Hi everyone,

Sarah Alby here. I’m writing here today to earn a few extra participation points by sharing an anti-oppression expression of music with you all. The song I chose to share is one by rapper Mos Def, titled “Mathematics”. Here’s a link to the song below:

In summary, Mos Def raps about the disparity between white and black people in the United States using statistics. He tells his African-American audience to “do your math”, AKA be aware of the oppression they face and try to avoid becoming a statistic. His goal is to get the listener to understand the math behind the problems the black community is facing to clarify the issues going on. I will dissect a few lyrics to illustrate this point:

“16 ounces to a pound, 20 more to a ki
A 5 minute sentence hearing and you’re no longer free”

As we saw in the “13” documentary we were shown in class about the prison system in America, even the smallest drug offense can drastically change someone’s life. Due to minimum sentences, if someone is found in possession of marijuana as a first offense they could face years in prison. Rather than looking at drug abuse as something to be sent to rehabilitation for, the prison industry uses it for a way to keep their “business” afloat at the expense of someone’s freedom.

“It’s 1 universal law but 2 sides to every story
3 strikes and you biddin’ for life, mandatory”

Also mentioned in “13” is a three-strikes system created by Republicans and implemented in multiple states, which claims that after three felony charges, someone has a mandatory life sentence. As Mos states, there are two sides to every story. Due to this law, it doesn’t matter what the story is – the only solution is to lock someone up and throw away the key.

“The white unemployment rate is nearly more than triple for black”

This one is pretty self-explanatory, and was even touched upon in my group’s Race and Ethnicity presentation. In March of 2019, the black unemployment rate was 6.7 and for whites it was only 3.4. The disparity in unemployment is a problem in itself, and also is a culmination of the various other ways the black community is oppressed.

Thank you all for coming to my TED talk. If you’re interested in more songs dealing with social justice, Mos Def has a lot of other great tracks. Tupac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, and Childish Gambino’s “This is America” are two other songs that elucidate oppression in America.

What are some other songs that illustrate social problems? I would love to hear your take either in the comments or a blog post of your own.

Thanks, have a great day!

-Sarah Alby