Rapper Nas has joined a growing chorus of artists speaking out on racial equality in America in the wake of the horrific killings of nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this month.
In a short essay posted to Instagram, the New York-born rapper said while America fought wars overseas, the country “completely fell asleep at the wheel of the war brewing within our cities, neighborhoods, and blocks.”
“We are supposed to stand for freedom and equal opportunity. That’s supposed to mean MORE than just words but the actions of late just don’t speak to what we are supposed to stand for,” Nas wrote. “This is BIGGER than BLACK and WHITE.”
The Illmatic rapper conceded that the country has “obviously progressed” since its inception, “but we took our eye off the ball and it feels as though things are moving backwards.”
Nas also lamented the fact that African-Americans feel unsafe in their own cities, even as African-American culture represents the country’s “biggest export.”
“The way the world dresses, talks, what they listen to, what they watch… That all comes from us,” Nas said. “How can we be the ones responsible for America’s biggest export and fear for our lives like we shouldn’t belong here?”
Nas’ Instagram post follows a short conversation he had with Vibe magazine about the violence in Charleston. He said he wished mental illness could be detected at an early age and could be treated early in a person’s life, “so that we don’t have to worry about who’s who, who are we walking around.”
“Racism is rotting America,” the rapper told Vibe. “It’s been rotting America since America’s inception. So this is a very serious time that we’re moving into in 2015.”
Nas is just the latest rapper to respond to the Charleston killings in the form of an essay; last weekend, Lupe Fiasco penned a lengthy open letter addressed to “white supremacy” in which he wrote that “one color does not dominate the other, nor can it.”
Rappers Killer Mike and Kanye West also weighed in in the wake of the violence in Charleston: Killer Mike said he regretted that none of the nine churchgoers were armed in order to be able to defend themselves, while West freestyle-rapped about the incident, mistakenly placing Charleston in North Carolina.