worth that requires exploring is, “Why are we quick to empathize with celebrity men and not their victims?”
The empathy we extend to male celebrities at the cost of their victims is saddening. Men who have shown no remorse for the atrocities they’ve committed while continuing their reign of profitability and power. We say we care about women that have been physically and mentally abused but we champion their abusers. We tweet #MeToo and shout “No more!” but we still go to their movies or listen to their music or vote them in office… we don’t actually care.
If I were a woman, there’s no telling how discouraged I would feel living in a world that would make my rapist a television icon, or my abuser a pop icon or my murderer a prime time spectacle only for him to get away with it. To constantly hear excuses as to why your pain doesn’t matter is something that I understand because I’m black, but if I were a black woman, I’d have to reconcile loving black men and watching many of them constantly disparage my existence. My skin color would be fodder for society to dissect and dismiss, my sexuality would be scrutinized and made to believe it wasn’t my own, and the goodness and patience I give to the world would be taken for granted. I would be tired of men constantly using me to make themselves turn into better men while not reciprocating the same energy to make me a better woman. I would be tired of men needing to have a daughter or a mother or a grandma or a favorite auntie in order to respect my womanhood, my agency and my life (and, even still, the respect would be minimal). I am tired of people treating respect like meritocracy.
The June 18th murder of Florida rapper XXXTentacion triggered massive reaction on social media. Celebrities and fans flooded to Twitter and Instagram to give their condolences. This lamentful response was met with equally contemptful backlash. While some mourned, others thought XXX deserved no remorse for his death; a very select few even rejoiced in his killing. And, then, all Hell broke loose.
In late 2016, about two years before his death, XXXTentacion was accused of viciously assaulting his then-pregnant girlfriend. Apparently, the damage was so bad that she has vision problems in one of her eyes and lost some of the feeling in parts of her face. He threatened to kill her and their unborn baby. Before this incident, he had a clear pattern of disturbing physical and emotional abuse (you can read the gruesome details here). Critics describe his music as bring attention to depression and mental health issues, but his music (and actions) were violent and incited others to violence as well. Numerous concerts he held or attempted to hold ended in fights and riots. None of this derailed or, even simply, threatened his career in the least bit.
XXL Magazine put XXX on their annual Freshman Cover, a sign that he was a young rapper in the game to be taken seriously (titled “Generation Next” which is discouraging, to say the least), on June 2017, even though his arrest for attacking his girlfriend was in October the year before. In March 2018, XXX had the number #1 album in the country, well after the public knew of the abuse allegations. Genius even put together a ridiculous video so the general public could pronounce his name correctly. The machine of the hip-hop music industry kept churning.
Business kept moving not only for him, but for Chris Brown (who, stunningly, managed to maintain his career after brutalizing pop icon Rihanna and being an emotional creep to Karrueche Tran), Tekashi69 (who gang-banged a 13 year-old girl when he was 18) and Nas (who drew legions of fans to his latest album, Nasir, even after ex-wife Kelis alleged physical and emotional abuse during their marriage). And these men are not exceptions but the rule; they are in the lineage of men in hip-hop who have grossly mistreated women and felt no true consequences.
One of the greatest and celebrated rappers of all time, Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, physically abuse Lil’ Kim; in once incident, Biggie pulled a gun out on Kim even as Jermaine Dupri watched. Snoop Dogg, who has morphed from Crip gang member to everyone’s favorite uncle, used to be an actual pimp for two years while he was married, so who really knows what those women and his wife went through. Joe Budden abused multiple women he’s dated. Big Pun… Cee-Lo Green… Fabolous… R. Kelly… all these men had their careers while their victims were systematically ignored. But not just in hip-hop; from Hollywood (Woody Allen, Gary Oldman and Sean Penn) to professional sports (Jameis Winston, Warren Moon and Ben Roethlisberger) to the White House (John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump).
The fabric of our society is men yielding power in dangerous ways and women are often the victim. And it’s even more troubling when women make excuses for these abusers. I cannot begin to imagine the betrayal of seeing women like Erykah Badu become enablers:
So, I ask again, do you really care about all women or don’t you?
A development that sprung from the Twitterverse was a negative reaction to the negative reaction that XXXTentacion received. A lot of people were in a rush to tell you how you should feel about a terrible man’s death, in odd and befuddling ways. The worst were people who claimed to be aware that XXX was a terrible person but didn’t want to ridicule him just because of his age. I understand having sympathy for a person dying young and I, also, believe that our destinies are not predetermined and we can change if we actually want to and actively make a true effort in doing so. But these people giving him the benefit of a doubt just because he was 20 ignores history. Why are you showing sympathy to a person that did nothing to show you he was sympathetic about the evil things he’s done? Bill Cosby drugged and raped when for four decades, from the 60’s right up until 2008. He had the benefit of age and “wisdom” and he still preyed on countless women. Cosby has yet to show an ounce of remorse; think about the gargantuan power of male celebrity privilege when all it took was a leaked, off-the-cuff stand-up routine in 2014 from Hannibal Buress, and not the accusations from dozens of women over the decades, to finally bring Cosby down.
Another turn the wild ride of Twitter took last week was people attempting to make lazy comparisons of XXXTentacion to Malcolm X, saying the minister was a pimp, a drug dealer and a theft, and if we didn’t give him a chance to change, he would have never turned into the man that he became. This revisionist history ignores the fact that Malcolm Little went to jail for the crimes he committed, made penance for his sins and then evolved into the man he was. It took his freedom being taken away and the grace of finding his first spiritual awakening for him to change. XXXTentacion was charged with witness tampering after his abused girlfriend tried to withdraw her charges after her original testimony; prosecution believe he intimated her into order to have the trial go away. His notoriety only increased in the face of his allegations; where’s the chance for reflection in that? Should we have waited a few decades for him to get his act together? He was a man, so we would’ve, unjustly, given him that anyway. Even in his death, his fans are still defending the power of his music while not coming to terms with his heinous past, which is what he wanted all the while.
So, I ask again, do we really care about women or not? Are we just lip-servicing each other to death or are we really about making actual change? I ask the question, but I’m afraid I already know what the answer is. In May, Spotify tried taking XXX and R. Kelly’s music off of their streaming service, but hip-hop golden boy Kendrick Lamar and his label Top Dog Entertainment stepped in and threatened to pull their entire catalog unless they added these gross men back on their site. And, predictably, Spotify collapsed to the pressure. Men, even while serving their own interest, find a way to be implicit in enabling other’s men trash behavior. That’s just the cost of doing business; to potentially save their music (and money) from one day getting removed, TDE openly supported a domestic abuser.
From what I found, XXXTentacion never even finished abuse his trial. If there’s anything to be truly upset over, it’s that he’ll never have to face the repercussions of being, potentially, found guilty over his crimes.