Pastor Michael T. Smith lead a compelling TEDx Talk on how black murder has become a normal part of American culture. While the video of this TEDx Talk was uploaded in 2015, the message still resignation and applies to the plight of the black community today. Smith calls for accountability and action from whites for their role in glorifying murder amongst blacks.
The perception that black lives are of less value has sparked a worldwide movement calling for justice for the lives that society has overlooked since its formation. The issue of black-on-black crime is one that plagues the black community, but rarely makes headlines on its own. The topic usually resurfaces when police brutality is rampant creating debates on the legitimacy of those who have lost their lives at the hands of police vs. those by the hands of those who look like them.
While this is an issue on a community level, Smith brings attention to a systemic level that many may not have pondered – why is black murder glorified through mainstream music while the topic of murder within other races isn’t heard on the radio? BuzzAngle Music’s 2019 year-end report found that 60% of the top 25 streamed songs of 2019 were hip-hop/rap tracks. Of that 60%, 30% of the songs by black artists allude to violence.
As noted by Smith, as our standards and values as a society evolve, the market place changes, thus indicating how important it is for consumers to understand their economic power. If consumers decide that they will no longer support violent music, musicians will be forced to create music about other topics and companies will be forced to market and sell what is desirable to consumers. Or vice versa. While companies need to be held responsible for the messages they are putting out to consumers, we also need to hold ourselves accountable for the music that we are making and how that music reflects our image in society.
Though this is not an end-all-be-all solution, it could be a start to reframing and reforming how black lives are viewed in this country. As long as black murder is normalized, it will be marketable. There must be outrage and action to combat this. The hypersexualization and hypercriminalization of blacks in music and media needs to end. Black murder should not be normal.
You can check out Micheal T. Smith’s TEDx Talk above.