I’m from the Chronic generation. Let me explain, in 1992 I was younger than Travon Martin. I was in middle school when Dr. Dre’s The Chronic came out, a year later Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle dropped. If N.W.A. and Tupac were the watersheds for “Gangster” hitting the surface of pop culture, Dr. Dre, with the commercial success of his work, made it mainstream, and frankly “cool”, i.e. a style of itself separated from the lifestyle. With all it’s dimensions, and even though I cheat frequently, Hip-Hop, like for many others, is the love of my life. In the time since, we must collectively and rhetorically ask, has the “Black Gangster” image become the default prevailing image of all Black males?
I eventually found my way out of the wilderness of black youth on my own, finding ways to build and express my identity around more influences that just music, but not without bumps and bruises. I even achieved greatly, by some standards, earning an advanced degree at a top tier research institution. On my way to receiving my degree, I had an interesting encounter with a classmate.
Check Your Head
Working on my group senior thesis project, a teammate and I were working late in the micro-computing lab on a statistical analysis component of our project. As with most dank computing labs, time warps occur and before I knew it it was well after 1:00am. My group partner and I decided to wrap things up.
Not knowing I lived about a mile and a half away from where we were on campus (which was not considered far), she asked me if I wanted a ride home. At first I declined, but my pride caved, I confided that I didn’t feel like being followed home by the police (which I typically took nonchalantly as a matter of course). To this she responded “Well you don’t look like the most demure person”, which to me translated to ‘If I saw you on the street and didn’t know you any better, I would think you were a street thug that probably would warrant some following’.
My mind was completely blown. We had just spent the last 6 hours in the absolutely geekiest place you could be on earth after midnight… and I wasn’t wearing a hoody. It was a situation to grow on. Not one to resent or change someones mind on, but one to grow on. That night, what happened to Travon Martin, could have happened to me.