hroughout the book, Michael Eric Dyson takes for granted that "blight hustling" is a negative, harmful, socially undesirable way of life. He celebrates Jay-Z for transitioning from "underground to aboveground economies,” and goes so far as to claim that Jay-Z has “redeemed hustling as a positive behavior for himself and others like him” by moving beyond “blight hustling.” I take great issue with Dyson painting “blight hustling” in such a negative light, and his deference to a legal system which is so blatantly biased, flawed, and discriminatory towards people of color.
I have a separate set of issues with Dyson’s assumption that “bright hustling” is a positive behavior, but that’s a Marxist rant best saved for another day. If we work within Dyson’s capitalist framework, and accept that hustling can EVER be a positive behavior, then I find no justification within the boundaries of that framework to celebrate "bright hustling" as a positive activity and denigrate “blight hustling” as a negative activity.
Dyson himself provides the perfect example of a non-negative "blight hustle" activity: selling loosies. What precisely is the great moral or social wrong associated with selling loose cigarettes? If the issue with loosies is tax evasion, then surely we would be better off targeting our frustrations at the billionaire class - of which Jay-Z is now, apparently, a commendable member - who evade taxes to such an extent that some of them pay less in taxes than you do! If the issue with loosies is one of somehow "stealing" from the big tobacco companies, then perhaps we should re-evaluate why we value the corporate profits of huge companies over the survival of regular people. If the issue with loosies is one of public health, then surely our frustrations should be targeted at the companies that have been producing cigarettes for decades, working to conceal the harmful effects of their products, and intentionally targeting the black community to their great detriment.
Dyson, quite simply, fails to justify his claim that "blight hustling" is a negative thing. He defers to the illegality of "blight hustles," as if our country is any more than a lifetime removed from the act of voting being illegal for black Americans. Illegality and immorality are not one and the same, but Dyson works under the false assumption that they are.