It ain’t right but it’s long overdue
We can’t have peace til the n*gg*z get a piece too
I want G’s so you label me a criminal
And if I die, I wonder if heaven got a ghetto
Following the unjust Rodney King verdict and subsequent riots, Tupac Shakur wrote this song that tackled issues dear to many folks at the time, from consumptive capitalism in a land of extreme poverty and extreme wealth to the long historical theft and looting of Black bodies and their resources.
Shakur seems to agree that the sense of ‘justice’ carried out by the riots was not right and destructive, but then he lets his mind wander to another sphere where justice and peace are supposed to reign. He wonders if Black, poor Americans will have a place within this kingdom, or be tossed out there as they have been in the US as well. What color will heaven be, or will all the people of color be subject to the corner, rationed off, denied adequate food, brutalized by the police – made invisible.
Here on Earth, tell me what’s a black life worth…
Ask Rodney, LaTasha, and many more
It’s been goin on for years, there’s plenty more
When they ask me, when will the violence cease?
When your troops stop shootin n*gg*z down in the street
I thought about these lyrics more as I consider the losses of life Chicago bears every Spring, when our gangs come out of hiding, when violence paid unto many communities is seen in body tallies. Our news reports on numbers of homicides, most concentrated in poor black and brown neighborhoods like Garfield Park, Lawndale, Englewood, Back of the Yards, and Humboldt Park – very neighborhoods they closed our schools in – but doesn’t include their lives. The only family they have are reactionary shots. The white and wealthy have obituaries and tributes. Black victims of violence and death are memorialized as “Yet another tragic murder” – as if more of the same.
What will await them in the next life? Will heaven be a continuation: Streets of gold for some; slums and abandoned buildings for others?
Because ghettos are just ghettos. And those who live in them are points on a map to let White middle class people know where the violence is happening and remind them that it’s contained. It’s not coming to their neighborhoods. Comparisons of Chicago to war zones do come. Calls for the military to occupy black and brown neighborhoods do as well. Reinvesting in these neighborhoods, allowing economic opportunity to be resurrected, however, is not an option. Spring is in the air, but when it comes to communities of color in Chicago, White people only think of death.
Even on Easter Sunday.
Oh, Death, be not proud
Death, where is your sting?