Rapper and actor Will Smith urged rappers to serve as role models for black communities at the annual BET Awards. “The kids that are making these trends, making these songs, don’t understand the level of effect that black Americans have around the world,” Smith said in an interview. “Black Americans are so elevated, it’s almost worship.” The gangsta lifestyle is celebrated in black communities for its portrayal of strength, Smith said. “That’s the image of survivors. The dude that sells the drugs or has the guns or is most willing to kill somebody is the dude that has the greatest potential for survival, or at least that’s the perception. So that’s what people strive for.”
At the awards, hip-hop artist Kanye West won “Video of the Year” for the hit “Jesus Walks.” This raises several issues. For example, what incentives do rappers have to view themselves as role models? Is a “gangsta” rapper really likely to see himself in that role anyway? Are entertainers the best role models for black kids? Are not black entrepreneurs, professors, pastors, teachers, and the like, better role models?