Unravelling the White Skinned Devil:The Transformative Power of Hip-Hop

by Marcus Santo Domingo

If the white man is the devil, is there any hope for him? If there is hope, where is it? As a soul who exists in the body of a white man, I have found a transformative power in Hip-Hop.  As more and more media outlets cover the massive mobilization efforts around the world against existing structures, more people are becoming aware and wrestling with the fact that these people are brutalized by the structures that are built by my ancestors. 

For most of my childhood I was never interested in religious imagery. This began to change when I was 17. My beard came in and I let my hair grow out, leading people to comment, “you look like Jesus now.” Once I got to college and started studying history, I realized that from most of the world’s perspective, if there was such a thing as the devil, and it did manifest itself in the material world, it would be in the form of this so-called white Jesus. The outrageous genocide of countless peoples and cultures in the name and image of this blond haired, blue eyed ‘savoir’ is unmatched in human history. With this realization I began to accept the fate my soul had chosen before entering this world.

Overridden with anxiety, guilt, fear, doubt, and countless other inhibiting emotions, I was lost and confused with how to approach this dilemma. I wonder if I am destined to be an oppressive force in this lifetime, or if there is some way to transform what I represent. Insert Hip-Hop. The multicultural, transglobal phenomenon that originated in the Bronx with roots in the African diaspora, is near impossible to define, but its impact on individuals and the world as a whole presents a relevant approach to our devilish ancestry.     

If white people are to change their ways, the first step is acknowledging our reality. This is currently impossible if we solely rely on the common education we get. The current education system presents history and colonization as an event of the past, allowing people to distance themselves and avoid confronting the horrific truths of our existence.

Hip-Hop provides a medium that helps combat the deceit that takes place within the existing power structures. Since its inception, Hip-Hop has inspired, manifested, and shed light on lives and narratives that are often left out of public discourse and therefore our collective consciousness. Representing the original essence of Hip-Hop are the works of Professor A.L.I, Ras Ceylon, and KRS-One, all of whom spread knowledge through the accessible form of an album. These artists/teachers present quality lessons and give an in-depth education that parallels that of a university level course’s complexity. That’s no exaggeration, Professor A.L.I’s 2015 album Xfactor functions as the outline for an accredited UC Berkeley history course where each class is based around a song from the album, supplemented with readings to highlight the knowledge within the lyrics.

Professor A.L.I, Ras Ceylon, and KRS-One, all illuminate the truth about how we got to where we are today, and the implications of that history. In Professor A.L.I.’s song Diasporal Histories, he chronicles unnerving narratives of the slave trade. The graphic history of our brothers and sisters who were taken captive against their will is often learned from reading a dry and out of touch textbook in a history class, lulling students to sleep, an inappropriate reaction to such atrocities. By expressing these narratives through verse, over an instrumental, A.L.I. captures the deeply emotional and spiritual side of these histories that is impossible to convey in conventional history books. 

The astute reader is probably wondering to themselves right about now, “is this dude really saying that just because he listened to some rap records about the struggles people faced he has freed himself from the horrors of his bloodline?” No not at all, like I said, this is just the first step. I believe that if we (my white brothers and sisters) can get a glimpse of the reality we exist in, and truly see the lynchings committed by police, hear the cries from the slaves entrapped in labor camps at prisons, and feel the heartache that comes with that rude awakening, we will be lead to genuinely ask ourselves, “How can I combat these power dynamics?” As people born into places of privilege, we will never experience these horrors for ourselves, we will never truly understand the injustices that are faced, but this is exactly why it is imperative to keep educating ourselves and immerse ourselves in cultural movements created and led by those who do.

Hip-Hop taught me that in order to free ourselves from these corrupt systems, we need to focus our time and energy on building new justice-oriented and humane communities. It is the Hip-Hop nation that allows me to critically understand my spanish, american, white, and other oppressive identities. It is the teachings of these artists that help me begin to recreate myself as a HipHoppa embarking on the life-long journey to stand for Peace, Love, Unity, and Having fun.

As I sit in the studio my friends built in their garage, the bass drum beats away my pain and I can free myself from these identities and feel the warm embrace of God’s forgiveness, then the instrumental fades out and I must confront who I am once again.   

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