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Jared Sexton

Still from J. Cole’s 2013 video Crooked Smile, directed by Sheldon Candis.

THIS PAST SUMMER, J. Cole dedicated the video for his single “Crooked Smile” to the memory of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. In May 2010, Stanley-Jones was shot dead as she lay sleeping on her grandmother’s couch during a midnight raid conducted by the Detroit Police Department’s Special Response Team. She was seven years old. The video—for an otherwise uplifting song about resisting society’s relentless assault on the image and welfare of black girls and women—includes the depiction of a disturbingly similar police raid. After Cole laments that it “seems like half the race is either on probation, or in jail,” the video concludes with this modest appeal: “Please reconsider your war on drugs.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder, no doubt a J. Cole fan, announced in August that the “tough on crime” zeitgeist that has underwritten the largest prison buildup in the history of the world

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