Are Rappers & Hip Hop New Target     

The March Source
Posted by Robert
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3/29/2004 3:20:20 PM
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Are Rappers & Hip Hop New Target
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"Are Rappers the New Target of America's Criminal Justice System?" reads the cover of THE SOURCE Magazine's latest issue. Just as the magazine hit newsstands two weeks ago, news broke in Miami and New York that police departments have admitted to using special task forces to gather intelligence and keep tabs on Hip-Hop artists and their entourages. As issues swirl in the national political debate about invasion of privacy relating to the controversial Patriot Act and the news that Presidential candidate John Kerry himself was an unknowing victim of intrusive FBI surveillance in the 1970's, the Hip-Hop world once again finds itself on the cutting-edge of raising awareness about social injustices that ultimately affect all American citizens. THE SOURCE'S March issue re-opens the magazine's seven-year investigation into discrimination against Hip-Hop artists who have been targeted by local, state and federal law enforcement organizations in what may be deemed an unconstitutional and unlawful manner. The FBI has reportedly been conducting a widespread and costly investigation of the Hip-Hop industry for several years which has yet to produce any indictments or convictions. Critics charge that it is a throwback to the FBI's COINTELPRO program of the '60s and '70s that was used to destroy Black empowerment movements.

"The mere existence of these so-called 'Hip-Hop Task Forces' proves that there are serious consequences to the misleading and damaging stereotypes that exist in mainstream society regarding Hip-Hop music, culture and the millions of young people across the globe who make up the Hip-Hop Generation," said David Mays, co-founder and CEO of THE SOURCE. "Law enforcement agencies that buy into these harmful stereotypes are at best guilty of racial insensitivity, and at worst, of flat-out racism. Hopefully, the admissions on the part of the New York and Miami police departments will force America to confront its misguided fear and hysteria with respect to young Black men in our society."

Scholars and activists connect the recent police department admissions to the historical pattern of targeting musicians, civil rights leaders and anti-war protesters. David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor, told the Miami Herald, "Law enforcement agencies historically single out political groups because of their speech. Here, their targeting of (rappers) reinforces the stereotype that because you're young, Black and male, you're likely to be a criminal. That has a damaging effect on the Black community at large."

Henry Crespo, Chairman of the South Beach Black Host Committee (created in 2002 by Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer to help improve the rapport between the city and its Black visitors and events), says that profiling Hip-Hop artists and Hip-Hop youth is damaging to the public interest. "The Hip-Hop Generation is almost single-handedly responsible for the economic and cultural resurgence of South Beach over the past 5 years. We must work to educate the law enforcement community properly on the $10 billion dollar Hip-Hop industry."

Mays holds the mainstream media responsible for its consistently misguided and misinformed reporting on Hip-Hop, and wants to see large media companies make a commitment to employing reporters who are sensitive to the subject matter and well-versed on the industry's background. "Most mainstream media outlets are negligent in that they consistently reference the deaths of Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG and Jam Master Jay while neglecting to point out one obvious fact--that all three of these young Black men were the victims of crime, not the perpetrators. Most of the perception of Hip-Hop as a violent industry and culture can be linked to the fact that many Hip-Hop artists come from the impoverished and highly disadvantaged neighborhoods of America's inner cities, where violent crime, drug use, poor education, unemployment and lack of proper healthcare are prevalent

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