author – activist – faculty – mom
Earlier this week on Alternet, Chauncey DeVega had a brilliant piece on AlterNet about the politics of forgiveness. The piece begins with Lezley McSpadden, mother of Mike Brown, the teen killed by a Ferguson police officer a year ago.
[McSpadden] told Al Jazeera that she will “never forgive” Darren Wilson and that “he’s evil, his acts were devilish.”
Her response is unusual. Its candor is refreshing. Lezley McSpadden’s truth-telling reveals the full humanity and emotions of black folks, and by doing so defies the norms which demand that when Black Americans suffer they do so stoically, and always in such a way where forgiveness for racist violence is a given, an unearned expectation of White America.
When the piece ran on salon.com, the title was “Black America owes no forgiveness: How Christianity hinders racial justice.”
It was with this in mind that I encountered today’s story on Gawker.com, the latest installment in the media volley between Dee Barnes and Dr. Dre.
Friday, Dre apologized in the New York Times:
I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives…Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.
Like Barnes, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m glad that he was able to muster up a real apology, in lieu of his grudging admission in a previous interview that he’d made some “fucking horrible mistakes.” Barnes wonders if this is heartfelt, or a PR move encouraged by his corporate backers, Apple and Universal, to do damage control.
I look at all of this and see in all of this the same underlying Christian script that DeVega mentions. Dre doesn’t say the name Jesus, but he spins a tale of redemption. Delivered from alcoholism, marriage, a family man, seeking guidance, transformation. In the Afro-Christian script, we are supposed to applaud Dre for his testimony and celebrate his salvation.
But I have two questions.
First of all, Jesus was all about social justice. Where is the justice? In particular, where is the amends, Dre? Where are the reparations? Where does he invite Dee Barnes to host something he’s working on, consult on some big project, join in his spoils. His violence and blacklisting is the reason she lost her position in media. He could be the reason she regains it. Yet there’s no talk of making things right. She and the other women are just casualties in his successful rearview mirror.
Second of all, it’s just the usual question: do Black Women’s Lives Matter? Where are the boycotts of Straight Outta Compton until Dre makes it right? Mike Brown can’t be resurrected, but we know what justice would look like. Justice would be holding Darren Wilson accountable for murder. We also know what justice would look like for Dee Barnes. Dre has the power to resurrect Dee Barnes’ career and livelihood. He has three billion from Apple, a ton of money from Universal, and the ear of the New York Times.
Even if it’s not about reparations for Barnes, personally, where is the gamechanger donation to a battered women’s shelter, a rape crisis center or a girls’ club in the Compton area?
And while we’re at it, what about reparations for all the women he’s hurt–with his music. All the women who grew up hearing him disrespect women since they were in utero. Where is the apprenticeship program for young women DJs in his beatmaking empire? (…with careful scrutiny so there’s no sexual harassment). Where’s the annual award to an emerging black feminist emcee? (I nominate Coco Peila). Where is his commitment not only to apologizing for his own misogyny, but to reducing the misogyny in hip hop? Is he prepared only to collaborate with artists who build up women instead of breaking us down? Yeah. I didn’t think so.
Enough with the blah blah, Dre. Time to put your money where your mouth is.