Though his choruses are mediocre at best, Homeboy Sandman is one of the most-talented rappers in hip-hop. I’ve never heard a verse of his that didn’t impress me technically, stylistically or conceptually. Even his videos are generally impressive. That being said, Homeboy Sandman is not my homeboy.
In an op-ed published by Gawker, Homeboy Sandman declared and then defended the notion that black people are cowards. It’s a nonsense argument in principle and even worse in action. Sandman uses his dissatisfaction with the LA Clippers’ response to Donald Sterling’s racism to then accuse an entire populace of cowardice. His accusation does nothing more than reignite old, frustrating, condescending, dehumanizing, ahistorical and unempirical debates about whether black people’s collective condition is attributable to black people ourselves. I’m not sure how anyone who knows anything about American history could make such disgusting claims. I’m especially not sure how any black person who is living through the very consequences of American history could make those claims. But I’m not here to speculate.
I’m here to debate. But I don’t want to debate on Sandman’s terms; they just plain aren’t tenable. “Black people are cowards” is a statement that isn’t even worth laughing at. It’s pure bullshit, like homeopathy or justified rape. I don’t even want to debate with Sandman because his argument has no connection to the real world.
I want to debate with the people who are telling me that Sandman’s op-ed is a “must-read.” Why should I read an article where a black person gives legitimacy to the idea that black people should not be welcome at certain places? Why should I read an article where a black person uses “coon” as a way of addressing me? Why should I read an article that says, “Our enemy isn’t white people” as if that’s breaking news? Why should I read an article where a musician presents an entire genre as corrupted and inferior just because it doesn’t always uphold his particular values?
The only answer I can come up with for all these questions is that I should read this article if I want to be homeboys with someone who is unable to think complexly about the issues facing black America. I agree that the LA Clippers’ protest was kind of lame, but calling all black people cowards is even lamer. Anyone can blame rap music, basketball players, TV shows, movies and black people. Hell, those 5 targets of blame might as well be the starting lineup for people who want to play the game “Let’s Fix Black America’s Problems.”
It takes someone with a creative mind to tackle the realities of black America with actual nuance, not Gawker-style, reductive talking points. Before today, I would have thought that Homeboy Sandman was in possession of such a creative mind, but it turns out that I was wrong.
But I don’t care about Homeboy Sandman. I care about black people telling other black people that our destinies are in our own hands as if there aren’t other hands tightly gripped around our throats. I understand the inclination to ask if black people are self-oppressing – it’s always a question worth asking for any group. But answering that question involves confronting the complexity of oppression and resistance to it, and thinking deeply about history and possibility, not responding to that complexity with prepackaged solutions that have never worked.
I’m so tired of black people comparing the present moment to the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Unless you live in Mississippi, those eras are absolutely incommensurate. Boycotts don’t solve problems in 2014. They barely solved them in 1956. This cannot be emphasized enough. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a unique historical event that was enabled by demographic concentration, community autonomy , social infrastructure in the form of robust churches (and tithing members!) and support from communities outside of Montgomery. The fact that it succeeded is a true marvel and one that I am immensely grateful for, but it wasn’t just a matter of everyone holding hands and being strong. Black people have always been strong, but strength has never been enough. That boycott succeeded because strength was coupled with power and imagination. Circulating an article that actively drains black people of all three is absolutely a step in the wrong direction.