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Lauryn Hill Letter Pins IRS Woes on Historical Racism

Rapper and singer faces three months in prison for tax evasion

Lauryn Hill performs in Paris.
David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images
June 28, 2013 2:15 PM ET

Lauryn Hill has penned a lengthy open letter on Tumblr, pinning her tax woes with the IRS on historical racism. The rapper and singer, who was sentenced in May to three months in prison for failing to pay taxes on approximately $1.8 million in earnings, began by going after "reverse racism" as "flawed, if not absolutely ridiculous," and tied the history of black enslavement into her opposition to the IRS. Excerpts from her letter follow below.

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I shuddered during sentencing when I kept hearing the term 'make the IRS whole' . . . make the IRS whole, knowing that I got into these very circumstances having to deal with the very energies of inequity and resistance that created and perpetuated these savage inequalities. The entire time, I thought, who has made black people whole?! Who has made recompense for stealing, imposing, lying, murdering, criminalizing the traumatized, taking them against their wills, destroying their homes, dividing their communities, 'trying' to steal their destinies, their time, stagnating their development, I could go on and on. Has America, or any of the nations of the world guilty of these atrocities, ever made black people or Africa whole or do they continue to sit on them, control them, manipulate them, cage them, rob them, brutalize them, subject them to rules that don't apply to all? Use language, veiled coercion, and psychological torment like invisible fences to keep them locked into a pattern of limitation and therefore control by others. You have to remain focused to cease from rage . . .

Much of my music, if not all of it, is about Love, a therapeutic resolve created in response to the lack of messages encouraging people like me toward free moral agency. Helping to ameliorate this condition has never been addressed through the political arena alone. It is a sacrificial work that doesn't simply happen between the hours of 9 to 5 or Monday through Friday, but when inspiration leads us to avail ourselves for the Truth that needs to be said. Unlike the system too often contrarily demonstrates, we believe that people can be and should be helped, and that trauma should not be criminalized but acknowledged, healed and dealt with. This takes awareness, sensitivity and a level of freedom in my opinion the system lacks. And if we don't know or understand how to do it, then we humbly refer to a higher authority. . .

Why would a system, 'well intentioned,' wait until breakdown or incarceration to consider rehabilitation, after generations of institutionally inflicted trauma and abuse on a people? To me it is obvious that the accumulation of generational trauma and abuse have created the very behaviors the system tries to punish, by providing no sufficient outlets for the victims of institutional terror. Clearly, the institution seeks to hide its own criminal history at the expense and wholeness of the abused, who 'acting out' from years of abuse and mistreatment, reflect the very aggression that they were exposed to.

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