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April 28, 2008

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School of Communication

Hip-hop sings tale of injustice

By Mike Soltsesz

Hip-hop music is a social movement that speaks out about injustices. Paul Butler has spent lots of time analyzing what the genre says about racial inequality and some of its effects.
Dr. Butler, the Carville Dickinson Benson research professor of law at Georgetown University law school, came to CSU to present his findings in “Toward a Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.” The event took place on Wed. April 16 at 5 p.m. in the Joseph W. Bartunek III Moot Court Room in the Marshall College of Law.
His speech talked about the hip-hop genre as a social movement as well as some of his own experiences. He was a prosecutor in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. He loved when a defendant would take the stand. He said that his “diction would become more precise when the defendant faltered” on the stand.
His own experiences growing up made him interested in studying hip-hop culture. He shared that some hip-hop clothing is a tribute to the baggy clothes that inmates wear in prison.
There are more black men in jail than in college, Butler said. He said that the United States’ population is 12 percent black and the prison population is 50 percent black. One in three black men are in prison, on probation or awaiting trial.
“Prison is for the most evil people,” he said. “Hip-hop says that jail is for the minority, because the government doesn’t care enough to help minorities out.”
He also mentioned that only 12 percent of the people who use drugs are black, but 75 percent of the people who are punished are black.
He said he feels that we need to listen to hip-hop’s message. “We can’t throw away any of our citizens. We have to listen to what hip-hop has to say,” he said.
Lolita Buckner Inniss, an associate professor at the Marshall College of Law, is one of the people responsible for Dr. Butler’s visit. She stressed the importance of his visit for the students.
“Our students were very fortunate, indeed, to hear Professor Paul Butler’s presentation on hip hop culture and the way in which that culture shapes criminal law,” she said. “Hence, Professor Butler’s talk offered a very valuable perspective.



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