Every six months or every year, the American media throws up another race story. When I was a teenager, I remember hearing about C. Delores Tucker, about Gangsta Rap, about OJ Simpson and about ebonics. In 2002, race issues haven't been the biggest news, but we did have the little affair with the Oscars. Race hasn't always been the biggest issue in American politics or American society, but every few years, it comes up, only to be embodied in the form of a single issue, and then either ritually exorcised or forgotten about.
The world situation is complicated, and there is no single issue that is the defining issue. But I can imagine what it is like to grow up a member of a disenfranchised group. Of course, disenfranchisement is just a political term for what is a much deeper experience. Imagine that everything around you is just wrong. People look at you funny, your academic and career achievements are constantly being judged too closely, or not at all. Your family structure for some reason is not functioning as it should, or as people think it should. Your neighborhood smells funny. William Upski Wimsatt said "you are bicycling into the wind". This isn't just apparent to the people living inside of this situation, everyone knows about it.
But once people start looking for a reason for it, things become more murky. They have to prove what they already see. But proving a cause for racism and oppression in the United States of America is not easy. Even finding a casual agent for racism is not easy. The Southern Poverty Law Center has made a career out of trying, chasing down one fringe group after another, oblivious to the fact that a few white supremacist groups in the Rocky Mountain states are probably not responsible for the poverty of Brownsville. But it is hard to accept that something can be happening just because. Since the majority of Americans are upstanding people, there has to be some agent out there responsible for causing this pain. So every year, a specific circumstance is dug up, and displayed, and either ritually killed or set free. And for some reason nothing changes.
This isn't really about race. Perhaps when Mobb Deep uttered these words, they were only making reference to killing whitey, or some other personal enemy. Perhaps they were just sounding intense. But in politics or society, we deal with evil systems and evil people all the time. We don't need to prove to ourselves what these things are. People are surprised now that major corporations are falling like dominoes, and are busy trying to ferret out one corrupt act, one corrupt person, one by one. I remember years ago, working tech support, not by any means the worst job ever, and getting physically beaten down by the lies and duplicity in the office. I remember trying to explain to someone about what I felt, that things would "have to change" and someone being somewhat incredulous that I would be so upset about "me and my friends having to work a job we didn't like". But even if I didn't know it, I felt it in my bones. The same type of people who insist that their employees have to carefully account for every minute of their bathroom breaks are the same people who can lie and cheat on hundreds of millions of dollars. You can believe this, or not believe this, I don't have all the relevant experience, but I do know that when someone is treating me in a dishonest manner, when I feel corruption all around me, that I am not going to waste time trying to point out where it is, and to explain the casual chain that explains how it causes every deficiency in my environment. We all know what is going on. I don't have to tell you, it s right in front of your eyes.