David Banner understands that the hip-hop generation is facing a crisis. The Grammy Award-winning rapper often speaks out about the troubling issues that blacks in America deal with on a daily basis. His poignant words are so influential that representatives at Harvard University invited him to the campus to speak at “The L.A. Riots: Twenty Years Later” conference on April 28.

One day before the event, Banner sat down with rolling out magazine at The Inn at Harvard in Cambridge to reveal his thoughts on race, Trayvon Martin and the state of hip-hop. –amir shaw

How important is it for you to be here at Harvard University?

I’m glad that hip-hop has given me an opportunity to speak on behalf of our generation. It’s something I take seriously. There are  so many aspects of urban life that must be discussed.

It seems as if race relations have come to a boiling point with the Trayvon Martin incident. But why are there still race related issues that never get major coverage?

If you have cancer and your body stops showing the symptoms, that doesn’t mean the cancer is gone. I look at racism the same way. I think one of the worst things to happen to black people was integration. We gave up our power. We gave up the ability to teach our kids and police our own communities. Since we’re now a part of this society, people are showing us how they feel. It’s easy for white America to say ‘racism doesn’t exist.’ But blacks don’t have power to be racist. White America doesn’t get the negative effects of racism. But what bothers me more is when blacks say racism doesn’t exist. The major thing that I want to present during my speech at Harvard is to ask ‘what would have happened if George [Zimmerman] was black and Trayvon Martin was white?’ Would the murder have happened at all?

So what happens if justice isn’t served in the George Zimmerman case? 

It’s not about Zimmerman. This has been happening before Emmett Till. This isn’t new in America. We will have to do more than just march and organize. We will have to strike fear in people. America only respects fear and finance. We have to start thinking about this like grown ups. My feet hurts, I’m not marching anymore homie. We need to implement solutions or nothing is going to happen. Zimmerman is just a pawn. It doesn’t stop racial profiling or the system that made him think that it was ok to kill an unarmed black child.

You were often mentioned in an incident within the hip-hop community that dealt with race. Why were you so vocal when the white female rapper V-Nasty decided to use the N-word in her raps?  

The song ‘Swag’ wasn’t about V-Nasty. It was about us. It’s about how we let people treat us. Apparently, she was one of the people who was doing it. But that’s not my motivation. There isn’t one rapper who I care to say anything about. I care too much about the next generation to get distracted by something so petty. It’s amazing how people feel comfortable to use our culture, but they never come to help when our people need it. They’re not around when Oscar Grant or Trayvon Martin got killed, I didn’t hear a word from those people who profit from our culture. And we let them get away with it.

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