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Neither Protected Nor Served: The Psychological Affects Of Police Terror On One Black Man's Life

One VIBE writer details personal accounts on why he distrusts police and how it has taken a psychological toll on his daily life.

One VIBE writer details personal accounts on why he distrusts police and how it has taken a psychological toll on his daily life.

As pre-teenagers, my best-friend Boogie (R.I.P.) and I religiously worked on our jump shots, and our AND1 moves. We were blindly preparing for our careers as professional b-ballers in the NBA. We usually practiced in Boogie’s backyard until the brutal Columbus, Ohio winter forced us inside of Brentnell Recreational Center. Everyday after school we would ball at the rec center until it closed at 8:00 p.m. Once it closed, Boogie and I would leave the rec center together going home, and part ways at the corner of 17th Street and Brentnell Avenue. Boog’ lived in Brittany Hills, a ‘hood on the Northside of Columbus. I lived just behind the Hills on Devonshire Road. This was our schedule all winter.

But this one particular snowy night as I made it to my spot, I put my key inside the keyhole and turned the lock to let myself in, but the dead bolt prevented me from entering. I’d experienced this before. For several reasons, which I’m not comfortable discussing at this moment, my mom didn’t want me in her house. In an epic fail, I knocked on the door attempting to get in. Like always, my mom came barking at me in her Mississippi drawl: “Get ya’ ass away from my house, n***a. You not getting in here.” Those words will never leave my mind. Ever. I’d heard statements like that from her a thousand times, so I calmly walked away, lonely as sh*t. Now, usually when this happened I’d walk to my cousin Tommy’s house. Other times, I’d stay at Boogie’s house. But this night I was too embarrassed to tell Boogie that my mom wouldn’t let me in. Plus, it was a little too late for me to try to stay with Boogie on a school night and I didn’t feel like taking the long trek to Tommy’s crib, which was on the other side of the Northside. So, I called 911 for help.

They picked me up near my mom’s crib, put me in the back of the paddy wagon and went to talk to my mom. When the cops came back, I heard one cop ask the other: “Where will we take him?” Now, the tone and biting nonchalant attitude of this cop’s answer still makes me angry today. It was as if he said: Man, we don’t have time to deal with this little n****r. That’s what I took from it. But, the cop answered: “He’s going to juvie hall.” I’m in the back seat thinking: “What the f**k? I didn’t do sh*t. Why the f**k are you taking me to juvie hall?” I wasn’t scared. I was a regular at kiddy jail, the Huckleberry House group home and St. Vincent Children’s Center (a school for kids with behavior and learning problems). I just didn’t want to go because I didn’t break the law.

So, I learned early in my childhood not to call the police when I need help. And there were several times after this incident where, as a pre-teen, I just roamed the streets after being kicked out of the house. I just didn’t trust police. I had valid reasons not to. Plus, I’d seen footage, heard grown folk talk and listened to rap songs about Rodney King being beaten by cops.

Police officers brutalizing and murdering black people is nothing new; it’s as old as America itself. Despite my understanding of this widespread and recurring trend, I still never believed that a cop could murder me. But that all changed when I saw the horrible footage of Laquan McDonald’s body riddled with sixteen bullets by then-Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. After watching McDonald lose his life, I’ve come to a hard-to-swallow conclusion: I’m not exempt from being murdered by a cop, and as a young black man living in America, many police officers don’t see me as a human being.

Human beings are treated with respect. Many cops don’t respect us. A human being has feelings, thoughts, a past, a present, a future and potential. The fact that many cops don’t respect our livelihood proves that to them, we don’t fall into the human being category. If so, McDonald wouldn’t have been murdered. Cops wouldn’t have tried to cover it up. There wouldn’t be campus uprisings of black students demanding that their needs be met. And an overwhelming number of prison inmates wouldn’t be found dead in their jail cells, without a single person being punished for it.

Now, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with cops. And yes, I have been treated with respect by some cops as well. However, cops have also harassed me for no reason at all. My first encounter with actual police harassment happened when I was 13-years old—one year older than Tamir Rice was when patrolman Timothy Loehmann gunned him down in Cleveland. It was fall. School had recently started for the year. The sun had just dropped below the horizon. After leaving my then-girlfriend’s house a few blocks from my home on Devonshire Road, I walked at a quick pace to my friend Bink’s house to give him the scoop on what just happened with my girl and I. As I rushed to his home, a cop pulled up alongside me, driving at the pace that I was walking and said, “How much do you want to bet that if I get out of this car you’ll take off running?” Of course, he angered me. But I knew I couldn't beat a grown man, even in a fair fight, so I just ignored him and kept walking. With an arrogant smirk on his face, the pig rode next to me for another block. Eventually, he rolled off into the night. I made it to Bink's crib upset, frustrated and confused. At this point, my experience at my girlfriend's house was no longer important. Instead, I told Bink what the cop said, and he told his mother, Ms. Sullivan. She explained to me that I was living in a world where white cops want to see us see black men in jail or dead. Then, she explained to us that we were bound to a certain behavior. We had to be careful of how we walked, talked and interacted with others in public. But I wanted to know why, so I asked Ms. Sullivan. The best she could come up with was: "Baby, that's just the way it is, was and always will be. White folks don't care about us."

I’d heard this before but this was the first time that it really resonated with me. I mean, I’ve seen cops take away my big homies in my ‘hood. But with this encounter, I was personally connected with cops harassing young blacks. A couple years before my own encounter, a group of my friends were sprayed with mace as cops tried to break up a block party in the Windsor Terrace project buildings, where I’d spent much of my childhood. With these experiences, coupled with me being a die-hard fan of Tupac back then, and his raps about the black experience and crooked cops, I had valid reasons to believe that cops didn't like me because of my skin color. Later in life as I became an avid reader of books, I learned of the history of cops and that many of them were nothing more than uneducated, pawns for the government. Most of them are too ignorant to understand that. But that’s another story.

And today as an adult, the harassment still hasn’t stopped. I’ve had cops draw their pistols on me for minor traffic violations. Just a few weeks ago, I was walking down Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. It was well after 9 p.m. on an unusually warm November night. Undercover cops followed me for three blocks, then called for a marked cruiser to slowly pull up next to me. As the unmarked car rode alongside me with the car door ajar, the officers hoped I’d run so they’d have a reason to chase me, and a valid “protocol” to do whatever they felt like doing. However, I shot them a look of disgust, which I hope read: Dude, get a f**king life you ignorant, racist dumba**es, and kept walking at my normal pace. I had no reason to run, so I didn’t. Once the cops realized that their illegal racial profiling tactics didn’t work on me, they kept going. The fact is, I’m a college student. An aspiring history professor. And a hip-hop journalist who frequents Harlem to study, write, and attend panels at the Schomburg Center. Yet, this is all futile to the cops patrolling Harlem streets. All that matters to them is that I’m a black man, and according to them, they can probably find drugs in my possession. All further proof that these cops don't value my life.

Knowing that some police don’t consider me to be human takes a toll on me, psychologically. When I see cops in the streets, I feel as helpless as a toddler watching his mother be abused by her boyfriend. I get tense, anxious and I’m filled with trepidation because my smallest movement can cause friction, thus leading to me getting hurt, or worse, losing my life. And for me to maneuver through the daily life of school, work and my internship, worrying about whether I’ll be murdered by a cop is an attack, and disrespect to my manhood.

This psychological terror isn’t new either. I’m sure that the psychological drawbacks that I’m experiencing are very similar to what blacks experienced during post-Civil War with the Black Codes, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era. Many blacks had to accept being humiliated by whites in order to make it home to their families and to keep their jobs, their homes and businesses. One example of this is the 1921 looting of the Black Wall Street section of Greenwood, Okla. Many black people in Greenwood made a name for themselves by creating successful black-owned businesses such as salons, banks, hotels and grocery stores. The area also boasted of lavish homes owned by blacks. But you know, blacks doing exceptionally well and being unapologetically intelligent and business savvy was damn near suicidal. That being the case, jealous, racist whites rampaged Greenwood’s Black Wall Street, also known as “Little Africa,” with bombs and guns, killing up to 300 blacks, and leaving more 9,000 African Americans homeless. Back then, terror like this usually occurred after a black was accused of assaulting or disrespecting a white person. Today, cops don’t need a reason to terrorize blacks. They just shoot to kill.

I’m not the invincible teenager I once was. After all of these years, Ms. Sullivan’s words finally mean something to me. With all of the young black men murdered by cops in recent years, I really do have to be conscious of how I walk, talk, how loud I play my music and how hard I nod my head to my tunes. In fact, I’m so conscious of how I maneuver that I don’t even carry books in my hands at night for fear that I’ll encounter a cop and he mistakes them for a gun. If I’m in a coffee shop studying, writing or reading, and cops come in to have coffee, I get up and leave. I just don’t feel comfortable around them and probably never will.

This is America. Slavery was legal here. Jim Crow was legal here. Segregation was legal here. Blacks are being murdered by cops and going unpunished here. As a young black man in living in America in 2015, I’ve learned, not only that I'm not human, but I can’t rely on the laws here to protect me. We, as black men, must find out what’s necessary to protect ourselves. In fact, I think that it would be wise if a select few of brave and intelligent black men build on the Black Panther Party organization so we can patrol, protect and serve our own ‘hoods. Because who else will help, if not us?

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur

‘Inspire Change?’ NFL's Super Bowl PSAs Only Inspire More Skepticism

It’s been a few months into the NFL’s controversial “Inspire Change” initiative, a promotion by the league to highlight the Player’s Coalition and its work to address social issues. “Inspire Change” officially launched last year, (to “nurture and strengthen community through football and music,” said official statements) with the league’s partnership with Roc Nation expected to guide much of the outreach and voice.

"With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country," Jay-Z said via press release back in August. "Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas -- instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America."

The first “Inspire Change” ad featured the Botham Jean Foundation, and focused on the Jean family and their reaction to Botham’s 2018 death at the hands of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Jean’s murder, in which Guyger shot the 26-year-old as he sat in his apartment after saying she’d believed it was her own, drew international attention. The subsequent trial and conviction of Guyger drew derision and criticism after the former officer was sentenced to ten years (with parole eligibility in five) amidst hugs from the prosecuting judge and official statements from the family that focused on forgiveness.

“He just loved people and he was very particular about the company he kept. So I felt he was not in harm’s way,” his mother, Allison Jean, says during the video.

The NFL debuted the Jean ad online in late January to a mixed reception, and a new ad was shown during Super Bowl LIV. In the new ad, former 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin is heard speaking about what happened to his cousin, Corey Jones, on the night of October 18, 2015. That night, Jones was shot and killed in Florida by a plainclothes police officer as Jones was stuck on the side of the road with car trouble.

“I was still playing with the 49ers and my wife walks up after the game and told me that my cousin Corey had been killed. Corey broke down on the side of the road and a plain clothed police officer pulled up. Then this guy starts screaming. All you hear from there is three shots.”

Both ads focus on family and loss: the first clip features footage of Botham Jean’s brother hugging his convicted murderer in court as Jean’s mother and father talk about forgiveness. In the second ad, Jones’ father tearily asks “Why? Why’s my son gone today? Why?” The human toll of these crimes is front-and-center, but as far as the institutions that have created this reality for so many non-white people in America, they’re comparatively peripheral in these clips. The word “police” is never uttered, and while the tagline is “We’re all in this together,” there is nothing on screen to suggest racism is the common enemy. It’s cozy to posit that “we” are the solution, but what’s the point if I don’t have the fortitude to declare that you are the problem?

When Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL was announced just before the start of the 2018-2019 NFL season, many saw it was a mogul putting business before social justice. After all, the league had kept Colin Kaepernick on the sidelines for three years, and Jay supposedly supported Kaep and his protest—so why get in bed with the league that had effectively blackballed the quarterback? There didn’t seem to be any benefit in Roc Nation partnering with the NFL—outside of the NFL being able to save some face after losing some fans because of the treatment of Kaepernick. Working with a mogul who, in recent years, has become a symbol of Woke™ Celebritydom, could go a long way towards softening the league’s image as one that defers to good ol’ boyism. The most skeptical saw the initiative as a chance for the NFL to score cool points while using Jay-Z’s brand to do it. And with these new ads, those cynics have been proven right.

The hope behind these ads is that they will inspire the more ambivalent or right-leaning members of the NFL’s viewing audience to take up the cause that the league itself effectively punished Colin Kaepernick for protesting. That side of the NFL’s audience has made it clear that it does not commiserate with Kaepernick or his cause, but these ads are supposed to be what sways them. These ads are supposed to start a conversation. Roc Nation also pressed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to commit $100 million to social justice outreach, and Jay-Z has emphasized that he did not do this deal for anything other than a chance to use the platform to raise awareness on the issues.

It’s a stance that Jay has been voicing since that first announcement in August. “As long as real people are being hurt and marginalized and losing family members, then yes, I can take a couple rounds of negative press,” Jay said this week in an interview with The New York Times. He also said that he feels for what’s happened with Kaepernick (a workout this fall turned into a debacle for all parties involved), but he feels that what Roc Nation is doing is pushing things forward.

“No one is saying he hasn’t been done wrong. He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now — because people are still dying?’

“We didn’t say, ‘Let’s go make some money off the N.F.L.’”

Nonetheless, the NFL’s “Inspire Change” campaign feels more like a big-budget facelift for a league that still struggles with who it is and who it wants to sell itself to; as opposed to a lucrative corporation finding its conscience. In 2016, famed director Spike Lee was hired as a “consultant” for the NYPD when the department wanted to create initiatives to “build trust with minority communities.” Roc Nation’s cosign amidst the “Inspire Change” campaign feels like a similar maneuver from the NFL. These ads stoke emotion without indictment, evoking the murders of Botham Jean and Corey Jones at the hands of police officers, but focusing on sentimentality and not how and where reformation is needed. Jay has become someone who wears his “activist celebrity” tag on his sleeve, but how do moguls truly benefit causes? From his role in Barclays Center and the gentrification that accompanied its opening, to his deal with Barneys--can he truly occupy both worlds? Jay-Z wants Roc Nation's work with the NFL to push people to act, for everyone to see themselves in these victims. But the NFL can’t soft soap this and expect anyone to take any of this seriously. You can’t truly “inspire change” with post-woke pandering—or by helping conglomerates save face.

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Shakira performs onstage during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Shakira's Cultural Homages During The Super Bowl Halftime Show Deserve A Standing Ovation

Now that the glitter and fireworks have settled in Miami after Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's Super Bowl Halftime performances, the ladies are getting their just due props for incorporating Latinx, Arabic, and black/African culture into their sets.

Shakira's homages were the most prominent Sunday (Feb. 2) with many mocking her "tongue-wagging" which was a nod to her Lebanese roots. Known as zaghrouta, the act is one of celebration and joy often done to express gleeful emotions at weddings and graduations. The 43-year-old (Sunday was her birthday) was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia, by her Lebanese father and Spanish/Italian mother. The singer, whose name is Arabic for "grateful," has talked about her mixed heritage and how it played a big role in her music and performances (think her iconic Bellydancing or her punk-rock era).

“I am a fusion. That’s my persona. I'm a fusion between black and white, between pop and rock, between cultures — between my Lebanese father and my mother’s Spanish blood, the Colombian folklore and Arab dance I love and American music," she told Faze Magazine in the early aughts. "I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, The Beatles, and Nirvana. I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of 100 percent Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds."

 Zaghrouta was heard loud and clear during her performance of the 1998 classic “Ojos Así," which is also one of the few songs in her catalog to feature Arabic on it. She also tapped Afro-Colombian dancer Liz Dany Campo Diaz to help incorporate champeta into her performance. A dance from her hometown, the moves are traced back to African ancestors. It also has a similar groove to South African pantsula dance routines which some may remember from Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" music video.

Btw this dance is called Champeta and it is originated in Shakira’s hometown of Branquilla Colombia! It’s respected for its footwork and it’s an important part of Colombian culture 💃🏼 pic.twitter.com/JtcLsl9sm9

— SHAKIRABOWL2020 (@Exmotions) February 3, 2020

The singer also danced to another Afro-Colombian routine called mapalé, importantly at the start of her performance. The moves (including the beautiful sea of Afro-Latinx dancers) was a sight to see at one of the most-watched shows all over the world.

The initial eyebrow raises of a Colombian pop singer at the Super Bowl Halftime Show made sense but the singer was thoughtful in the songs she picked (her 2008 World Cup hit "Waka Waka" (This Time For Africa)" is a remake of the 1986 song "Zamina Mina" by Cameroonian makossa group Zangaléwa) and even more mindful in her riffs (she repeated with passion the "no fighting" lyric during her performance of "Hips Don't Lie"). In all, Shakira's set will be one hell of a cultural study in years to come.

Jennifer Lopez also made subtle political statements during her performance. Her set was a pleasant blend of her Vegas and "It's My Party" tour sprinkled with some of her newfound pole skills from her performance in Hustlers. Swing Latino, a competitive world-champion salsa group from Colombia returned to the stage with the singer as they previously were special guests during her "Party" tour dates. It took her On The 6 single "Let's Get Loud" to new heights as the group brought together swing dancing, a very Americana dance, and salsa on the stage.

 

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A post shared by SwingLatino | official account (@swinglatino_cali) on Feb 2, 2020 at 7:56pm PST

A treat for pop culture fanatics, J. Lo's five outfits were customed made by Versace which we can give a smirk to. There's also the undeniable presence of Parris Goebel, who choreographed Lopez's entire Super Bowl performance. The two met back in 2012 when Goebel worked on her world tour and the American Idol season 11 finale where Lopez sang her 2012 hit, "Dance Again."

But it was the presence of her daughter Emme Maribel Muñoz singing with her that captured the audience. What many did miss was how the 11-year-old along with other children, appeared in silver cages, pointing towards the immigration and family separation policies the country has enforced at the southern border. "Let's Get Loud" then collided with a cover of "Born In The USA" with Lopez touting a feathered American flag with the Puerto Rican flag on the other side.

 

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Emme Daddy is so proud of you. You are my ❤ and I am forever yours.

A post shared by Marc Anthony (@marcanthony) on Feb 2, 2020 at 6:19pm PST

You can't please everyone, but their performances were one of precision. The two living legends who don't need validation from anyone were in control and commanded the attention of everyone, including those who make it difficult for Latinx families to live their version of the American dream. We like to imagine that the two singers also learned from each other, especially J. Lo since some cultural stances go over her head. "Let’s show the world what two little Latin girls can do," Lopez said on Instagram before their takeover. And that's exactly what they did.

Rewatch their performances below.

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Terry Crews speaks onstage during Steven Tyler's Third Annual GRAMMY Awards Viewing Party to benefit Janie’s Fund presented by Live Nation at Raleigh Studios on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Anna Webber/Getty Images for Janie's Fund

Terry Crews, 'America's Got Talent' And The Conditional Solidarity Of Celebrity

Terry Crews is doing quite a spectacular job of torching any goodwill the public had toward him. The actor moved from tertiary to central figure in the ongoing controversy surrounding NBC’s popular talent show America’s Got Talent and its November firing of former co-host Gabrielle Union.

Union has stated that there was a toxic environment on set, citing the behavior of producer Simon Cowell, and an incident involving a racist joke she says was made by guest host Jay Leno and other instances where she felt AGT and NBC had not addressed racist or sexist behavior and policies on the show.

Terry Crews offered mild support for Union upon her initial firing but has drawn the ire of fans this week after he offered a less empathetic take about the situation during an interview with the Today show.

“First of all, I can’t speak for sexism because I’m not a woman, but I can speak on behalf of any racism comments. That was never my experience on America’s Got Talent,” the AGT host said. “In fact, it was the most diverse place I have ever been in my 20 years of entertainment.”

When asked if he’d spoken to Union, Crews offered, “I have reached out, but I have not heard anything.”

The online reaction was critical, with fans and pundits pointing out that Union had been one of Crews’ most vocal supporters in 2017 when the actor revealed and then testified that he’d been a victim of sexual assault by a Hollywood studio executive. With the flurry of criticism, Crews scoffed at his detractors, tweeting that there’s only one woman in his life who he works to please—his wife.

“There is only one woman on earth I have to please. Her name is Rebecca,” the 52-year-old tweeted. “Not my mother, my sister, my daughters or co-workers. I will let their husbands/ boyfriends/ partners take care of them. Rebecca gives me WINGS.”

Crews’ statements—and his nonsensical Twitter reaction to his critics—were disappointing for anyone who’d hoped Union wouldn’t be left out to dry in her fight against a very powerful corporate entity. When there was an opportunity to support a person who’d been vocal in her support of him, Crews chose to lean on his own experiences in a way that would obviously pave the way for America’s Got Talent to cast hers into dispersion. This entire debacle has been reminiscent of other high-profile instances where Black celebs offered criticism in the wake of solidarity—either focused on the comforts of celebrity or preoccupied with the trajectory of their careers.

Mo’Nique famously engaged in a feud with streaming service Netflix, after she felt the giant lowballed her in regards to a proposed stand-up special. The star had been branded “difficult” for years and she’d felt blackballed by Hollywood notables like Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels, whom she worked with in 2009's Precious. It was her performance in that film that landed her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2010.

When Mo’Nique appeared on Steve to discuss her proposed boycott of Netflix and the blackballing, her longtime friend Harvey chastised the Oscar-winner. “We’re fighting two wars here,” Harvey said. “There’s two wars, it’s what your issue is and is what the perception of the issue is.”

Mo’Nique’s stance was that she was fighting for equality—for women and for Black comics—in her battle with Netflix. In regards to her stance on Winfrey and Daniels, she was fighting to be paid for extensive travel and promotion. To her, this was a fight for the right to say “no” in Hollywood.

“Now, I said ‘no’ to some very powerful people...the difficulty came in when people that looked like me, like Oprah, Tyler [Perry], Lee Daniels—and I got to put my brother Steve on the list. Y’all knew that I was not wrong. Each one of you said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’re not wrong.’ And when I heard you go on the air and say, ‘My sister burned too many bridges, and it’s nothing I can do for her now,’ Steve, do you know how hurt I was?”

“I would have appreciated it, had my brother called me up and said, ‘let’s talk,’” she also said.

But Harvey was adamant that Mo’Nique’s wounds were self-inflicted, dismissing any notion of solidarity for what she was fighting for. Instead, he scolded her.

“This problem that you had at Netflix are rich people problems,” Harvey told her. “Because they’re looking at us saying, ‘you’re talking about millions, well, you got this, so you oughta be cool.'”

“I felt you had done yourself a disservice by the way you chose to go about it. When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. We black out here. We can’t come out here and do it any kind of way we want to.”

“Black people can’t do that” was always poor logic for not standing up for oneself, and Harvey’s take on Mo’Nique may have been more egregiously condescending than Crews and Union but it also reveals how “my career” can trump “you were right” when it’s time to show solidarity. It’s also important to understand that you can’t only see “the problem” via your own “experiences”—what you’ve experienced isn’t the sum total of what goes on. And waiting until the wackness affects you will have you dismissing the oppression of those who may not be in your position.

Five years ago, rapper A$AP Rocky was at the center of a firestorm after he dismissed the idea of rapping about the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson, Md., at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. The incident sparked weeks of unrest, as citizens gathered to protest police violence against Black communities, with artists like J. Cole and Talib Kweli offering support.

“Why would I feel compelled to rap about Ferguson?” Rocky said at the time during an interview with TimeOut New York. “I’m not about to say that I was down there throwing rocks at motherfuckers, getting pepper-sprayed. I’d be lying…I live in fucking Soho and Beverly Hills. I can’t relate.”

When Rocky found himself imprisoned in Sweden in 2019 for assault, the rapper’s old interview came back to haunt him. Many of his peers called for his release and railed against what they felt was a racist overreaction as Rocky faced up to six years in prison for what was essentially a fight. As his supporters pleaded his case, many online called back to Rocky’s dismissiveness when he was asked to offer support for the protests in Ferguson.

In an early January sitdown with Kerwin Frost, Rocky offered an explanation for his words in 2015. “In those old interviews, I used to say ‘I think it’s inappropriate for me to rap about things I didn’t help with… I felt like when it came to Ferguson, J. Cole went down there and he actually was on the news and he helped. I felt like he deserved to rap about it. So when someone [asked] me that in 2015 I’m like: ‘I just feel, personally, if I’m in SoHo or I’m here I can’t even talk on that’… That’s appropriating.

“It’s not sincere. It’s pretentious.”

Black voices can often be scorned when they’re facing off against powerful gatekeepers; that those in positions to amplify those voices can so often decide to take the more “practical” route of undermining or outright dismissing those voices in the most public forums is just evidence of how much the upward mobility of the individual can blind them to the bigger picture. When Rocky had to deal with what it meant to face law enforcement while young and Black, when Terry Crews had to stare down a powerful Hollywood entity who’d wronged him—they fully understood what oppression can feel like. When Steve Harvey finger-wagged Mo’Nique on a high-profile platform, he did so acknowledging the sliding scale that Black people face. Supporting each other when “that’s not my experience” means not undermining the fight against powers-that-be. Because being able to retreat “my experiences” is the greatest privilege. Hopefully, someone will remind Terry Crews.

Editor's Note: Terry Crews has tweeted an apology to Gabrielle Union saying, "I want you to know it was never my intention to invalidate your experience— but that is what I did. I apologize."

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