Vic Mensa Pens a Powerful Essay on Trump & Why Race Is a Distraction From the Real Problem
Vic Mensa has been one of the most outspoken artists of his generation, with 2016 being his biggest year yet. The Chicago MC’s “16 Shots” is a prime example of his using music to bring attention to social and political issues of the day, but it’s not just as a musician that Vic Mensa is using his platform for activism. The 22-year-old recently took to the streets of his hometown to protest the treatment of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, and he took part in a nationwide voter-registration campaign to urge young people to get involved in the democratic process ahead of the presidential election. Months before, Vic signed his name on an open letter to Congress asking for gun control measures to be instated, following the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Now, Vic has once again picked up his pen, this time to write an open letter pleading for awareness and unity in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.
As a guest writer for Billboard, the young man details his feelings about Trump’s victory, calling the president-elect “a symbol of hatred and opposition to equality.” However, he argues that not much would be different had Hillary Clinton won. Of Trump’s election he writes “I realized that this had to happen because we’ve been pacified by having Barack [Obama] in office. That pacification would have only continued by having Hillary elected.” He argues that, regardless of who wins the presidency, the social and political issues plaguing the country will largely remain the same, and that the only way to achieve change is through revolutionary action. For example, he says, criminal-justice reform is often short-sighted in its approach. “Even the conversations people have about mass incarceration don’t get to the issue,” he writes. “They always talk about nonviolent crimes. They don’t even get the issue and how different this nation treats its prison system. It’s not just nonviolent offenders that need to be re-evaluated. It’s the entire mother—-ing system.”
It’s then that he begins to drop some knowledge about the insidious nature of societal constructs, particularly as they relate to race. In fact, he argues, race is a complete fabrication created to divide and conquer. “To people who have been led to believe you are white, race is the child of racism; racism is not the child of race,” he begins, before referencing things he’s read written in bygone eras. “If you look at a lot of historical texts, when you’re describing Italian war generals, it wasn’t described as Black. Might have been North African. People had real backgrounds. We have Irish people, English people, Polish people, Russians, and Chinese people, and Indians from India, Native Americans. All of this ‘Brown’, ‘Black’ and ‘White’ has stolen the true identity of humanity,” he says, adding that it’s been “used to categorize people so they can focus on their differences more than their similarities.”
The real problem, he says, is not race but instead greed and the pursuit of power. In instances “where poor people have been led to believe they’re white and have also been led to believe that their problems are the result of Mexicans, Muslims and Black people,” he argues, a “scapegoat technique” is being used to “keep them confused and keep them from looking at their real enemies, who really propagate their state of disenfranchisement and major corporations like the president-elect.” In order for real change to come about, people who have been led to believe in different races of humankind need to realize “they’re just pawns in a bigger capitalist and imperialist game,” and without such a realization, “we’re gonna have all of this pointless fighting in this country that’s not taking us anywhere positive.” He says it’s the major corporations and not poor people who are “taking each other’s jobs.” The real culprits include “shipping companies overseas, technology changing and factory positions being done by machines,” he says, before refocusing on the larger picture.
“Some people in these small towns with heroin epidemics and lack of employment — they’re hurt — and the easiest way to approach that is to blame somebody of a different race; to blame ‘the others,'” he writes. He says that it’s simply easier to identify things we can see as being the cause of our problems, when in reality we are ignoring “the real structural issues that have us disenfranchised all across this nation.” Furthermore, we are discouraged from identifying those issues because people who have done so are silenced. “I think when you start getting at those things, that’s when the assassinations happen.”
Vic also goes on to recount his idea for a movement “a lot bigger than a Black Lives Matter campaign,” details which Heads can read by checking out his open letter in full at Billboard.