Examining Systematic Racism through Music

by Thomas Lovecchio

Systematic racism includes a wide array of racialized concepts that have led to oppressions of Americans of color to lend its self into all major societal institutions. In Systematic Racism: A Theory of Oppression Joe R. Feagin examines different societal structures and institutions and how they perpetuate racism in different ways today. Rapper Wise Intelligent’s song “Globe Holders” allows the listener to gain a better understanding of the systematic racism in societal institutions such as the criminal justice system and the government and how these institutions still perpetuate racism today.

Wise Intelligent explains different discriminatory practices within the criminal justice system regarding drug use in his outro. He argues that the war on drugs is a war on “poor urban African-American men and women”[1] he follows this up by noting that African-Americans have an arrest rate that is five times higher than whites. Along with this Wise Intelligent notes that “90% of crack arrests are African Americans” and “75% of powder cocaine arrests are whites[,]”[2] but it takes 5 grams of crack and 500 grams of powder cocaine to get a 5 year prison sentence.[3] This is an example of systematic racism of “white racist dimensions” of “ideas, attitudes…and institutions[.]”[4] The arresting practices and the way the drug laws/war on drugs was created and implemented perpetuate a system of racism because race does drugs, but in this instance different policies and practices disproportionately affect two different races. When two similar drugs have a high majority of white and African-American users and it takes 100 times the amount of the white drug (powered cocaine) to have the same sentence as a majority African-American drug (crack),

Wise Intelligent cites condemns the CIA, ATF, and FBI calling them, “the juggernauts, the alphabet cops [.]”[5] The War on Drugs was instituted by the Nixon administration and carried out by different justice and governmental agencies, which at the time both were presumably made up of a white majority. Feagin explains that, “rarely are whites seen as currently the central propaganda actors and agents in a persisting system of racial discrimination and other racial oppression[,]”[6] but this doesn’t make logical sense, especially due to the political climate in the status quo. Wise Intelligent mentions “the globe holders, the population controllers, the AIDS makers, dark nation depopulators [,]”[7] which presumably he is referring to whites. Wise also indicts three white presidents. This further contradicts the theory Feagin advances about whites not being seen as actors and agents of systematic racism.

The population control that Wise Intelligent cites is due to systematic racism in the criminal justice system. He states that African-Americans are 50% of the prison population and that “1 out of every 17 African-American adult males was incarcerated[.]”[8] In order to see such a high disparity in numbers, something must have been put in place to allow this disproportionate outcome. Recently, systematic racism has been gaining more attention, which is why criminal justice reform is happening throughout the nation.



[1] Wise Intelligent, The Globe Holderz Lyrics, Rap Genius, https://genius.com/Wise-intelligent-the-globe-holderz-lyrics.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Joe R. Feagin, Systematic Racism A Theory of Oppression 3 (2006).

[5] Id.

[6] Feagin at 5.

[7] Wise Intelligent.

[8] Id.

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