black social mobility, is increasingly on the decline. It is claimed that America is coming closer to achieving Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream with each passing day. Such a dangerous myth obfuscates the true plight of African-Americans; the reality is that civil rights legislation proved ineffective in improving the plight of black Americans, and discrimination against African-Americans is ubiquitous throughout all of American society, even in the era of a black President.


two    America is still a segregated society; the masses of blacks are confined to ghettoes, where they are completely ostracized from mainstream American society. Civil rights legislation failed to even put a dent in segregation. When the legislation was passed, white citizens created various neighborhood improvement associations throughout America. Racism was masked under the agenda of protecting property value and maintaining safety in the neighborhood. Neighborhood Improvement Associations actively lobbied the city council to carry out zone restrictions, endeavoring to preserve white racial homogeneity. Strategic boycotts were organized against real estate agents who had the audacity to sell their homes to blacks. Thus, institutional racism would remain an integral part of city planning, all seeking to keep blacks living in a perpetual state of segregation.[i]


African-Americans who made it to the middle class would often seek to escape the narrow confines of ghetto life. Real estate agents would takewhitetenants advantage of these black customers by selling a home in a predominantly white area, yet, subsequently, these white real-estate agents would alert whites in the area that blacks would be moving in; with fear and panic, they would often sell their homes. Poor African-Americans were then targeted, and these same real estate agents would then sell them homes that they could not afford. A cash advance and several months of mortgage would be collected, and after inevitably defaulting, they would be evicted; afterwards, another black family would be subjected to the same process.


segregationThese discriminatory practices, known as blockbusting, ensured that segregation would be maintained despite the passing of civil rights legislation.Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.” Within these segregated neighborhoods, the educational systems reflect these apartheid-influenced conditions.[ii] A Harvard study on civil rights recently concluded that – even in the 21st century, after the Brown Vs. Board of Education decision – the majority black students were found to not only have attended schools that were in a de facto state of segregation, but they were also found to attend schools that were more likely to be at the bottom of the socio-economic latter with less resources available for students.[iii]


The discrimination in educational opportunities significantly harms equitable access to the job market—a job market in which black candidatesdiscrimination2 are already at a disadvantage for merely having dark skin. The study titled, ‘Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?’ concluded that job applicants with more ‘black-sounding’ names were less likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with more ‘white-sounding names,’ even with identical credentials.[iv] A more troubling study from found that white convicts and blacks without a criminal record, with otherwise identical credentials, have an equal opportunity for employment.[v] Such a social reality demonstrates a dire situation for black ex-convicts seeking to improve their lives.


policetortureSuch black convicts would have already been victims of an unjust legal system. Racism pervades the judicial system; blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped by the police and to become victims of police brutality. In court, blacks routinely have poorer representation compared to white defendants; blacks are more likely to receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as whites. Instead of standing firmly for justice, whether an individual is rich or poor, black or white, the report, ‘Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System’ [vi] concluded that, “The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities.” As a result of these discriminatory practices, America incarcerates its populations at rates that surpass all other nations, and the majority of these prisoners are black, Latino, or a member of other minority communities.



Yet, the discrimination against black people in the judicial structure is part of a broader problem that seeks to feed the prison industrial complex. The apartheid prison system is becoming an increasingly important factor in the U.S. economy, with the government issuing out private contracts to construct prisons. The federal prison industry (UNICOR), which is owned by the U.S. government, even utiliprisionlaborzes the labor of prisoners to produce miscellaneous goods, including solar panels. Furthermore, many mainstream corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, IBM, and Texas Instruments, take advantage of this prison labor. Merrill Lynch has made heavy profits from investing in prison construction bonds. Eve Goldberg notes:

“Prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines.”[vii]

Thus, discrimination continues to be ubiquitous throughout American society, from housing, employment, and education. Civil rights chiefkeeffgbelegislation merely removed the overt signs of racism, such as “No blacks allowed” signs, but it did not mitigate the everyday practices of racism which manifests in the blockbusting, redlining, tactics of real estate agents in housing, the discriminatory predatory loans practices of banks, or court rooms which continue to bequeath harsher sentences to black offenders. At large, the black population in America is segregated in ghettos in which the only viable source of employment is the drug economy; they are systematically deprived of quality education; host lethal gang violence; their neighborhoods are often food deserts; and inside these ghettoes many die from preventable diseases.


Racial discrimination is as pervasive as it was during the ‘60s, the only change being how this racism manifested itself. After years of solidifying anti-black discrimination in every facet of American society, discrimination was able to continue without an overt legal mechanism to support it. Taking all this into account, it is clear that civil rights legislation protected white supremacy by putting an end to the overt manifestation as a recuperative mechanism to give the illusion of equality.

In the next article, we will take a look at how Civil Rights Legislation was passed with the intent to protect white supremacy.



[i] American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton


[ii] IBID


[iv] Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?,


[v] “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets.”


[vi] Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System,

[vii] Racism matters


I wonder if Heaven Got A Ghetto

heavengheto4African-Americans living under  secular capitalism largely live in ghettos deprived of genuine opportunities for social mobility, facing police brutality, enduring  the hard conditions produced by the drug economy, which is all too often the only employment opportunity for disenfranchised black youth. In the midst of such horrific social conditions, many youth long for a better life – free of the despair, misery, and structural violence that they have been forced to live with in America. In these marginalized areas of American society, many black youth do not know if they will live to 21 without facing lengthy prison sentences or dying from street violence.  Questioning the economic system of America, Tupac states:

“There’s no way that Michael Jackson or whoever Jackson should have a million thousand droople billion dollars heavenghetto1and then there’s people starving. There’s no way! There’s no way that these people should own planes and there people don’t have houses. Apartments. Shacks. Drawers. Pants! I know you’re rich. I know you got 40 billion dollars, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need ONE house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean why have 52 rooms and you know there’s somebody with no room?! It just don’t make sense to me. It don’t.”

thegameTupac Shakur embodied what Gramsci referred to as the ‘organic intellectual’ as he emerged from one of the most disenfranchised areas of America and produced poetry carrying political messages which articulated the  struggles of inner-city black youth. Enunciating the inner city struggle, Tupac states, ”My homies dying before they get to see they birthdays. These is the worst days. Sometimes it hurts to pray and even God turned his back on the ghetto youth. I know that ain’t the truth, sometimes I look for proof. I wonder if heaven got a ghetto.” In the midst of these appalling conditions in which peers die from bullet holes at an early age, Tupac conceives of an afterlife in which such social circumstances are no more  and ghetto youth are able to  live in peace. In ‘Thugs Mansion,’ a collaboration by Nas and Tupac, Tupac begins by stating that he’s, ”tired of getting shot at,”  and “tired of getting chased by the police” and then envisions a different utopian atmosphere.

Subsequently, Nas provides an ethnography of the streets, telling the story of a kid who was a master at robbing, annasbridge activity he was forced into through economic necessity. At 16 years old, he finished his jail sentences and, with no room for social mobility, he finds himself participating in the drug sector – in which he is pursued by the police, leading to his “asthma flaring.” Nas envisions that he can take this black youth out of his misery and bring him to the “thug’s mansion.” In the song, Tupac imagines sitting and dialoging with Malcolm X and Latasha, a black girl whose life was taken after a Korean store clerk mistakenly believed she was stealing. Miles Davis and Billie Holiday also join in on the conversation and Tupac calls upon us to ”think of all the people that you knew in the past that passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last.”

In a very introspective song made while his mother was in the hospital dying, the artist Nas asks:


“If heaven was a mile away, and you could ride by the gates

Would you try to run inside when it opens, would you try to die today?

Would you pray louder, finally believe in his power

Even if you couldn’t see him, but you could feel him, would you still doubt him?

How would you start acting? would you try to put the keys down?

Thinking every drug sale that you make in the streets, he can see now

Would a fiend even want to get high? would he stop smoking?

If he knew on his own two feet, he could just stroll in

To get away and escape from the craziness.”

aljahizIn this song, Nas raises a series of interesting questions; if heaven was a mile away and we were sure of its existence, would one try to do away with their bad habits and reform themselves, or would they carry on? Many black youth long to get away from the ‘craziness’ of ghetto life and the tumultuous lifestyle it leads to. The 9th century scholar Al-Jahiz raises a similar question as Nas; he writes:

“One of the things concealed from human beings is the duration of their lives. If someone knew his lifespan was short, he would never enjoy life while anticipating death. He would be like someone whose fortune is nearing exhaustion, fearfully awaiting poverty. The anxiety that afflicts a person losing his life is worse than that of losing his money since, if he loses his money he may regain some of it, but when he is certain that his life is ending, despair will seize him. If, on the other hand, a person were certain of leading a long life, he would indulge in pleasure and wrongdoing, calculating he could do this for as long as he liked, and then repent at the end of his life. God will not accept such an attitude.”

Nas contemplates the notion of how human behavior would be altered if they understood God was watching them – would they leave the drug trade? While a hustler can evade the police, they cannot evade god – and for Al-Jahiz, he reflects upon how human beings’ behavior would be altered if they knew what the duration of their lives was.  The socialist activist group Dead Prez once stated:

“What a nigga gonna eat when the refrigerator empty? Work all week let the bossman pimp me? Can’t pay no rent tupacmalcolmxtill the 15th. Landlord call the police to evict me.” These trials  and tribulations in the black community lead to Dead Prez stating, ”So much shit goes on it makes me doubt about a God — you know, makes me ask well if there is a God then why am I in the situation that I’m in?

” ”



The 9th century scholar Al-Jahiz answers:“Someone might object to the idea of Divine planning on another ground, namely: ‘How can there be planning, when we see both the mighty and weak in this world, the strong oppressing others and causing resentment, while the weak are oppressed and suffer in poor conditions?’  We find the righteous poor and afflicted and the wicked healthy and affluent, and people indulging in improper and unlawful behavior without being swiftly being punished. If there were design in this world one would expect that the righteous would thrive and the wicked be deprived; the strong would be prevented from oppressing the weak, and those who behave despicably would be punished soon. In answer to this we say, “if this were the case there would be no place for the trails of life by which people distinguish themselves, nor would they make the effort to do good and righteous deeds, seeking and trusting in God’s promised reward. They would sink to the status of beasts, ruled by the stick and the carrot alternately, to make them behave.”

Similarly, Tupac states, ”They didn’t make sense that God would put us in the ghetto. That means he wants us to lupefiasciowork hard to get up out of here. That means he’s testing us even more.“ Thinking about a “thugz mansion” or if heaven contains a ghetto really reveals the deep seated faith of disenfranchised youth have and their longing for a better society – which they don’t think can exist in this world. But as Lupe Fiascio pointed out, ”Just listening to Pac ain’t gon’ make it stop.” We must work to actively change and improve the condition of our society within this life.



Al-Jahiz: Chance or creation

Lil Bibby: The Third World Inside of America

Lil Bibby is the next up-and-coming rapper from Chicago. NBA star Kevin Durant just showed that he enjoyed Lil Bibby’s music by mentioning him in a tweet, and he recently was interviewed by the classic rap interviewer Sway.

Lil Bibby states, ”On Essex wit’ the No Limits“

What makes writing this article interesting for me is that Lil Bibby and I grew up on the same block; I used to live on Essex which he discusses in his song. It gives me joy to see my fellow peers making it into the rap industry. In an interview concerning his upbringing Lil Bibby States,”  “Where I am from, that’s probably one of the craziest places in Chicago. I had seen and did a lot of stuff…I don’t like talking about that type of shit though.”

 In ‘How I Was Raised up,’ Lil Bibby discusses the various trials and tribulations related to being a black man in the hood. Over the hard beat, Lil Bibby states,  ”We some savages, that’s what the hood made us. Bodies droppin’ everyday, they try to blame. I said, that’s just how I was raised up.” Every day, black people find themselves born into violent neighborhoods on the absolute lowest end of the economic ladder. The neighborhoods are divided by various warring gang factions and many youth out of economic necessity partake in the drug economy. And through programming, black youth become trained to perform ‘hits’ on one another.

Lil Bibby states that the hood made him and his peers savages due to the tumultuous nature of their environments; he makes it clear that they were not simply born this way and, hence, cannot be blamed.  Chicago street gangs and the violence are a product of social conditions created by institutional racism. Chicago’s state-sanctioned racism produces “thugs” and systematically strips the morality from people, replacing it with a stone cold heart that is necessary to survive on the careless streets. The constant discussion of “carrying hits” in rap music originating in Chicago is indicative of the low value that human life has in these areas. For people growing up in these violent neighborhoods, they become accustomed to killings; taking a human life is no different than killing a character in a video game. But from whence did this violence come? African-Americans came to Chicago in mass numbers during the ‘Great Migration’ in search of job opportunities.

Instead, they would be segregated from white society, forced into decrepit houses in the ‘black-belt,’ and become the victim of regular attacks of the Ku Klux Klan and other white vigilantes. When black people sought justice after white locals intentionally drowned a black child, the race riots of 1919 took place where whites would bomb and set fire to black neighborhoods. In this environment, blacks were denied opportunities for social advancement. All of this laid the foundation for the drug economy and the formation of gangs.

His line, “They try to blame us,” is an obvious jab at people like conservative news media outlets who feign concern for the plight of black youth while simultaneously marginalizing them as deviants who are lacking in morals who simply need to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” One conservative news commentator, Bill O’Reilly, who often presents himself as the expert of ‘black-on black crime,’ states the solution was, ”…what they need to do is ‘the surge strategy’ like Iraq…” The fact that this was actually seen as a viable solution to the problem of gang violence in Chicago is further proof that blacks are outside of mainstream America and live in internal colonies. In his neighborhood, Lil Bibby states, ”Its kill or be killed where I came from.” To blame individual people for their participation in violence without a larger critique of the socio-economic system which creates the conditions for that violence only serves to marginalize black youth while keeping the same unequal exchange between whites and blacks intact. Lil Bibby states:

 run up on you, shoot ya face off

Tryna wipe them niggas out like Adolf

The system of white supremacy has created conditions in which gangs of the same color and socio-economic ladder fight one another over crumbs. Having Klan Members come together to wipe out black people became a tiresome efforts, so instead the white supremacist system would create a structural system in which black people themselves would perpetuate a genocide with whites benefiting socially and economically from the conditions of the ghetto. 60 years ago you would have expected to hear statements like ”tryna wipe them niggers out like Adolf” from Neo-Nazis, but the capitalistic system has created conditions where blacks inflict this violence on each other.

 Moreover, black youth live a life under constant police surveillance. Lil Bibby states, ” Operation lookin’ sloppy. The feds tryna watch me. ” He boasts about his ability to outsmart and duck the feds as he carries out his job in the underground sectors I where the drug economy is the only viable way to social mobility. The obstacles that were, and still are, put in place, to halt black socioeconomic aspirations, has resulted in black youth acquiring detrimental social, economic, and political habits that are exemplified in the gangs that roam Chicago’s streets. The gangs that we have in our community, the bloody knives that lay astray on the pavement, the white chalk on our sidewalks, the yellow tape surrounding vacant lots, and the rapid succession of bullets that are fired at one another are the cumulative effects of systematic institutionalized racism. This has created conditions in which, as Lil Bibby states:

It’s kill or be killed where I came from.

Trapped Black Youth: Prison or Death

Germany forcibly destroyed the food source of African nations.

Contrary to popular imagination, white “civilization” has been the most destructive entity on the planet for at least past five centuries of human history. It is single single-handedly responsible for two world wars, the genocide of Native Americans, the transatlantic slavery trade, colonial wars, the destruction of Australian Aborigines and numerous other genocides. The unrestricted technology associated with white civilization that has been unleashed on the world (often utilized to showcase the culture’s supposed superiority) is responsible for global warming, destruction of the ecosystem, and environmental pollution. One avenue of this mayhem is its economic system of capitalism. Europeans seeking control over most of the world’s wealth sought to accumulate capital through the creation of colonies. Colonies served as a place that would bring in wealth for the mother country.

The ghettoes within America should not be viewed as an accidental social arrangement. Rather, it was intended for the purposes of the global Euro-America project, which succeeded the period of slavery, followed by black codes/Jim Crow, etc. It is characterized by gross inequality, poverty, and oppression – black people are systematically isolated and separated from mainstream American life. “Some how, some way, we gotta make it out the hood some day. Some how some way, we gotta make it out this life,” were the words of Jay-Z who grew up in the internal colony of Brooklyn. Like nations in Africa yearning for independence during the ‘60s, so do blacks colonized internally within America who face the pain of police brutality, lack-luster schools, unemployment, false chargers, and discriminatory sentences. They live in a social system that has two fundamentals: prison or an early death.             It is important to characterize what is commonly referred to in African-American discourse as “the hood” or “ghetto” as an internal colony of America to expose the erroneous notion that blacks are within mainstream American society.

The end game of this global white supremacist project is to secure the majority of the world’s resources and wealth for the benefit of a few white elites. The American Empire often utilizes faulty rationalizations to justify wars for imperialistic purposes. For example, “The War On Terror” was utilized as a pretext to invade the Middle East and secure the financial resources for rich capitalistic corporations. Dick Cheney, the vice president who labeled Nelson Mandela a terrorist and opposed sanctions on apartheid in South Africa, also made a bundle for Halliburton during the Iraq War.Like the “War on Terror,” which was waged against the Middle East for profits and resulted in the death of millions of innocent people, the War on Drugs waged on the black community should really be called “the War on Blacks.” The campaign was waged by the mother country America against its internal colonies throughout America for the purposes of luring blacks into the prison industrial complex. Many blacks growing up in the ghetto turn to the drug economy out of economic necessity and, despite creating the social situation in which this is the only viable economic choice, the state would rather start a war against them than seek to create opportunities for them. Blacks within these colonies often describe the horrors of growing up under police occupation. Freeway, who was raised in an internal colony within Philadelphia, raps, “Don’t you know cops’ sole purpose is to lock us down?And throw away the key.But without this drug shi* your kids ain’t got no way to eat, huh?” “What We Do is Wrong” provides insight into the ethical paradox facing inner-city youth; many people can’t survive holding on to morals. Colonies seek to exploit and “lock us down” in a similar situation of Britain  with their colonies.

Big L, of the internal colony of Harlem, elucidates this point further. Speaking from the state of mind he developed as a 10-year-old, Big L states, “Nobody knows how I feel, it’s quite ill, Cause I had to steal to fill my stomach with a nice meal.” Food distribution occurs within the mother country, but in internal colonies, like many third world nations, dire hunger is an everyday issue for those living there. Many of these areas are food deserts; while those outside the internal colonies look to Christmas as a fun family time to be showered with gifts, Big L describes his situation as follows, “on Christmas I asked Santa for a father and a hot sandwich.” At age 15, Big L turned to the drug economy and theft as the only to survive, describing it as follows, “Now everyday  I creep with the heat, Ain’t nothing sweet, I rob for meat, If I don’t steal I don’t eat.” Soon, Big L became a victim of the billion dollar prison industrial complex (which brings in wealth for white elites); he states, “Then I realized I’m better off in a prison cell. Now I can eat, now I can sleep.” When he left prison, Big L was not given any chances for social mobility, but instead had to turn the same activities that got him in jail, “And can’t get a job cause of my jail record, Before you know it, I was robbing them same ducks.” Then he states, “I hope I don’t get snatched by the beast again.” Like people in the Middle East dealing with U.S. military occupation, within internal colonies blacks at any time can be shot at or rounded up by the police. Big L then makes a very profound statement, “My whole life was deserted. Either I’mma go back to jail or get murdered, but do I deserve it? All I tried to do was live the one life that I got. But it seems like I can’t get a fair shot.”

Why couldn’t Big L get a fair shot? He, like millions of others, found himself born black in an internal colony of an economic system befit on benefiting white people. Big L ends by challenging the common myth of steady progress for African-Americans, “In the ghetto, all you can wish for is a better tomorrow  It ain’t getting no better, it’s only getting worse, word up…” The dominant lifestyle in internal colonies is hustling between being a drug dealer to putting in time in jail. In “We Will Survive,” Nas discusses the bleak opportunities for social mobility: “Nothing left for us but hoop dreams and hood tournaments… either that or rap… we want the fast way out of this trap… rather a 9 to 5 or slinging crack…”   So why should black ghettoes be viewed as colonies? It is clear that black youth within America certainly does not feel as though they are a part of mainstream America. Rather, America maintains an exploitative relationship with them, forcing them into the drug economy via its exploitative economic system for the purposes of making them a victim of the prison industrial complex.

Many black mothers growing up in the ghetto face the fear that their male child may grow up and be “accidentally” shot by the police. When blacks step outside their colonies, they can be killed by white vigilantes (like jojoTrayvon Martin) and have the judicial system let them off scot-free.  As in colonialism, the businesses in the black community are all owned by foreigners who take wealth back to their native countries from the inflated goods they sell to ghetto inhabitants. Moreover, the ghettoes serve as a place which hounds the worst behaviors and social habits that result from capitalism — crime, shootouts, etc. — from the larger, mother society. It’s a segregated place that seeks to separate the larger white elites from the chaos their economic system has caused. Like plantations, ghettoes are intended to maintain a segregated space and utilize black bodies as nothing more than commodities in the U.S. Empire. The discriminatory prison sentences, discriminatory hiring purposes, red-lining, and sub-prime mortgages are all purely to maintain a colonial relationship. Within these black colonies, the option for blacks are bleak; they are “trapped,” as Tupac states, and the system destines for them to face either prison or death.