The Lesson of Meek Mill’s ‘Trauma’ | #College. | #Students


Music icon Meek Mill’s best-selling 2018 rap song, “Trauma,” is a starting point for examining the traumatic experiences of Black youth involved with the justice system, writes the author of a forthcoming book.

A close examination of the song’s lyrics should help enlarge the definition of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — childhood exposure to traumatic events like a shooting, a parent sent to jail, sexual abuse― that develop into adult trauma and often lead to trouble with the law, writes andré douglas pond cummings  in an excerpt posted online from his forthcoming book, “Fight the Power: Hip Hop Law & Policy.”

“Because of the anti-Black culture of policing in America, and because of the deep systemic racism that permeates the criminal justice system, simple exposure to U.S. policing and its courts should qualify as an Adverse Childhood Experience for black and minority children,” added cummings (who spells his name in lower case).

“[Such experiences contribute] to harmful adult outcomes, including a shortened life expectancy,”

Cummings,  interim dean and professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said the psychological and emotional impact of exposure to a justice system marred by systemic racism has been overlooked by most researchers.

But Mill’s own life experiences, as described in the powerful 2018 autobiographical song Trauma, shows how such trauma can be long-lasting and debilitating.

“Despite his star turn as a true hip-hop icon, Meek Mill has suffered the kind of childhood trauma that emerging health care research indicates leads to  debilitating outcomes in adults,”  cummings writes.

He went on to add: “Mill’s personal childhood trauma as described in his [song] carefully extrapolates the ways that American policing and the criminal justice system literally traumatized and endangered his young Black life.

“As it does so many Black children,”

Mill, who witnessed violent death and experienced extreme poverty growing up in Philadelphia, describes being beaten by police during his arrest in 2008. He had pulled a gun on officers who came to exercise a warrant for his arrest on a drug charge.

But there were troubling aspects to the case, including allegations of earlier misconduct by the  officers. After leaving prison, Mill was arrested again for a technical violation of his probation order in a case that drew national attention and finally led to his release.

“The saga of Meek Mill’s arrest as a teenager, his subsequent incarceration, and his probation and parole debacle all indicate strongly that Mill suffered extreme social disadvantage including discrimination and historical trauma, perpetrated upon him by U.S. policing and its criminal justice system,” cummings writes.

All those events should be recognized as examples of Adverse Childhood Experiences, cummings asserted.

Miller, winner of the 2016 Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Album, has gone on to become a leading champion for probation reform.

Cummings quotes a verse from Mill’s Trauma that he says illustrates how the childhood of many Black youths is impacted by an environment of violence, poverty and a systemically racist justice system:

See my brother blood on the pavement

How you wake up in the mornin’ feelin’ evil?

Ohh, trauma

When them drugs got a hold of your mama

And the judge got a hold on your father

Go to school, bullet holes in the locker

The CDC has found that 61 percent of Black non-Hispanic children reported having at least one ACE — the most of any demographic.

Other research has shown that traumatic child experiences literally result in shorter lives.

The intersection with the justice system and the lack of adequate health care adds further trauma, cummings writes, citing the second verse in Mill’s song.

They shot that boy 20 times when they could’ve told him just freeze

Could’ve put him in a cop car, but they let him just bleed

The ambulance, they coming baby, just breathe

Cummings argues that examining the efforts of celebrities who use their work to deal with their trauma can help others recognize the warning signs that trap many youth in the justice system.

“By identifying that interfacing with US law enforcement is an Adverse Childhood Experience for minority children and by identifying the criminal justice system as an ACE for Black and Brown children and youth, the CDC and health care researchers can take a first step in honestly addressing this particularized trauma,” cummings writes.

He continues: “Eliminating childhood trauma is a worthy goal. Ending the traumas that law enforcement and the criminal system inflict upon minority children can and should be one important starting point.

“Mill’s Trauma makes this clear.”

andré douglas pond cummings is the interim dean and professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.. He teaches Business Organizations, Civil Procedure, Entertainment Law, Ethics, Securities Regulation, and Sports Law. Prior to joining Indiana Tech Law School, cummings was a professor of law at the West Virginia University College of Law.

The full chapter excerpt can be accessed here. 

Andrea Cipriano is Associate Editor of The Crime Report.



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