Nipsey Hussle: How Black Folks Respond to the Murder of a Ghetto Champion

The bold assassination of Nipsey Hussle has triggered heightened reactions from those in the Black community.

Response #1: Fear

The first part of these reactions begins with a question:

Once you “make it” or become successful, should you come back to help others from your community?

Let me begin by saying that the fact that Black people, the most structurally oppressed people in America and globally, are questioning whether or not they should come back and help other Black people is beyond RIDICULOUS! If we don’t help each other, then who will?

We have been one of the main groups of people who have struggled to unify. Granted, this was not a problem that we originated. Since the moment African people were stolen and shackled into this country, there have been consistent efforts from outside sources — aka White America — to keep us dismantled. We were conditioned to see each other as opponents instead of as family.

We are historically aware of the forceful attempts to divide us. With this knowledge, why would we allow the evil actions of one person to separate us further? The fact that Nispey’s killer has got Black celebrities and influencers fearful of continuing with their philanthropy in Black neighborhoods is beyond enraging. Cutting ties with the same community that made you, supported you, and celebrated your potential when no one else would makes you a selfish coward committed to no one but yourself. You will gladly step on the backs of our people to reach heights that you are unwilling to make available to others.

I’ve heard some Black celebrities talk about how they’re not trying to “keep it real” anymore, and that “keeping it real” places your life at risk. Seriously!? This has nothing to do with “keeping it real”. What does that phrase even really mean? I assume it means that you adhere to your old ways of behaving so as not to be seen as a sell-out by your people. But this is dumb. No one is suggesting that you engage in ways that are foolish and reckless. No one is advocating that you neglect the wiser person that you are now for the ignorant person you once were.

Nipsey wasn’t “keeping it real” by doing dumb sh*t, he was simply standing outside of his place of business — a business that he used to help employ other Black people. This situation has nothing to do with “keeping it real”, but it has everything to do with not taking advantage of your community by getting wealthy off of them and then leaving them in the same chaos that made you rich. It’s about values. It’s about not only looking out for yourself.

What’s even more devastating is that young, Black kids are witnessing the fearful retreat of Black celebrities — their role models — and they internalize it. Days after Nipsey’s death, I returned to a high school in Compton where I was facilitating weekly workshops. Needless to say, the students were not interested in working. They needed to vent, to release their pent up frustrations. While in passionate dialogue, one student said, “We all should just leave and not come back.” Another student in my class said, “Ms. Bethanee, I’m not trying to go to college right now, I’m trying to survive.” My heart shattered.

My students feared gang retaliation. They feared for their safety — for their lives. They couldn’t wrap their minds around such a tragedy. I was like a sergeant watching all of my soldiers shrink down from the warriors that they had become. How do I resurrect their spirits during a time such as this?

I understand their fear and confusion. The question essentially becomes:

1). Why do good, if no one appreciates it?

2). Why should I risk my life to do good?

I get it. Your safety is a priority. You must be mindful of your surroundings and who is in your space. There will be times when you must keep a safe distance. But you do not abandon your community. You always come back to help if you can. We are not crabs in a barrel. We are a people with so much power & beauty & influence who only need to learn how to work & harness power together. We must trust each other — When will we trust each other?

If a soldier dies on the battlefield, do you run away in fear, or do you pick up the sword and charge forward? This is not the first time that a pillar of the community has been slain. Their deaths shouldn’t stop our progression. You pick up the baton and you keep going. We are fighting a war — a mental, political war. We are fighting against the racist structural forces around us, while fighting against the negative stereotypes and lies the world has taught us to believe about each other.

In response to my students, I say this:

You do good because it is the right thing to do. You do good because you are manifesting a bigger picture, a greater vision that goes beyond you. You do good because it enchances the joy within yourself, not because you need validation. There will always be people who will acknowledge and appreciate your good work. The community appreciated Nipsey. One person shouldn’t hinder others from receiving blessings.

When you are doing good things, with the right intention, you are not risking your life. You are fulfilling your life’s purpose. Be smart. Be intentional. But do not be afraid.

Response #2: Conspiracies

The second part of these reactions stems from Black people criticizing other Black people for providing conspiracy theories surrounding Nipsey’s death.

Listen, I don’t know the full details or reasons behind Nipsey’s murder aside from what has already been reported. Would I put it past the government to do some shady sh*t? No. Would I put it past an evil soul to commit a heinous act independently? No. Would I put it past an evil soul and the government collaborating? No. Again, I don’t have the answer. However, don’t criticize Black people for thinking there is a conspiracy.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a conspiracy is: “A plan secretly devised to accomplish an evil or treacherous end. A plot. Implies careful foresight in planning a complex scheme.”

Historically, we know about calculated efforts meant to destroy us. We know how the government has not only infiltrated our communities and organizations, but has infiltrated global communities to intentionally cause havoc — to intentionally keep people in a state of oppression all in efforts to maintain power.

Understanding all of this, you can’t blame Black people for responding in a way that history has taught us to respond. A history that veils the truth and swarms us with lies.

The very fact that we are questioning the narrative at all reveals the residue of a painful past that has yet to heal. Questioning the narrative is a reflection of our current national turmoil. We are living in a time where we don’t know what the truth is. We must question everyone’s story because so many people are LYING. Our own president is a blatant liar who showers our social media feeds with outlandish fiction. He is able to lie because his supporters allow it. We are living in a world of smoke and mirrors.

You can disagree with conspiracies but don’t act as though people are so crazy that they would create scenarios or plots that haven’t already played themselves out in our history. Whatever narrative you choose to believe, what cannot be disputed is the fact that Nipsey has passed away.

Response #3: Unity

However, his hopes and his dreams are still alive. He planted good seed and it is our job to nurture what has sprouted and aid in the growth of our people — to invest in our youth. Dreams only die if we let them. I’m so proud of the way my city came together to honor Nipsey, and to show the world that Black folks know how to rise as one — how not to retaliate against each other, how not to fear each other — that’s progress.

Let’s continue. Let’s uphold the vision. Let’s pick up the baton, and keep going. We can cross the finish line together.

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