*In the American literary classic, “The Souls of Black Folk,” W.E.B. DuBois eloquently describes the twoness the African American population feels living as both an American and also as a Negro: “…two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…” I’m sure if Mr. DuBois was a prophet, in his brilliant analysis, he would have warned us about the “Threeness,” a third personality that would arise in many of us in days to come – the crack cultured 70s & 80s baby.
In discussions of education and youth engagement, the havoc the crack cocaine epidemic brought to inner cities and American society as a whole has been greatly underemphasized. Quietly behind the stories of drug addiction and family destruction, heart wrenching statistics of mass incarceration, and high numbers of chemically imbalanced babies born addicted to a narcotic they never chose for themselves, stands another compelling story. It is the story of reversed economic and social progress; a tale of inverted generational rankings and the narrative of communal bastardization.
Though many of us were not crack dealers, the soundtrack to our formative preteen and teenage years was filled with crack rock Hip Hop anthems widely distributed by mega media corporations. We watched multimillion dollar budgeted urban crack street tales projected on the silver screen. And we saw all these exaggerated figments of entertainment play out daily in the real world around us. With little in place to counteract the real life traumas we experienced in our neighborhoods and the “D-Boy” media glorification of the 90s, the value system of many of us born in the Hip Hop generation (1970s and 1980s) became skewed. Inflicting violence upon peers became fun, disrespecting young ladies became normal and preying on the sicknesses and weaknesses of others for financial gain became a way of life.
Growing in this culture there became a threeness: As Americans we simply wanted to live in peace within our country and enjoy the American Dream that we’d heard so much about. As Black Americans we understood that America has had contempt towards us since her inception and we must continue to fight against her racist ways in order to obtain peace. As Black American crack cultured 70’s & 80s babies we stood in the midst of an internal civil war, fueled by hatred. We rejected mainstream acceptance while warring against our own common kinsman who shared our same struggles. Three warring ideals in one dark body.
As a result of lack of resources, ineffective social intervention and crack culture being reinforced through the decades in pop culture, many of today’s youth have been taught to normalize crack values, resulting in a trauma organized culture that praises immediate and short term success, irrational risk taking, degradation of peers, violent behavior and youth supremacy. In the crack culture, the kid is king. It is important to understand that one’s environment and experiences have an effect on one’s social and emotional states. Social and emotional states have an effect on one’s values and one’s values have an effect on one’s behavior. Much of our education and alternative education systems continue to make the mistake of addressing the behavior of our at risk youth and not the values their behavior is rooted in.
In Dr. Sandra L. Bloom M.D.’s paper Creating Sanctuary In The School it states “The injury model says an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.” The dysfunction we see in much of our youth is simply a normal reaction to the dysfunction in which society is nurturing them. Unfortunately, many public school educators, with no fault to themselves, have not been properly educated and trained to effectively engage their students who are nurtured in these social realities. One of the most effective ways to motivate a person is to engage in what they value. We can no longer afford to have our children’s socio-emotional literacy ignored. Segments of school curriculum must directly address the immediate realities and values of the students being taught. If the entire school curriculum is of a nature foreign to the value system of the student, the student will continue to be disengaged.
Children learn best in the context of relationship. This is why both urban youth culture competency training for school staff and authentic Hip Hop curriculum for students are necessary. Due to the pain, complexity and maybe even guilt attached to the waywardness of our young people, there is an instinct by society to flee from confronting this growing crisis. It is irrational to expect our youth to endure complex traumatic experiences daily, while being saturated by the world around them with sex, drugs, excessive materialism, violence, etc., and then sit and focus for six hours in a classroom while teachers teach lessons that are totally irrelevant to their daily realities.
Our children did not create the social conditions or value systems in which they are nurtured. As we continue to ignore the socio-emotional state of our Hip Hop youth, these Pop Crack values continue to grow and spill across socio-economic, ethnic, gender and religious boundaries. As the legendary rap group Geto Boys once stated, “The World Is A Ghetto.” And though Hip Hop has been blamed as the problem, we may discover that it is in fact the solution.
K-Rahn Vallatine is an educator, professional speaker and the author of the Live Above The Hype: Hip Hop Life Skills Curriculum; Contact him at www.liveabovethehype.com