If you’ve been on social media recently you will have noticed that the rap world is in Game of Thrones level turmoil. Headlines abound. Kendrick Lamar blasts other rappers. Kendrick Lamar scorches other rappers. Kendrick Lamar hostile verb other rappers. In his new freshly leaked song* (*meaning “released by Kendrick Lamar’s people at a pre-established time”), Kendrick Lamar spends a great deal of time “calling out” other big name rappers and declaring himself – in no uncertain terms – the King of both the East Coast and the West Coast (why it took so long for rappers to discover manifest destiny is beyond the scope of this article).
I heard the barbershops be in great debates all the time
Bout who’s the best MC? Kendrick, Jigga and Nas
Eminem, Andre 3000, the rest of y’all
New niggas just new niggas, don’t get involved
I’m usually homeboys with the same niggas I’m rhymin’ wit
But this is hip hop and them niggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller
I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you niggas
Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas
They dont wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas
What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high
Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive
Out the exit window of 5 G5’s with 5 grand
With your granddad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryna land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg
Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said
That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a dread
Rap fans ate it up.
That was the point.
You know what else was exactly the point? What happened next. What happened next was this: The rappers who were (and weren’t) named spent the day responding to Kendrick Lamar in kind. More headlines came in, more page views were achieved, more hashtags were made trending.
Obviously the rappers eviscerated in the song played their part (they knew the role well) and responded with come backs, drama and vows to get lyrical on his ass. Secretly, they were probably giddy. The only thing that can make someone swallow their ego is the prospect of making big money to do so. That’s what this latest spat of drama means. Dollars all around. Stoke the fires of manufactured drama and the public will pay for the privilege of being along for the ride, such is our addiction to intrigue.
Big K.R.I.T. (one of the rappers named) said it best:
“This is Gladiator Shit”…Gotta give the people what they want .”
— BIG KRIT (@BIG_KRIT) August 13, 2013
Gladiator shit not in its combative sense, but in its sense of spectacle. Rap has always walked a very different path then that of other genres of music. Calling people out, creating drama and sadly, even actual violence, are all part of its legacy. It’s like a less regulated pro wrestling saga, where age old feuds and convoluted backstories (complete with betrayals, sacrifices and shaky alliances) play out in the public eye and raise the stakes of the music. Tupac and Biggie engineered such a masterful publicity feud that it still plays out daily for their legions of fans who have not forgotten (it also ended, sadly, with both promising rappers dead).
This is all so reality TV. Real Housewives of Compton called by any other name would seem as shamelessly self indulgent. This is no different than what Keeping up with the Kardashians does so well, and like a reality producer who knows when the drama is in need of a boost, Kendrick Lamar recognized that the rap game needed someone to rake the coals.
What this means in terms of money can only be positive. Loyal fans in both camps will feel it is their duty to vote with their wallets. It’s the only way, aside from ineffectually dissing one another on Youtube videos, that they can support “their guys”. Us vs Them is a helluva drug and one that leads to a vested interest in winning something. The feud is amplified further by social media algorithms that act as a feedback loop as more and more people see trending topics about Kendrick Lamar and chime in, making the topics trend even stronger.
Whether or not Kendrick Lamar is lyrically King of the rap game is of little consequence, he’s certainly the King of playing the rap game.
As we continue to struggle to comprehend how a man can shoot an unarmed teenager and not be legally accountable, it’s worth noting the larger players in all of this. George Zimmerman seemed well intentioned, if overly zealous. The problem is, he was sold a fantasy propagated by gun rights activists and the National Rifle Association that sent him, unwittingly, on a collision course with an incident. Unlucky break for George that he picked the absolute worst scenario in which to murder someone. I do believe that he probably didn’t plan on nor want to kill an unarmed teenager on the way back from the store holding nothing but skittles and iced tea. I also believe George Zimmerman wanted something to happen on one of his patrols, if only in that romantic and idealized way all of us fantasize about “what ifs”. In his case though, the “what if” became reality: heartbreaking and tragic.
From this lens, George Zimmerman isn’t a monster – or even overtly racist. Instead, he was manipulated and exploited by a movement that did not care about him further than as a cow to be milked of his money in exchange for guns and the facade of safety and control over imagined (or over-reported) threats. The National Rifle Association doesn’t kill people, but they give killers the tool they need to effectively do the job. If that were the only thing they did they would simply go down as despicable moneygrabbers, but they just can’t seem to leave their true intentions laid bare like that. Buying their product isn’t enough, we have to love them too.
To achieve that goal, they have to control the narrative. In a world where gun violence is increasingly directed at the gun owners themselves, or his or her family members (and disproportionately female), it must be hard to justify wanting more guns on the streets rather than less. To ensure profits, the narrative has to be unhinged from reality in such a way as to somehow convince a large section of society that they need guns in the home to ward off threats from outside the home. It isn’t hard. Especially when you play upon ingrained and deeply held beliefs about “other” groups.
Trayvon Martin had the misfortune of being born an “other”. George Zimmerman, while not Caucasian, still grew up in a society in which black men are portrayed on TV, movies and in the media as disproportionately violent, aggressive and troublesome. It’s an image that the NRA has cultivated, with great success, into a selling point. Protect your homes. People not like you are out there. Watching Trayvon slowly walk down a quiet, residential neighborhood must have seemed like something out of “The Wire”. He certainly looked like they said he would: He had a hoodie. He appeared in no hurry. He was black.
As a white male I don’t know what it’s like to be suspicious. Before writing this I walked across the street from my apartment to pick up some cat litter from a convenience store a block away. I took my time. I checked my phone. Stopped to answer a text. Kept moving. If I noticed a man following me in his car I would have been freaked out. Then again, I’ve never been treated with suspicion . I am given the benefit of the doubt. Young black males in our country aren’t given that luxury. In 2013, LaVar Burton (the reading rainbow guy) explains how differently he has to act around police officers than a white person. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.
In all of this, it’s important to note that Trayvon didn’t “owe” George Zimmerman anything. I’ve heard it asked “why didn’t Travyon just stop and explain to Zimmerman that he was walking home?”, but I can’t believe that this question is what it has come to. A boy shouldn’t have to justify himself to a strange man just for being black while walking down the street. That should be viewed as unacceptable. That is unacceptable.
But again, I don’t believe that George Zimmerman was a racist, intentionally looking for a black boy to kill. I think he was taught by cowards – who hide behind innuendo and plausible deniability – to look for young, black men when patrolling his neighborhood. They don’t say “young, black men”, that would be racist. They call them “thugs”, “urban”, or “gangsta”. They mean young, black men.
The “Stand Your Ground” law, much discussed in this case, is not a form of institutionalized racism on the scale of Jim Crow laws (as some had claimed), instead it is a loophole that allows racism to seep into vigilantism that the George Zimmerman case perfectly illustrated. Essentially, the law says that if a person feels “threatened” then they have the right to kill the aggressor and aren’t required to “retreat”. I’m not being facetious when I say that the “Wild West” that this law is clearly based on wasn’t even as dumb as that. Presumably, even Wyatt Earp would have seen how that has the potential for about a prairie sized amount of interpretation and wiggle room. Again, the NRA and gun rights advocacy groups who were instrumental in passing the idiotic, racist and impractical “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida (and other states) have safeguarded themselves from criticism, but make no mistake, they have blood on their hands. “Stand Your Ground” is nebulous and contrary to the entire reason we have laws. It’s why George Zimmerman can be acquitted of a murder he definitely committed. It has such a “gee shucks” naivete as to be nearly impossible to prosecute against. How do you prove what a “threat” is? Can a racist, who views minorities as inherently threatening, shoot anyone he pleases as long as he thinks they look sufficiently “urban”? But even more absurdly, it gives asymmetrical power to the holder of the gun (the NRA must be thrilled). Because guns kill quickly, and fists often don’t, the “threat” is the man swinging punches.
That is why George Zimmerman is free at its most distilled. The defense was able to successfully argue that because Trayvon was using his fists as weapons and George Zimmerman was clearly losing the fight (the one he instigated) that Trayvon deserved to be shot. Presumably, if Trayvon had a gun and felt threatened by George Zimmerman when he approached him he would have been in his right to kill him. But only one person had a gun that night. Fists take time. Bullets are quick. Trayvon isn’t here any more to defend himself and George walks free. That should be viewed as unacceptable. It is unacceptable.
So, in a weird way, George Zimmerman was wrapped up in something larger than he realized. He had been promised a fantasy that reality didn’t deliver. He had to learn through murdering an innocent boy that the idea that guns are defensive measures against intruders or aggressors is a false one. Unlike the simplistic world view that gun culture perpetuates, we live in a world of gray. Often the aggressors are our friends, or our family. Sometimes they are us. Our children, too. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as watching for the black guy in the hoodie. That lack of predictability may be scarier, it means a loss of control – and guns have always been marketed as tools of control in a scary world – but realizing that means less of this. It can’t bring Trayvon Martin back but it can, hopefully, prevent the next time. That should be viewed as possible. It is possible.
As the Ender’s Game movie adaptation release date edges nearer the heat is turning up for the writer of the book whose vocal homophobia is coming back to haunt him. While Card has never shied away from saying just what he thinks of homosexuals, the increased support for gay marriage and the timing of his movie have had the combined effect of making him rethink his image if not his position.
In a statement given to Entertainment Weekly, Card provides the rationale for why you should not boycott his latest cash cow and, if anything, feel sorry for a man who just wanted to publicly express his intolerance in peace and without fear of backlash:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Orson Scott Card
The statement isn’t long so I think it would be apt to discuss it all. It’s amazing how its sheer concentration of condescending offensiveness allows us to get such a clear picture of the way Card’s mind works. I guess that’s why he’s a great writer, he really knows how to get to the core truths of a person, even himself.
Part one, or Denial: Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
The apology opens up with a flat out denial that Ender’s Game could even possibly touch on homosexuality or gay rights because gay rights didn’t exist in 1984.
To the uninitiated, that statement might seem… well… insane, but if we take a step back and look at through the lens of Orson Scott Card it is completely logical. That’s because Orson Scott Card still believes that homosexuality is a choice, and furthermore, that it’s a choice that people make specifically to subvert traditional “society”. Gay people want to destroy our society and they won’t stop loving each other until every corner of America is reduced to rubble. You got to hand it to Card, he does have a pretty strong view on the power of love.
Part two, or resignation: With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
You win, gay people and society haters. Chicken Little has thrown in the towel. While I do think, and hope, that he is right and eventually every state will recognize gay marriage (perhaps, unfortunately, in the unheroic but still effective way Pennsylvania is currently paving the way towards gay marriage), Card seems to think that because his side “lost” (as if civil rights should have sides other than “what’s right”), the battle is over and therefore he shouldn’t be persecuted for something that happened so long ago, way back to like a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps Orson Scott Card hasn’t seen this map:
Although, considering gay rights didn’t even exist until at least 1985, I guess he probably considers this a bit too fast.
Part 3, or victimhood: Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
If Orson Scott Card had simply published the first paragraphs I probably would have wrote him off as just another out of touch bigot who doesn’t deserve to even be given a response, so idiotic is his position, but this last part seems to be a more and more common position now that homophobia is becoming viewed as what it is: pathetic and shameful. The Onion’s AVclub satirized this ludicrous response better than I ever could, but I’ll take a swing at explaining it.
Now that more than 50% of the country views gay marriage as a civil right and ethically justified, the old position of institutionalized bigotry that had gotten used to being unchallenged and culturally encouraged is starting to make its proponents look kinda bad. Even worse, when one of its most vocal proponents has a new movie coming out which is now threatened because of the terribly offensive things the writer said about homosexuality, it’s all together unfair. I mean really gay rights supporters, isn’t boycotting a man who has given support in time, money and writing to preventing gay people from marrying because of his personal views laying it on a bit thick? Stop persecuting Orson Scott Card just because he has made it a priority to persecute others!
Ignoring the part where Card thinks that this issue has somehow been completely resolved, the premise that homophobes are in danger of being victimized is preposterous. For proof, we should look to another instance in our history that required us to rethink the way we conceptualized marriage and how people were allowed to participate in it: Let’s think about interracial marriage. Or rather, let’s think about the fact that other than overt racists and octogenarians, no one thinks about the legality of interracial marriage as a divisive issue. But it was. But now it’s not. It’s called progress, and what’s crazy about progress is that unlike the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, you can change your mind on an issue. That’s what most of America is currently doing. That’s what Obama did. That’s what Orson Scott Card doesn’t want to do. Which is fine, but don’t expect to not experience some embarrassment when you express a view that everyone else has evolved away from.
Don’t worry, Orson Scott Card, I still think Ender’s Game is a pretty great book but your personal views leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe those views (which, you just proved you still believe in, having learned absolutely nothing while the world moved on) will affect ticket sales, maybe they won’t, but that’s not intolerance, that’s you getting left out in the cold because you were too busy having a temper tantrum and forgot to grow up.