Only Life I Know, by Brother Ali

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Even after the slavery ended and the Civil Rights Act passed, blacks’ lives did not change much. From 1978 to 2012, the poverty rate of black folks was always the highest compared to other ethnic groups. What is the main reason that keeps African Americans in poverty? This is a very controversial issue in today’s United States. Some scholars claim that there is no such thing as racism and blacks are poor because they abandon themselves: they do not take the responsibilities of their own lives, they believe the poverty from last generation would directly determined their lives. On the other hand, scholars such as Michele Alexander and Jonathan Kozol argue that the poverty of blacks is because of the repression from the government system and the white elites. Nowadays, this issue is not just presented through books or articles. Brother Ali, who is an American hip hop artist, claims how blacks can only live in a poverty cycle because of the government through his song “Only Life I Know.” His argument is strong and powerful because the reality is that government systems block the blacks from success through different ways. Ali starts with depicting the life of black community. “A stressed out single mom” who is “looking for a check;” “boys on the corner” who act like they are tough in order to get the “respect” that they thought; “Young girls” who are trying to get affection. The reason of these phenomenons is that the black folks are oppressed. According to Ali, due to the repression from the government, there are only three ways left for black folk. The first one is to “follow the rules and stay in school,” so they can get “a little job or a shitty apartment” afterward. However, when they are died, they would be just as poor as the beginning. Most parents would tell their children that education is the way to make the dream come true and they can improve their life conditions. But the precondition is that the education they receive is the real one, the one with quality. Since blacks were poor from the very beginning, they are separated from the rich white neighborhoods. Poor blacks form poor neighborhoods and this affects the quality of the education. Poor neighborhoods usually could not afford high taxes, so the school district won’t get much budget. Due to the limiting budget, the supplies for schools in poor black neighborhoods are apparently lacked.

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