American Skin, written by Bruce Springsteen in response to the shooting death of Amadou Diallo echoes themes that are just as relevant to American families today as they were over a decade ago. In 1999, Diallo was shot 41 times by four plain-clothed officers of the NYPD, who thought he resembled a serial rapist that they were on the lookout for. The 23-year-old made the fatal error of reaching for his wallet, which earned him a cascade of bullets. Predictably, the four officers were acquitted of all charges.
The lyrics of this song sound so familiar in light of recent events. The theme is so recurrent in this country. Politicians and the talKKKing heads over at NOTNEWS Channel can keep denying that racism exists in our country and in our law enforcement agencies, but people that live in the REAL WORLD see it every day:
Lena gets her son ready for school
She says “on these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you
Promise me you’ll always be polite,
that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight
What a shame that in the Land of the Free we must advise our children that they are “suspicious-looking” because of the color of their skin, because of the clothes they wear, or because of the neighborhood they live in. Shameful, but true. We BLAME THE HOODIE!
Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret
It ain’t no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living in
Your American skin
If only we as a nation would face this problem head-on, and admit the truth that racism and classism is a VERY REAL THREAT to American citizens and to the health of our nation as a whole. Cuts to education and public services will only perpetuate a permanent underclass and grant the PRIVILEGED ever-greater powers to subjugate the weak. The same mentality that allows us to condone and pardon those who pull the trigger on the defenseless also allows us to look on with indifference the plight of the poor and downtrodden. People are dying every day because we choose not to see or hear them. The ultimate irony is that soon we who are so comfortably ensconced in our false vision of the American Dream, lulled by Reality TV and Corporate-sponsored media, will soon find ourselves alongside the ranks of the voiceless if we continue to be indifferent to the signs all around us.