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Death & The Neo-Politics of Bad Guys in Post 9/11 America

So, what do we celebrate when a social villain is killed? I got the news on my phone while I was running around Chuck E Cheese (A local video/ mini-amusement restaurant) with my four year old: Osama Bin Laden Dead; Killed by U.S. Forces. My initial reaction was nothing. What could I feel? A man, who had allegedly done all these horrific things to our country, was now killed. What did that mean to me? Not a damn thing. During the Vietnam war era, hundreds of African Americans carried signs that stated: No Vietnamese Ever Called Me A Nigger!” I have to, in context, say the same thing in regards to Bin Laden: What did he do to me? The nine police officers that brutally murdered friends of mine during the late 80’s are still alive—and well I might add. The police officers that shot and killed a bi-polar elderly African American man because he wouldn’t come down off his roof are still alive and were never brought to trial. The people and entities who brought crack cocaine into my neighborhood and addicted millions for decades to come…are still alive. Therefore, what should I celebrate? The death of an entity? That ideology is still very much alive and well. Moreover, part of that ideology was created in the “heat of passion” when the U.S. was making love with members of guerilla Afghans who would in turn, kill the infidel Soviet Union soldiers, so that we could avoid World War III during the late 70’s and early 80’s and still flex our military muscle—using Bin Laden and his merry men as grunts.

I in no way want to take away from the viciousness of 9/11/01. I in no way want to minimize the lives that were lost on that day. I in no way want to tarnish the lives lost, hard work given, and effort put forth from the women and men in the armed forces over the last decade. Still, there is something greater at work. An almost cinematic ending to what most Americans wanted the next day after the attacks on 9/11: blood. But what does this all mean? For many who are oppressed, marginalized, treated as outsiders, and overlooked by society in various ways, this day might not mean much.

I remember I was working as a Youth advocate for the organization Young Life at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The organization sent out a mass email and letter (they used paper in those days) stating that counselors were on standby if any areas needed them and that we should spend time debriefing this event with our kids. So, I took it seriously and set up the rest of the week to talk with kids about this event. But what I found out almost blew my mind. Almost every kid I spoke with was like, “Man, this is every day in our ‘hood… I feel for those people, but what makes my family members death any less important?” The same question is asked here too. The great documentary Crips & Bloods: Made In America stated the statistic that over 16,000 deaths a year are from just South Central Los Angeles, but there is no response from any governmental agency and workers in South Central who work for change have to compete over private funds. But what does that mean? Nothing to most people; they’re a bunch of barbaric animals who deserve to die—typical worldviews. I’ve even known some people to celebrate in that—“They’re better off dead anyways Dan.”

Thus, when I think about Bin Laden’s death, I take it with a grain of salt and know that in post 9/11 America, things are not what they seem. Lies, spin, and corporate jargon are what sell today.

In the Hip Hop world, some are contesting the authenticity of this story to begin with.

In a world that seems to be lopsided with its priorities—privatization of the prison industrial complex, disgraceful schools in the inner city, consumers looked at as cattle, human rights seen as a privilege not a right to corporations—I’m just not convinced that yelling “USA, USA, USA” on camera is the “right thing” to do. Moreover, how did you feel when you saw Middle Easterners doing the same thing (yelling their mantras) after the attacks on 9/11?

Yeah, I get that people are “united.” Yeah, I get that Obama has a political victory. I get that this gives some type of “hope” for America. I get all that.

Osama’s death marks a notch in the “war on terror,” but, I ask you, what terror are we fighting? Gas is close to $5 a gallon, the Gulf of Mexico is still in shambles, gas companies are posting record profits, racism continues to abound seeing ethnic minorities as outsiders (birth certificate anyone?), women still make about $13,000 less than men on average, and I still haven’t got a full time job with 4 degrees, 3 books, over 10 years of teaching experience, and references that are stellar…what are we fighting? What’s with all the damn celebration?


Great perspective there man. Especially telling was the young man's take on 9/11:
“Man, this is every day in our ‘hood… I feel for those people, but what makes my family members death any less important?”

Recent article I wrote on the issue (addressing some social issues in the Af-Am community as well):
Osama bin Laden’s Death: Wrestling With Violence in Defense of Justice

Thanks John! I just Tweeted your link...good work on yours as well!

Yeah, those comments still bounce in my head to this day!

Thanks man. Much appreciated sir. Certainly a good time for us to stand up and chime in on the issue.

WORD!.. "Bin Laden didn't blow up the projects." - Mos Def

Lol!!! Right on Juan!!


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Some may thankful to the Almighty if the villain dies, but for me is not good to condemn an enemy as God told us that we must love the sinner and hate the sin. -JustFab

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Daniel White Hodge, PhD, a Hip Hop scholar & cultural theorist focuses on race relations, film, cultural trends, and spirituality. His book, The Soul Of Hip Hop (IVP) deals with the theological gospel of Hip Hop culture & its people.