Bigger Thomas, Of Native Son And Tupac Shakur

6105 words - 24 pages

"Negro writers must accept the nationalist implications of their lives, not in order to encourage them, but in order to change and transcend them. They must accept the concept of nationalism because, in order to transcend it, they must posses and understand it."
-- Richard Wright

In 1996, famed rapper and entertainer Tupac Shakur[1] was gunned down in Las Vegas. Journalistic sentiment at the time suggested he deserved the brutal death. The New York Times headline, "Rap Performer Who Personified Violence, Dies," suggested Shakur, who was twenty five when he died, deserved his untimely death. - (Pareles, 1996) A product of a fatherless home, raised poor in the ghettos of San Francisco, Shakur, notes Ernest Harding of the L.A. Weekly, "lived in a society that still didn't view him a[s] human, that projected his worst fears onto him; [so] he had to decide whether to battle that or embrace it." (Hardy, 1996) As these fears forced Shakur into a corner, Shakur, in the music magazine Vibe, alludes to his own interior battle noting "there's two nigga's inside me," adding "one wants to live in peace, and the other won't die unless he's free." (All Eyes on Him, 1996) While many of his lyrics sensationalized gang violence and ghetto politics, dramatizing the murder of fellow African Americans and, especially, police officers, he also labored over trying to come to grips with African American self-realization, breaking free from imposed societal chains. Unfortunately, as Barry Glassner muses in his book The Culture of Fear (1999), �it seems to me at once sad, inexcusable, and entirely symptomatic of the culture of fear that the only version of Tupac Shakur many Americans knew was a frightening and unidimensional caricature.� (127) In order to get out of the ghetto, Shakur intevented himself as a gangster rapper, personifying violence, reveling in a contrived world of misogyny and excess, and while in the twilight of his career he may have tried to deliver more positive messages to his fans, mainstream America, at the incessant proding from the mainstream media who cultivated and projected this violent image in efforts to increase record sales, viewed him as an untrustworthy hellion who would sooner shoot you in the face than give you the time of the day.�

In many ways, Bigger Thomas, the protagonist in Richard Wright�s Native Son (1940), parallels Shakur in his efforts to come to terms with who he actually is, what (if anything) he stands for or believes in, all the while struggling within the preconceived notions and borders of a racist society. A victim of the same impoverished environment as Shakur, Bigger personifies violence in the form of the real murders of Mary Dalton and Bessie, unlike Shakur who only talks and sings of murder. In Native Son, Wright, for better or for worse, presents his readers with an entity in Bigger Thomas who achieves self realization only after murder, and this characterization suggests violence presents a kind of...

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