Talib Kweli on Why Black Lives Matter
The Real Music Exclusive: Hip Hop Artist Talib Kweli sits down with TRNN host Angel Elliott in Baltimore. Produced by Charneice Fox Richardson
ANGEL ELLIOTT, THE REAL MUSIC: Hip-hop artist and outspoken activist Talib Kweli sat down with us in the midst of his tour with fellow politically conscious rapper Immortal Technique to discuss not only his music, but how over-policing and this country’s epic inequalities have created conditions where a movement like Black Lives Matter is necessary.
Kweli doesn’t just talk about it, he is about it. When protests went down in Ferguson, Missouri last summer in the wake of the killing of unarmed teenager Mike Brown, he went on the ground to march in solidarity with the folks there.
ELLIOTT: You said, of course all lives matter. But until black lives matter, all lives won’t matter. Can you expound on that a little bit?
KWELI: Yeah, well, the problem with a lot of social movements for change is that people who are on the opposite side of this change, people who don’t get to experience why we’re even protesting in the first place, they start to feel guilty and they start to feel like their relationship to the situation is more important than the actual situation.
So right now, police brutality has not gotten worse in this country, we just have cell phones with cameras on them, now. So now the things that hip-hop has been saying for years, the things that activists have been saying for years, are now videotaped. The fact that the police disproportionately brutalize communities of color, now we can not just show you the stats, or just yell it from the mountaintops or just say it in a song. Now we can show you the videotape. And so it’s clear that the police are doing this disproportionately to us. To young people of color, to black people. And so that’s the issue.
When you make it about all lives matter, you’re making it about yourself. When you’re saying what about white people, you make it about yourself. When you say what about black-on-black violence, you’re somehow saying because you personally believe that black people are more prone to violence that somehow that means we don’t have the right to exist. That’s a very slippery slope. It’s very dangerous to think that–
You know, first of all, black-on-black violence is a myth. All races kill each other more than other races. Do black people kill each other disproportionately more than other races? Yes. Because disproportionately we have higher unemployment. Disproportionately we’re forced into poverty. We have, we don’t get to be educated. We get denied jobs. We get denied good housing, good healthcare. And that creates crime. So yes, poor people are going to murder each other more than rich people are, definitely. But that comes from white supremacy. That comes from Jim Crow. That comes from the prison-industrial complex. If you don’t add a historical context or historical perspective to your discussion, then you’re being selfish, you’re being a coward, and you’re making it about your personal feelings.
How dare you put your personal feelings over the fact that police who are paid by our tax dollars, who take an oath to serve and protect–how dare you put that, your personal feelings above the fact that they are murdering us and not going to jail? We go to jail. When we murder each other, we go to jail. Not in a protest there. You know, we have to protest when the people who are given, given a higher level of responsibility, a higher level of power are murdering us and not going to jail.
And it’s not even about jail, because I’m not even for the prison-industrial system. The justice doesn’t come from some cop getting arrested, because that cop probably won’t get convicted. And even if he does get convicted–which probably won’t happen, but even if he does get convicted, that life doesn’t come back. So is that real justice? No, it isn’t. It is not justice to lock somebody up. You don’t get that life back.
These mothers whose children are being murdered by the police, they’ll never get justice. You know, so we’re fighting for future justice. We’re not fighting for justice that we’ll never attain. It’s not, it’s not about hating anybody. You know, it’s about loving ourselves.
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