Does Rap Music Alter Your Values? Alabama State Psychology Professor Searching for The Cause of Gun Violence
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — An Alabama State University professor will attempt to prove next year that reciting violent, misogynistic rap lyrics temporarily alters a person’s value system and could contribute to the prevalence of violence in American culture.
Beginning in January, a team led by Earnest Blackshear, assistant professor of psychology at ASU and director of the school’s Community Violence Research Laboratory, will begin tracing the source of violence in poor, black communities.
That includes a look at how the reciting of rap lyrics alters a person’s value systems, according to Blackshear.
“We’re going to start showing that based on a person’s entertainment nutritional consumption, we can predict what kind of behavior they’ll engage in,” he said.
The study will not be limited to the effects of rap lyrics though. Blackshear said his team will also assess residents of high-crime and police-activity areas for post traumatic stress disorder.
Blackshear, who studied PTSD in combat veterans for his doctoral thesis, said he noticed several residents of poor, black communities showings signs of PTSD during his work with the Montgomery Police Department as chairman of the Task Force on Community Violence.
He predicts that wherever there is a concentration of PTSD sufferers who are not being diagnosed or treated, there will be higher levels of violence and aggression.
“Wherever people are poor and they’re in abundance and they’re separated and isolated from the rest of mainstream resources, you have a lot of PTSD and you have a lot of boys walking around with guns,” Blackshear said.
Depictions of violence in popular media, he says, have desensitized Americans to the point that they accept violence.
Pending the results of that investigation, Blackshear said he could recommend the creation of a community therapy program to help young people who have been exposed to extreme amounts of violent trauma get treatment for PTSD.
A third part of his study will measure the level at which high school students and jail inmates have adopted “the code of the streets,” a sociological theory developed by Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, in which followers reject mainstream ethics, morals and values.
Blackshear’s team will develop a scale to measure how much an individual has adopted the code of the streets as a result of generational, concentrated poverty and isolation.
His theory is that the code is partly to blame for homicide remaining the leading cause of death for black males ages 15 to 34 and for black females ages 18 to 24.
Blackshear hopes to prove the code of the street is a social toxin similar to pollution that is linked to premature deaths and should be dealt with as a health disparity issue.
“I’m saying that the homicide problem in the black community is more than a criminal problem that needs to be addressed by jails,” Blackshear said. “It’s a health issue that is terminating life, and we need to look at the biological and sociological and psychological phenomenon that puts these people at risk.”
Blackshear will speak today at an event commemorating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He said his lecture will focus on how that event started desensitizing Americans toward violence.
The event, which starts at noon at ASU’s library, is intended as a demonstration against gun violence.