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Excerpted From: Andre Douglas Pond Cummings, A Furious Kinship: Critical Race Theory and the Hip-hop Nation, 48 University of Louisville Law Review 499 (2010) (318 Footnotes) (Full Document)
Two explosive movements were born in the United States in the 1970s. While the founding of both movements was humble and lightly noticed, both grew to become global phenomena that have profoundly changed the world. Founded by prescient agitators, these two movements were borne of disaffect, disappointment, and near desperation-a desperate need to give voice to oppressed and dispossessed peoples. America in the 1970s bore witness to the founding of two furious movements: Critical Race Theory and Hip Hop.
Critical Race Theory was founded as a response to what had been deemed a sputtering civil rights agenda in the U.S. Driven by law professors of color, it primarily targeted the law by exposing the racial inequities supported by U.S. law and policy. Hip hop, on the other hand, was founded by budding artists, musicians, and agitators in the South Bronx neighborhoods of New York City, primarily driven by young African American disaffected youth, as a response to a faltering music industry and abject poverty. While these two movements seem significantly separated by presentation, arena, and point of origin, they share startling similarities. Among the many similarities between Critical Race Theory and hip hop, include the use of narrative in response to racism and injustice in a post-civil rights era, a fundamental desire to give voice to a discontent brewed by silence, and a dedication to the continuing struggle for race equality in the United States. This Article seeks to be among the first to explore the parallel paths of evolution shared by the Critical Race Theory movement and the hip-hop nation in striving toward their mutual goals of radical realignment and societal recognition and change of race and law in America.
Part II of this Article begins by exploring the roots of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Part III examines the evolution of hip hop from its inception to its rise as a global phenomenon. Part IV unpacks the many similarities between these two forceful and fateful movements, discussing the underpinning similarities between the founding voices of both CRT and hip hop. Finally Part V of this piece explores the future voices of Critical Race Theory and hip hop, and suggests that the CRT torch can be comfortably shared with, and passed to, the hip-hop generation.
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For three decades, Critical Race Theory and hip hop have been radically engaging the traditional majority in this country. Curiously, both of these radical engagements share many of the same characteristics and goals. In furiously challenging American norms, CRT advocates and hip-hop artists brashly suggest a reality completely different from the rest of the country and the world. Through narrative storytelling and funky base lines, CRT and hip hop seek to educate, inspire, and motivate a generation. Despite weaknesses in both movements, CRT and hip hop have informed and changed society in compelling ways. The hip-hop nation is growing up and joining the ranks of lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, laborers, professors, and service industry employees. The CRT founders are actively writing and engaging, but also looking to a new generation of scholars and teachers to assume the weight and responsibility of continuing their message. The perfect storm bringing together the coming of age of the hip-hop generation with the passing of the torch of CRT scholarship is soon arriving. I simply cannot wait to see how this particular narrative continues to unfold.
Visiting Professor of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law; Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law. J.D., Howard University School of Law.
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