Some brief, barely-edited thoughts about something I’ve been thinking about.
So Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky was recently detained in Sweden for over a week now after a fight he was involved in in Stockholm. Fellow rappers like Tyler the Creator, Jaden Smith, SchoolBoy Q, and many other celebrities have shown support for Rocky and have cancelled plans of performing in Sweden in the future. A petition went viral, with hundreds of thousands of signatures, calling for Rocky’s release.
While there has been an outpouring of support for Rocky, an artist whose music I thoroughly enjoy, there is still a wave of people who have called attention to comments he made in a 2015 interview, in which he appeared to double down on his decision to avoid speaking on politics and issues pertinent to the Black community in his music.
“Let Kendrick and J. Cole deal with that shit…Why would I feel compelled to rap about Ferguson?…Is it because I’m black? What the fuck, am I Al Sharpton now? I’m A$AP Rocky. I did not sign up to be no political activist. I wanna talk about my motherfuckin’ lean, my best friend dying, girls, my jiggy fashion and my inspirations in drugs…I’m in the studio, I’m in fashion houses, I’m in these bitches’ drawers. I’m not doing anything outside of that. That’s my life. These people need to leave me the fuck alone.”
Some people, like Crissle West, the co-host of The Read, cited Rocky’s comments in a rather apathetic reaction to his incarceration abroad (Understandably so, I might add). But naturally, there was backlash to this apathy, as a lot of people, including former rapper/current podcaster Joe Budden, reacted harshly to those people who used his comments as a reason to not defend Rocky in his time of need.
This post, however, is less about the specific details of the situation or whether I support Rocky or not (FYI I do), and more about how we seemingly take Black solidarity for granted, especially when that solidarity comes from Black Women/Black LGBTQ+.
I can only speak for my own experiences, but in my experience, Black women have been at the forefront of organizational efforts on behalf of Black people. I remember the first time I attended a college NAACP meeting, back in late 2016, and being amazed by the fact that essentially every single person leading the various committees – education, economic empowerment, health, community coordination, etc. — was a Black woman.
I touched on this a little bit last year, when I wrote about how, following racist incidents that occurred on campus in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, those same Black women organized a beautiful show of support for another Black student who was harassed on campus by a Trump supporter. Earlier this year, I heard (since I’ve already graduated and no longer attend the school) that some of these same leaders rallied once again on behalf of a student who proclaimed that she had experienced racism from a professor who was hellbent on preventing her from graduating.
What we don’t often discuss, however, is the dilemma of Black women/Black LGBTQ+ showing solidarity for people that would never reciprocate that support in their own time of need (I could write more about this dilemma but instead, read this post by Kashema in the wake of the shooting of Stephon Clark). I’ve never stopped to think to myself: in each of those situations, Black women led the charge, no questions asked, with no contingencies attached. Have we come to a point where we just expect solidarity from women?
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that, oftentimes, this unconditional solidarity gets taken for granted. We expect certain groups within our own community to just stand up and fight for us, regardless of the situation — and most of the time, THEY DO. But whenever certain people decide to withhold support, due to the victim’s misogyny or homophobia etc., we get upset. I understand how we might interpret this as petty, or “bad timing” as Budden put it, but can we really blame them? Hypothetically speaking, if/when A$AP Rocky gets back home, will he be justified in getting upset if he finds out that political activists and residents of Ferguson decided not to stand in support with the countless other artists and celebrities? Personally, I don’t think so.