“Raw Life” Meets the Law: Race, Politics, and Hip Hop’s Role in the Quest for Justice

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Donald F. Tibbs

Professor of Law, Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Drexel University

Post-colonial theorist Achille Mbembe described “raw life” as “a time for black suffering where life and death are so entangled that it is no longer possible to distinguish them.” Contemporaneously, the shooting deaths of unarmed black men exposes the “Raw Life” of reconciling black innocence within American law and order. The diffusion of black liberation struggles, and the embrace of colorblindness as a normative approach to “fixing” American racial issues have allowed the state to regain its power over the human spirit, and reclaim its power over re-producing a political, social, and legal anti-Black agenda. This presentation discusses that Hip Hop’s voice, when juxtaposed against the American Constitution, remains a valid critique of how “Raw Life” intersects with the racial politics present in American legal culture.