I didn’t know Nipsey Hussle personally. I didn’t know much about his music, being two generations removed from the rap music scene. But I did know about him.
His Marathon Clothing Store is a stone’s throw from my house. When I passed it and peered through the window, I was always struck by the classy line of apparel and sports attire on display. But even before the store opened, I began hearing good, positive things about a young brother who was a rising name in the rap world who had a story that was a near-textbook example of rising from the street to community consciousness. Hussle was that story.
Here was a young man who was not exclusively about the bling, flash, cash, cars, party, fun and the fast life. Here was a guy who had his head screwed on right and was giving back to the community by investing in the community.
There was his launch of Too Big To Fail, a science, technology, engineering and math center and maker space for youth in Los Angeles’ Crenshaw neighborhood. There was his willingness to speak out on the action around the murder of Trayvon Martin, and his continuing interest, involvement and engagement with the various anti-gang violence and peace initiatives in the community.
Despite the age, music, cultural taste gap between us, he was someone that I took pride in identifying with. That made the pain, the hurt and tragedy of his murder even greater for me.
Hussle had celebrity and notoriety and was not just another nameless, faceless murder statistic in our community. He was an innocent whose murder demands the same rage and action that it would if the shooter had been an Los Angeles police officer or an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy.
The carnage of killings that have racked my hometown Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and at times South Los Angeles can’t be ignored or wished away.
The violence that claimed the life of Hussle demands a hard look at the reasons for the violence. It’s amply clear that more police, prosecutors, three strikes and mandatory sentencing laws, the death penalty, and putting nearly one million blacks behind bars have done little to curb the black-on-black carnage.
Despite the pet theories of liberals and conservatives, blacks aren’t killing each other because they are violent or crime prone by nature, or solely because they are poor and oppressed. Or even because they are acting out the obscene and lewd violence they see and hear on TV, films and in gangster rap lyrics on the streets.
The violence results from a combustible blend of cultural and racial baggage many blacks carry. In the past, crimes committed by blacks against other blacks were often ignored or lightly punished.
The implicit message then was that black lives didn’t matter. Many studies confirm that the punishment blacks receive when the victim is white is far more severe than when the victim is black.
This perceived devaluation of black lives through racism has encouraged disrespect for the law and has forced many blacks to internalize anger and displace aggression onto others, almost always those perceived as weaker and more vulnerable.
Far too many young black males have become especially adept at acting out their frustrations at white society’s denial of their “manhood” by adopting an exaggerated “tough guy” role. They swagger, boast, curse, fight and commit violent self-destructive acts.
When black males indulge their murderous impulses on other black males, they are often taking out their pent-up frustrations on those they perceive as helpless and hapless. This is a twisted, warped response to racism and deprivation, blocked opportunities, powerlessness and alienation.
There initially was a ton of speculation of why Hussle was murdered. But until an apprehension is made, and statements made about why he was killed, the motive for his death is just that, speculation.
There’s no speculation, though, that Hussle is another life lost to senseless violence. This makes his name yet another rallying cry to do any and everything that can be done to stem the violence.
This is a challenge we’ve faced many times in the past and will continue to face, until the challenge is met. Hussle demands no less.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of “Why Black Lives Do Matter” (Middle Passage Press). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.