Who is the real 'American Gangster'?

November 15, 2007

Brother Reggie, Laney BSU Defender Editor

Remember the film "The Birth of a Nation"? Based on Thomas Dixon's novel, The Clansman, the 1915 film set during and after the U.S. Civil War, is one of the most influential films in the history of Hollywood.

Due to the innovative technical feats of the time, it is still considered required viewing for all college film students. But the film glorifies the Ku Klux Klan while depicting the Black man as a savage beast.


One hundred years later and the negative portrayals of Black men on the big screen still remain. Enter "American Gangster."
One hundred years later and the negative portrayals of Black men on the big screen still remain. Enter "American Gangster."

Now brace yourself for "American Gangster" overload: (1) the film starring Denzel Washington, (2) the Jay-Z album, inspired by the film, and (3) the DVD release of BET's documentary series. All right on time to satisfy America's craving for the savage Black brute.

The BET documentary series has fascinated nearly one million viewers per episode for nearly a year now with its classic American crime stories. America's most infamous Black "gangsters"--you know the ones your favorite corporate rappers impersonate and imitate--are dramatized on the silver screen.
I don't know what is worse, our international image as Black men, or our internalized self-concept. Not only do people believe we are criminals, at home and abroad, but many of us believe it and fall victim to the limited lifestyle of crime and the expanding prison industrial complex.
Denzel's "American Gangster," brings the life of Frank Lucas, a 1970's Harlem drug lord, to the big screen. Although Denzel won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a crooked cop in "Training Day," he did not win for "Malcolm X," in 1993. And since Hollywood loves the image of the "Bad Black Guy," Denzel is sure to be rewarded again.

Lastly, Jay-Z's upcoming lyrical interpretation of "American Gangster" will likely do nothing more than promote Black gangsterism.

I don't know what is worse, our international image as Black men, or our internalized self-concept. Not only do people believe we are criminals, at home and abroad, but many of us believe it and fall victim to the limited lifestyle of crime and the expanding prison industrial complex.

"American Gangster" is American violence in blackface. The real "American Gangsters" reside in the White House.
"American Gangster" is American violence in blackface. The real "American Gangsters" reside in the White House.

Bush continues to break the supreme law of the land and, in true drug lord fashion, took over Saddam's country. There's no coincidence the Taliban banned opium production in Afghanistan, but it returned after the U.S. invasion.

Cheney...shot a man in the face and didn't serve a day.
And Cheney? He shot a man in the face and didn't serve a day.

Now that's some real "gangster $#*%!"

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