The 800-pound gorilla is back, and as usual folks are pretending the critter ain't in the room.
We'll call this particular 800-pound gorilla Joey, in tribute to that 1940s film about the giant ape called Mighty Joe Young. I think it's time Joey got his props. I think it's time we acknowledge Joey.
Joey, meet the guys.
Guys, shake hands with Joey.
"The guys" in this case are those Baltimoreans who, for the past week, have expressed angst and dismay about the appalling way some young black men in this city, addicted to the thug life, dispatch each other with such chilling ease. Of Baltimore's nearly 300 homicide victims each year, the overwhelming majority of victims and killers are young black men.
Everybody and everything has been mentioned as enablers to Bodymore, Murderland's culture of death: lack of jobs, lack of recreational facilities, lack of music and art programs in schools, lack of mentors. Everybody's been mentioned, that is, except Joey, who's standing in the middle of the room with a Bloods bandana on his head, a Crips scarf tied around his neck, "grillz" on his teeth and holding a Glock in his hand.
Oh, and Joey's holding a copy of The Source magazine in the other hand with a picture of rapper The Game on the cover. Get where I'm going here?
Joey represents the entertainment industry and, to a lesser extent, my profession, which some folks call "the media." If I may be permitted to use a Bill Cosbyism, the entertainment industry and the media aren't holding up our end of the bargain when it comes to reducing violence. We just don't get the link between rap music and the carnage that's going on not only on Baltimore's streets, but America's streets.
Now before I hear from hard-core hip-hop fans about dissing an entire genre of music, I'll make it clear I'm not talking about all rap. I'm talking about some of it. The stuff that's most likely to be played on the radio. And the videos shown frequently on BET and MTV.
Still, I'm likely to be dismissed as a curmudgeonly 55-year-old "hating on" rap music. But Joseph E. Marshall Jr. can't be dismissed as easily. Marshall is the executive director of the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco. He's worked with hundreds of young black men. He's seen more than 100 of those boys graduate from college under his mentorship.
Marshall knows better than anyone the music the boys who come through his club listen to. And he knows the impact that music has on contributing to black-on-black violence.
"I'm going to have to take on the entertainment industry, particularly hip-hop," Marshall told a group of black columnists in November. "It's killing us."
Marshall's words take on extra meaning when you consider that around the same time, thousands of miles across the country, The Game -- known to his mommy as Jayceon Taylor -- was commenting about hip-hop on a radio station in the Baltimore/Washington market.
"Hip-hop is killing us," Taylor said. Taylor then revealed that he's still a member of the Bloods gang, and that he's in for life.
As if to reinforce that claim, Taylor raps on his latest album that "Game still Bloodin' and Snoop still Crippin'." Snoop is rapper Snoop Dogg, whose mother had the good sense to name him Calvin Broadus. Taylor is a confessed gangbanger and former drug dealer. Broadus is either a former or current Crips gangbanger who narrowly missed being convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1996.
So if "Game still Bloodin' and Snoop still Crippin'," why are we looking at either of these miscreants? I can't pass a magazine rack without seeing Taylor's face on the cover of something. Snoop still gets movie roles and appears in commercials despite his current -- and frequent -- arrests for drug and weapons violations.
Baltimore is now graced with young black men and boys who are doing some Bloodin' and Crippin' of their own. And why wouldn't they? It's not like they see a downside to Taylor and Broadus Bloodin' and Crippin.'
They see lucrative record and movie deals. They see the media giving guys like Taylor and Broadus coverage that is either positive or kid glove. They see rapper Jay-Z -- real name Shawn Carter -- given this paean in a Newsweek headline: "Multimillionaire business exec Shawn Carter ... is 36 and still hasn't lost his street cred."
No word from the folks at Newsweek about one of Carter's latest raps in which he uses the n-word, denounces snitchers and proudly proclaims:
"Y'all respect the one who got shot. I respect the shooter."
No wonder Marshall is going to war against the music business. Those in Baltimore dismayed about the murders of young black men might consider joining him and heeding his words.
"The industry is definitely the biggest purveyor right now of the disease of violence that's killing our community."
It looks like Marshall made Joey's acquaintance quite some time ago.