This week marks the 25th anniversary of one of my favourite rap albums of all time, Public Enemy's Fear Of A Black Planet. It was groundbreaking in its social commentary for kids of my generation (the funk movement had previously done the same for those 10 years older than myself) in regards to the racial tensions still prevalent in the U.S. of the late 1980s and early 1990s - and which are still present today, believe it or not less in the day-to-day activities and behaviours but still ingrained in a systemic bias against minorities and poor people in general, and by extension Black people in particular, who remain 10 times more likely to get arrested and then jailed for minor offenses than White people regardless of income bracket, and the statistic's way worse when wealth is factored in.
Of all the songs on Fear Of A Black Planet, few resonate more with inequality as 911 Is A Joke, a catchy, groovy, incredibly smart Flavor Flav number on how what passes as an emergency service pretty much does its best to avoid servicing inner cities and therefore directly puts Black lives at stake. It's 2015, and the slogan Black Lives Matter is still prevalent in American streets. There has been little progress in how the institutions (schools, police, justice system, hospitals) treat the human beings it is responsible for, this despite individuals' behaviours changing drastically in the past 25 years. People mingle, shop at the same stores at the same time, everyone under 35 has ''a Black friend'', which was a running gag as recently as in 1992, and yet the system is the same, even with an African-American in the White House - in his second term, no less - and another one in charge of the Justice system.
And the biggest problem with that is that American Culture is widely exported and prevalent in most of the Western World; yes, most people can make the difference between their own country's situation and the United States' (and few of them have a spotless race-related record themselves), but there's the inevitable mixing up of the common histories that makes their problem everyone's problem.
Sometimes I like to turn my brain off, but most times, I prefer my entertainment saddled up with a healthy dose of the truth, and this song just might be one of the main reasons why.