When villains are perceived as heroes, life no longer imitates art. Art instigates death.
At least that's the belief of Linda Wade, who has been waging a one-woman war on the violently deranged and misogynistic hip-hop culture she blames for many of the problems afflicting the black community – including three shootings late last week on the southeast side that claimed two lives.
“To a rapper, it's just a script. But it's a lifestyle to the customer,” said Wade, who became concerned about hip-hop's negative influence while working at a shelter for children several years ago. “When I saw how people were taking taboos and making them respectable, I saw how everything was connected. They're making murder trendy. People are letting the media raise their kids. Self-destruction is learned.”
But instead of simply wringing her hands over how people are earning riches by calling women well, you know, Wade decided to do something about it. Last year she outlined her concerns in a limited-edition magazine called “Nature-Nurture” with the help of African- African-American Museum founder Hana Stith. And Wade is currently working with the Allen County Public Library on a third video to be shown on public-access cable TV, this one about the many unsolved homicides involving young black victims.
Wade's thesis is that rap, with its glorification of thuggish behavior, and advertising for some forms of liquor and other potentially harmful products targeting blacks, create a lethal combination for children who have not been properly equipped to resist it.
“They can't sell the goods without selling the lifestyle,” she said. “People are making money selling promiscuity and drugs in advertising for 40-year-olds seen by 6-year-olds. It's hard for a mom at home to counter that when they're seen in the studio dripping in jewelry.”
Advertisers target us all, of course, but Wade acknowledged that black children may be especially vulnerable because of a condition that too often goes unaddressed for fear of controversy or recrimination: the fact that about 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. The resulting lack of supervision and a strong, positive male role model cannot help but produce consequences for child and society alike.
Some will be tempted to dismiss Wade as just another crusading alarmist. But her comments were echoed by a woman whose awareness of the threat is beyond reproach.
Denise Trigg, whose 23-year-old son Demarcus Adams was among last week's fatalities, told the Journal Gazette that the so-called thug culture – a culture that glorifies violence but condemns 'snitching' on those who use it – was just as guilty as whoever pulled the trigger.
“On this side of town, it's survival of the fittest,” she said. “(Kids) are raising themselves. (Demarcus) tried to get out, but they wouldn't let him.”
Wade hopes to enlist the Black Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, clergy, educators and others to promote positive cultural and marketing messages. It's a worthy goal, but the laws of economics assure a steady supply of anything for which there is a demand.
And even then, changing the media culture will be child's play compared to stemming the tide of out-of-wedlock births fueled by an increasingly tolerant society and the increasingly generous welfare state.
As syndicated columnist Ann Coulter noted last week, subway ads pointing out that children born to single mothers are twice as likely not to graduate from high school were criticized by Planned Parenthood (of all things) as an attempt to create a “stigma” about teen pregnancy.
But as Coulter pointed out, single motherhood is among the strongest predictors of whether a person will end up behind bars, and a study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that, absent single motherhood, there would be no difference in crime rates between blacks and whites.
But men won't marry women if they don't respect women, and they won't respect women if women don't respect themselves. Wade's campaign for a kinder, gentler culture is therefore welcome -- so long as individuals realize that they alone are ultimately responsible for the things they do, or fail to do.