RCC Honors History Project

“You can get killed just for living in your American skin…”

Posted by nrohr on April 3, 2009

Since I’m on a song/YouTube kick here, I thought I’d post this video of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band singing “American Skin (41 Shots),” a song inspired by Amadou Diallo, a New Yorker who was shot 41 times by the police as he reached for his wallet. Bruce performed this song at a function for New York City’s policemen, causing a great deal of controversy and a call to boycott the band. It addresses some of the ideas we talked about in class about racial profiling and the talks some parents must have with their children.

American Skin (41 Shots)

41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots
41 shots….
and we’ll take that ride
‘cross this bloody river
to the other side
41 shots… cut through the night
You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret
It ain’t no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

41 shots
Lena gets her son ready for school
She says “on these streets, Charles
You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you
Promise you’ll always be polite,
that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret
It ain’t no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it in your heart, is it in your eyes
It ain’t no secret

41 shots… and we’ll take that ride
‘Cross this bloody river
To the other side
41 shots… got my boots caked in this mud
We’re baptized in these waters and in each other’s blood

Is it a gun, is it a knife
Is it a wallet, this is your life
It ain’t no secret
It ain’t no secret
No secret my friend
You can get killed just for living
In your American skin

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

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