It’s tough when your own look like strangers
We are the sons of gangsters and stone rangers
If he could how would Ernie Barnes paint us?
Look at the picture, hard not to blame us
Common is commenting on how the people living in ghettos don’t fully understand their interconnection. Common demonstrates this idea by saying parents looking at their own children as strangers. To expand on this, Common references the painter Ernie Barnes. A consistent feature of Barnes' work are the closed eyes of the people he paints. Barnes explains:
I began to see, observe, how blind we are to one another’s humanity. Blinded by a lot of things that have, perhaps, initiated feelings in that light. We don’t see into the depths of our interconnection. The gifts, the strength and potential within other human beings. We stop at color quite often. So one of the things we have to be aware of is who we are in order to have the capacity to like others. But when you cannot visualize the offerings of another human being you’re obviously not looking at the human being with open eyes.We look upon each other and decide immediately: This person is black, so he must be… This person lives in poverty, so he must be…
So when Common looks at the picture that he thinks Ernie Barnes would’ve painted if he were still alive, he would see that everyone is blind. And when he sees that, Common says that it’s hard not to blame themselves, at least partially, for the situation that they are in.
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