Two recent incidents demonstrate why the black masses must dump our leadership classes if we want to see our communities truly flourish and thrive.
The first began last week after a rapper named DaBaby made controversial comments at a concert about people with HIV and men engaged in sexual acts with other men. His entire rant lasted less than 30 seconds, but that was all the time needed to set off an explosion of criticism from fans, fellow artists, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The music industry heard the backlash loud and clear. DaBaby was dropped from at least seven music festivals this week. He issued the standard public relations-scripted apology on Instagram and received invitations from multiple organizations to educate him about HIV.
Unlike DaBaby, Rep. Cori Bush is an actual leader. She is a Democratic congresswoman from Missouri who represents more than 700,000 constituents, including all of St. Louis. She is also one of the newest members of "The Squad." Most of the attention she received this week was for sleeping on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to pressure the Biden administration into extending the eviction moratorium.
What got my attention was a portion of an interview in which she explained advocating for defunding the police while simultaneously paying more than $70,000 on private security over the last few months. Her response to the accusations she was practicing "safety for me but not for thee" politics were telling. She said, "I have private security because my body is worth being on this planet right now" and asked her critics "Would you rather me die?"
Cori Bush and DaBaby are products of a larger American culture that celebrates mediocrity and is pacified with superficial representation. There are white liberals who promote police abolition, socialism, and all the other ideas in Cori Bush's platform. There are also white pop stars with little talent who still achieve commercial success like DaBaby.
The problem is that Bush promotes herself as a black leader fighting against white supremacy and for black liberation and DaBaby is a popular artist in a genre that is central to black American life. One operates in the realm of policy while the other wields influence in culture. Both epitomize what happens when a community loses its standards and allows its most influential figures to lead it down a path of destruction.
Former TMZ personality Van Lathan captures this larger point in the comments he shared about DaBaby via Instagram:
"Here's the hard truth. The festival doesn't have a soul, it's a corporate entity. That means it's cool with whatever the consumer is cool with. If we're all singing along to songs about misogyny, murder, and malice, then they figure it's cool to put it on stage. But when a community has standards about how they'll be spoken to or about, like the LGBTQ+ community obviously does, then the festival or corporate entity listens. It affects their ability to book other artists down the line, and makes them vulnerable to boycotts, etc. If we wanted festivals to not book artists that profited in Black Death, we'd have to set a community standard on what we accept. We won't, because by and large, we like and understand the music."
DaBaby performs at Hard Rock Stadium on July 25, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)
Lathan gets it. People will give you whatever you put up with. Things would change quickly if the black community ever got as mad about the constant stream of violence and degradation rappers aim in our direction as DaBaby's critics got this week. Elton John and Madonna spoke out publicly against the rapper.
Elders in the black community take a totally different position. They encourage the people who pollute the cultural airwaves because they understand the influence of artists and find ways to use them, often for political gain.
The controversy surrounding DaBaby shows that the only things keeping hip-hop artists from changing their ways are the people and personalities who provide the demand for murder, mayhem, and misogyny music.
The comments made by Cori Bush demonstrate the total disregard Democratic politicians have for their constituents. St. Louis had 262 homicides in 2020 — a 50-year high — and 90% of those victims were black, including 17 children under the age of 18. Instead of committing to policy measures that promote public safety for her constituents and speaking honestly about what families and communities must do to curb violent crime, Cori Bush calls for funding cuts to law enforcement. That means fewer police who can investigate homicides, apprehend suspects, and bring some measure of justice to the people who voted for her.
This week I learned that there are certain things that will get a hip-hop baby put in time out. I also learned that while black lives matter, the lives of black elected officials matter even more. What I have yet to find out is whether the communities they come from will make our voices heard. Someone snuck in many years ago and stole our standards. We'll know we have them back when we dismiss or disregard any elected official, media personality, or entertainer who peddles self-destruction and encourages chaos. Unfortunately, there are very few authority figures left to investigate the crime. Maybe Cori Bush can get a social worker or her private security guards to help.