Once in high school we had a race seminar, which ended up being a fairly free form discussion facilitated by the “Little Africa” club in my (mostly white) school. Attendance was optional and participants were limited to 2 classrooms (the US history class and the womens studies class), and it was set up so that about 10 or so people would sit in the center and converse for half an hour while the spectators maintained silence, and then new people got a turn after the half an hour was up, and so on for an hour and a half.

There were very few guidelines, only that everyone speak from their own experience and that the subject should be race. All kinds of subjects came up (mainly white privilege, how our city’s schools and neighborhoods are basically segregated, the “war on drugs,” and about how students of color felt treated in our school and in society).

One subject that two African American students brought up was the word gangster or gansta being used to describe how black people dress, or rap music or hip hop, or anything classified as black culture (or any other aspect of their life). Turns out it can be offensive and annoying way of perpetuating a stereotype, mainly because the majority of African American people in fact are not gang members. Some people actually *don’t* appreciate it when it is implied that they are violent, or that their culture or way of being is identified as violent or gang identified just because they are black.

There is nothing inherently gangster about black people, yet that is the message the media gives us every day by mainly airing and mainstreaming the black gangster image and making it black youth’s only mainstream icons (not to mention shows like Cops that demonize people of color (especially young men)). Rap and hip hop are musical genres created by black people to express the views/expressions/community of black people, not to express “gangsterness,” although that is what some songs about life and survival in the United States involved and what others morphed into and that is what is aired and what is popular today (although songs glorifying gangsters is *not* the only music being created by people of color).

That is what comes to mind these days when I see the heading "gangsta."

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