Social Responsibility and Justice
Both Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Boy Died in My Alley” and “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy are concerned with racism and view social responsibility as the single solution to this problem. In her poem, Brooks raises the painful issue of an unjust and violent treatment of black people. First, the speaker tells that she has nothing to do with the murder. Later, however, she confesses that she “joined the wild and killed him / with knowledgeable unknowing,” (26-27) which makes the reader think that the speaker has killed the black boy and intentionally breaks the shackles of individual and social responsibility for the murder. Brooks emphasizes the inferior status of black people and their oppressive humiliation in the lines “I have always heard him deal with death. / I have always heard the shout, the volley.” (22-23) Although the speaker feels remorse of conscience for the murder, she realizes that individual responsibility cannot solve the problem of racism, and only social responsibility can make people revolt against it.
“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy is concerned with the same acute problem of racial injustice affecting black people, whose skin color have already made them public enemies. Boldly rejecting the icons of American culture, Elvis Presley and John Wayne, Chuck D urges black people to become more active and stand up for their rights, claiming that he is proud of being a Black. It is noteworthy that Chuck D prefers intelligence and knowledge to passionate protests, claiming “What we need is awareness / We can’t get careless” and “Let’s get down to business / Mental self-defensive fitness.” “Fight the Power” makes it clear that a culture created by the Americans, which was meant to oppress and abuse black people, cannot be viewed as good and beneficial to the latter. Therefore, in this case, social responsibility is also the single factor that can help black people withstand injustice and racist oppression.