THOSE PEOPLE

A black magazine for people too hip for black magazines. 

OJ Is A Murderer. Bill Cosby Is A Rapist. R. Kelly Is A Pedophile.

OJ Is A Murderer. Bill Cosby Is A Rapist. R. Kelly Is A Pedophile.

 

Deconstructing Black Mythology

Yup. I said it. Shoot me now.

Certain shit gets the Boogie Man treatment: the things, or rather “J-E-L-L-O,” that go bump in the wee hours of the night; the things we as a community want to sweep under the rug, or ignore.

One of the main reasons I applied and eventually went to Temple University was because I assumed it was Bill Cosby’s Hillman. I assumed that I too would be able to live in his legacy because, who didn’t want to be Bill Cosby growing up? The real question was who didn’t want to be the fictional character Heathcliff Huxtable on the fictional television show The Cosby Show, played by Bill Cosby, growing up?

Look at dem’ sweaters, y’all.

Come on. His grandkids were named Winnie and Nelson. The jazz records and guest stars modeled pure Black excellence. His wife was Phylicia Rashad for God’s sake.

Then Hannibal Buress opened his big mouth and the earth cracked: Cosby? Pillar of our hopes and dreams Cosby? Drugging women and having sex with them?

Nah, say it ain’t so.

So we did. We opted for the less dangerous. Because we know the story. We know the Paul Robesons, the Sammy Davises and Sam Cookes. Play by the rules of the White infrastructure or be held captive by the rings of marginal success, because for all of Sammy’s glory and genius, he will still be considered by many to be just another Sinatra lackey.

So we came together and asked — how is Cosby any different than the other martyrs of our history who have seen their legacies demolished by the fear of a Black sun risen? Victim-shaming becomes the phrase that pays; we barter guilt and evidence for hope and idolization. Our eyes shut and we shuck and jive in prayer formation, waiting for the story to end. Because losing Heathcliff is way more important than the truth.

There are certain giants we lift onto the tops of our shoulders, and we wait and pray for them, and when they fall at our hands by our sword we dangle their flesh in-between our teeth and grin and say:

HA! YOU SHOULD HAVE LOVED US MORE!

Unless that fall seems to have come at the hands of the White oppressor.

Because O.J. was the fucking with them White girls slash running through airports for Hertz slash Leslie Nielsen’s road dawg until the system that seems to have been created to derail the hopes and dreams of Black men and women reared its head and snatched him from their all but angelic pearly White graces.

We then yelled out our battle cry of:

“This is their plan.”
“Not another one.”
“They’re always trying to take our heroes from us.”

The fact is, no one cared about O.J. in my neighborhood. We were too young to remember his significance to the running back position in the NFL. I knew him more as the goofy guy from the Naked Gun series. No one cared until Nicole Brown was murdered. And so, we chose sides. The Black kids in class were adamant about his presumed innocence. I couldn’t even tell you what the facts were but, I knew a glove didn’t fit so we had to acquit. I also knew he was a celebrity and he was Black, and that was enough for the White media to vilify him, crucify him and nail him to the proverbial cross. We argued with our White students and teachers and yelled and cried and shouted because an injustice against one Black man is an injustice against all Black folks.

And something in that is beautiful, but also very dangerous.

Because you obscure facts; you blind yourself when your heroes become your gods. When O.J. was announced innocent, I remember looking at his face — you ever seen the kid who steals the lunch from the other kid next to him, and somebody else gets caught? That kind of relief, it’s a different kind than the “I actually didn’t steal shit” look. But, it’s just a look.

I got older and started looking at the evidence — the blood and the abuse leading to her murder, the lies, the cover-ups, and the fact that O.J. seemed to have what a lot of brothers and sisters who get caught in precarious positions lack: boatloads of money.

Michael Jackson settled out of court. Not sure if this is popular opinion or not, but there were details about M.J.’s life he wanted to keep private. There was never any verifiable evidence that MJ molested boys. But, Michael Jackson never got the “pass” because he betrayed us; he, the one who suffered from a skin condition which made his skin lighter, who donated millions to charities, wasn’t Black enough. Because your guilt is measured against your Blackness. You marching in Ferguson? You donating to the NAACP? Al Sharpton validating you? You dislike Don Lemon?

Aiight, you good round here.

My Black friends loved me the most when I talked that shit — that “nigga that, nigga this” shit.

That “My man, what’s really good?” hand dap and embrace, handclaps after every other phrase, pants sagging shit. They loved me most when I helped them with homework or wrote their essays for them. But me sitting with White girls, dating White girls, raising my hand in class, learning new words?

Nah.

It would get cold sometimes, never being sure what could push and drag me into the “too White” vacuum. But I knew what “Black enough” meant. To be Black was to be cool and to be cool at the time was to not give a fuck about anything. It was this kind of rhetoric that let me believe Cosby was clean, and that “Bump N’ Grind” (the song) and R. Kelly (the artist) were separate.

[via]

[via]

Tyrese dapped up R. Kelly front row at the Soul Train Music Awards this year.

I wonder if he knows which hand Robert used to pee on underage girls with. No matter. BET set Kellz up with a fake barbecue stage and all that — the works. He danced and grooved and sang his ass off. He would follow this act a few weeks later by walking off the Huff Post Live set when asked questions about his predatory past. We took him marrying Aaliyah “allegedly” in Mexico and the “alleged” sex tapes and “alleged” “allegations” from countless underage women as grains of salt, not to be taken seriously, because how could a man who made “I Believe I Can Fly” be this guy?

So, we invite him to awards shows, and invite him to sing on sultry hooks, and we skip the New York magazine or Chicago Tribune or Village Voice pieces and countless other nationally printed articles on the lawsuits and stories about how R. Kelly used his power to molest underage girls, because we need our Pied Piper; because our fantasies of who we want our Black superheroes to be can sometimes outlive the reality of their cruelties and the shame they bring to their people.

And this seems to only be a condition we as a Black community suffer from — where the failures of one are worn as the failures of all. Some will ask, what is the statute of limitations on another’s suffering? How many apologies will be enough? When do we forgive? I think it starts when the guilty admit guilt, I guess. Chris Brown calls beating Rihanna a “mistake.”

Nah, shun.

A “mistake” is leaving your door unlocked on Creston and 190th at 2 AM to go run outside to grab a $5 hero sandwich. Beating your superstar girlfriend up? That’s an act of violence. Follow that up with a Jet Ski ride in Miami with Usher the next day and what you have is what can only be interpreted as callousness.

We will excuse behaviors, find reasons to blame the White infrastructure, take bits and pieces of chopped media edits to stake claims on falsehoods that have no real merit, all for the fear of losing our Black stars. Everything isn’t a conspiracy theory, folks. Some things really are, for lack of a better pun, Black and White. Some shit is wrong; some shit is indefensible and inexcusable. Not everything is a distraction, or a derailment, or some trumped up charge or White ploy to keep us from our greatness. The persecution of our idols at the hands of a corrupt and unjust system does not excuse guilt, nor does it mute or nullify the screams of their victims.

Bill Cosby’s legacy is not tainted because of the media, or corporate hatred for Black skin, but because Bill Cosby used his power to rape women. R. Kelly does not get the support he feels he deserves from the Black community because Robert Kelly used his power to molest young girls. O.J. lost the civil suit, not because he “slept with some White woman,” but because the woman he loved he repeatedly abused and possibly murdered.

Sometimes, folks do fucked up shit: Black, White, Asian, Indian. No race, no ethnicity, no person is exempt from truth, no matter how scary the result may be. I hold our Black heroes dear — our Gregory Hineses and Serena Williamses and Gordon Parkses and Claudia Rankines and Stevie Wonders — but I will never defend injustice. I will never defend wrongdoing. I will never defend falsehoods, no matter the idol, no matter the high of their heights. The idea of one’s presumed glory will never outweigh the cost of another’s safety.

I plead guilty to that.

 
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