Rapper T.I. released his latest music video recently and it popped up in my Facebook news feed today. The article discussing the video was actually from Ambrosia and titled, “T.I.’s New Video Re-Creates Police Killings, Making the Officers Black & the Victims White.” Obviously, that caught my eye. The video is not on YouTube or Google and appears exclusively on Tidal.
I watched the video from start to finish in which the Philando Castillo shooting, mentions Trayvon Martin, and showcases a reenactment of a shooting where a young teenager was shot playing with a BB gun. The stories communicate jolly, loving lifestyles complete with doting mothers doing dishes as their children wander off to play at the park only to be shot by an officer. The situations all mimic real life stories but have swapped the races of the officers and those who were shot.
I’ll hand it to T.I. – the music video was more of a political production than it was your typical MTV TRL clip and focused very little on the rapper himself. I can appreciate that. I also see the value in using his platform to talk about something he is clearly passionate about and based on the tenor of America right now, it’s no secret that his sentiment is shared among people in the black community everywhere.
Before I get too much into the politics of it all, I’ll say that I think music is a wonderful way to protest or send a message. Like writing, it can be peaceful, powerful, and poignant, but it certainly isn’t always accepted.
What I don’t think people in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and clearly T.I. doesn’t either, realize is that these shootings, the images of blood, the Facebook videos showing the life drain out of someone – they aren’t upsetting because the person is black or white. They’re upsetting because a life is lost. When the officers in Dallas were ambushed, no one asked what color those people were. A death is a death. A human is a human.
The video is also divisive. The chorus, which repeats “Hands up, can’t breathe. Hands up, can’t breathe. Hands up, can’t breathe. Hands up, can’t you see we livin’ in a war zone?” leads into talks of genocide and says you don’t know about it unless you’re living in it. Is that true at all? As Americans, we are all aware of the rift throughout society and across races. We hear about it every day on our TVs and it’s plastered on news headlines all the time.
I know we are a nation divided because of a relentless media that projects assumptions before facts. Some of that is the fault of the public who demand answers immediately and some of that blame lays in the hands of those who refuse to listen to the other side.
From the outside looking in, it appears that T.I. created a video to appease a specific community, and if that was his intent, we all have to respect that. But police brutality issues aren’t a race thing just because some people say they are. The Georgia man who was shot when police entered the wrong home was white. The no-knock case that made national headlines in Dublin, Georgia was on a man named David Hooks, who was white. Baby Boo-boo, who was injured by a flashbang, was white. Why do we only talk about race when the person who was shot was black? And back to the main point, why is T.I. trying to tug on the heart strings of white people as if those strings haven’t already been tugged? Why is he using controversial cases to further divide a nation?
Division doesn’t lead to understanding.
I’ve written about giving police officers the benefit of the doubt before, and without getting into the nitty gritty details of it all again, I still – even after all of these incidents – believe there are plenty more good than bad. I don’t believe any officer leaves the house wondering who they can shoot on any given day and I believe most of these incidents stem from poor training.
I think T.I. missed the boat. I don’t doubt that talks of police training and benefits of the doubt for humanity would make for a crappy rap song, but they would certainly lead to a more productive political and moral conversation that communities around our nation are facing.