Black Death

Cruisin' for a bruisin', I'm takin' no crap.
Pipe bomb in my trunk, got a nine in my lap.
I'm layin' for a sprayin', tonight there's no playin', My posse's most strapped, tonight the crew's weighin'.

Dust is burnin', the steerin' wheel's turnin', I'm out a week, I'm already earnin'.

Suckers crossed, tonight it's their loss, Payback time, boy, life's the cost.

Gauges out the window, one lay across the roof, They all die if those suckers ain't bulletproof!

I'm rollin', death tollin', of course the car's stolen,
But I'm blind to what's wrong, all I want is what's golden.
A fool in a fight, too dumb to know right,
Fuckin' blue lights - read 'em their rights!
Copped an alias, bailed out in an hour or less,
I keep a bank for that, don't know about the rest.
Copped another piece, hit the dark streets,
Rollin' once again, fuck the damn police!
Called up my friend Joe, a roof job pro, 459 on his mind car stereos.

He said the spot was sleep, he cased the joint a week, 3:00 a.m. on the dot inside we creep,

Got Alpines, Fishers, JVCs, Motorola phones, Sony color TVs, Had the ride packed up till we heard,

Fuckin' blue lights - read 'em their rights!
4:00 in the mornin', lights in my face,
That's the time, you know the place.
Cuffed in the room with the two-way glass,
Detects in effect cold-doggin' my ass!
`What's your date of birth?' `What's your real name?'
I stuck to my alias, I know the game.
If they don't know who you are, then they don't know what you've done.
`You're just makin' this harder on yourself, son!'
I know this shit by heart, I'm too clever,
`Have you ever been arrested?'
`Nope, never.'
D.A. reject all over his face,
You see - no confession, no case!
Then my boy started illin', talkin' and tellin'.
Son of a bitch - he was a snitch!
Under I went, I caught a case and a half,
He dropped the mallet, then the judge laughed.
Now I'm in the penzo, chillin' like a real pro,
I can't move until the man says go!
A puppet of the game, an institutional thing,
I wouldn't be here if I fed my brain.
Got knowledge from schoolbooks, instead of street crooks,
Now all I get is penitentiary hard looks!
The joint is like an oven of caged heat,
You're just a number, another piece of tough meat.
Killers and robbers are all you greet,
Act soft, you will get beat!
On death row they got their own hot seat,
For those who feel that they are truly elite.
The last thing you see's a priest!
The lights dim - your life ends!

Much about Dade's murder statistics comes as no particular surprise. Young black men killed in the last half of the 1980s usually died at the hands of other young black men. Stabbings and strangulations were rare; about nineteen times out of twenty, victims met their death at the wrong end of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun.

More generally the new numbers simply confirm and update a nightmarish phenomenon already familiar to many people, a fact they've grown tired of hearing about. A bitterness has set in among blacks who have tried to solve the larger riddle of the murder rate, or at least keep the problem in the public eye - while each year the numbers get worse and worse. Paradoxically the murder rate among young black men declined steadily throughout the first four years of the 1980s, along with homicide figures for the population at large.

"Everybody knows about this, but it doesn't go away," says Ingram, the Opa-locka mayor. "Every year Ebony comes out with another black-on-black crime issue. The whole magazine is dedicated to it. But this phenomenon has not been dealt with in a way that's shocking. Nobody's outraged, and they should be. At this point, the problem is almost institutionalized - and there's a lot of money being made from it. Everyone from the film producer to the reporter to the sociology professor is profiting from it. And in a way, the killer himself is paid for his crime. Out here it's hard to live a good life. What do I do if I get sick? In prison I get free medical care, plus three meals a day, and an excellent library."

At the national level, epidemiologists in the intentional-injury unit of the federal Centers for Disease Control, who have been studying homicide in the U.S. for a decade, suggest in their December 1990 study that the main contributors to murder among young black males in America are "immediate access to firearms, alcohol and substance abuse, drug trafficking, poverty, racial discrimination, and cultural acceptance of violent behavior."

In Dade black leaders add to that list causes as various as the glamorization of crime in the entertainment media, the leniency of the court system, a dearth of wholesome role models, poor self-esteem among young black men due to unhappy childhoods in unstable families, illiteracy and undereducation, the abysmal maintenance of public housing, the advent of gang activity during the later 1980s, and cuts in federal public-assistance programs by successive Republican administrations. Any discussion of the exploding homicide rate among young black men, and the newest chief contributing factor, Dade's drug trade, quickly becomes a discussion of underlying causes, the larger social ills of the black community.

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