The Mis-Education of the Negro

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“It may be well to repeat here the saying that old men talk of what they have done, young men of what they are doing, and fools of what they expect to do. The Negro race has a rather large share of the last mentioned class.”

― Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

Famed rapper Lil Wayne found himself once again embroiled in controversy over lyrics in a new song, “Karate Chop”, in which he is featured. In the song, the New Orleans rapper compares the horrendous beating death of Emmett Till to a sexual act he would perform on a woman. Epic Records have said they are going to “great efforts” to remove the lyrics that has, needless to say, offended the Till family, but the damage is already done. Wayne’s ignorance highlights a bigger problem in the African-American community; we are slowly forgetting and not honoring our own history.

For those not familiar with Till’s story here is a review:

In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old black boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterwards, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began (PBS Frontline).

Here’s more:

Till was from Chicago, Illinois, visiting his relatives in the Mississippi Delta region when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.

Till was returned to Chicago and his mother, who had raised him mostly by herself, insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing (Wikipedia).

The death of Till was a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement, it galvanized a Nation and mobilized its people to fight against injustice and discrimination. As many of the men and women from that era pass away it is up to the younger generation of African Americans to not only continue the fight against injustice and discrimination, but to honor the history and struggle of those that sacrificed their lives so that we may have the freedoms we enjoy today.

Here is a statement from Till’s cousin Airickca Gordon Taylor:

“When we first found out about it, it was a coincidence that I discovered it. And read what it said I was instantly thinking about how Emmett Till was murdered,” Till’s cousin, Airickca Gordon Taylor said during an interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins. “He was murdered for whistling at a white woman in 1955. So to compare his murder, and how brutally tortured he was to the anatomy of a woman was really very disrespectful.”

“We found it dishonorable to his name, and what his death has meant to us as a people and as a culture. It was offensive, but not only to us, but our ancestors, and to women, and to themselves as young black men.”

“I just couldn’t understand how you could compare the gateway of life to brutality and punishment of death,” she continued. And I feel that they don’t have no pride and no dignity as black men. Our family was very, very offended. Very hurt, disturbed by it.“ (Huffington Post)

Lil Wayne should be a shame of himself; he continues to represent everything unscrupulous within the African-American community. He praises drug use, while drugs ravish the African American community; he praises promiscuous sex while HIV/AIDS continues to be an epidemic within the African American community and while 70% of our children are born out of wedlock, and now with his latest lyrics he shows his lack of education by comparing the death of Emmett Till to a sexual act while more and more African American students especially males are falling further and further behind their white and Hispanic counterparts.

If African Americans continue on this destructive path of neglecting our past we will succumb to fulfilling the stereotypes that are portrayed of us in popular culture and forever lose our identity.

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