By: Lincoln Blades
Late last year I read one of the most disturbing think pieces I've ever come across, and as someone who makes his living writing on the internet, that's no easy feat. The writer, David Masciotra, wrote an article for Salon where he basically stated that soldiers aren't heroes. In his article, Masciotra writes,
It is equally challenging for anyone reasonable, and not drowning in the syrup of patriotic sentimentality, to stop saluting, and look at the servicemen of the American military with criticism and skepticism. In 2003, a Department of Defense study found that one-third of women seeking medical care in the VA system reported experiencing rape or sexual violence while in the military. According to the Pentagon, 38 men are sexually assaulted every single day in the U.S. military.
While he makes a few solid points, his overall thesis is flawed by the same problem that he cites as America's main issue: Thinking childishly. His article drove a lot of traffic and started a lot of conversations, mostly because an article titled, "A Nuanced Look At The Positives & Negatives of the American Military" wouldn't be as big of a hit. A piece that focuses on the actual bravery of U.S. soldiers, set against the harsh realities of abuse, rape and torture is far more nuanced than we as humans like to be.
In the past few days, since Straight Outta Compton premiered, I've been thinking about my issue with Masciotra's piece, especially since I've read many different think pieces about the individual members and the group as a whole.
Most noteworthy amongst them is the intense, heartbreaking and eye-opening article that Dee Barnes wrote for Gawker. It has now ignited a furious debate over what the true legacy of N.W.A. and Dr. Dre should be (hip hop pioneers vs. misogyny pedlars vs. cowardly woman beaters.) But the fact that many people believe that we need to choose from those options as opposed to recognizing the validity in each of them and applying all of them to our worldview of N.W.A. just reveals our childish inability to view human beings as fully sculpted people, with flaws and all.
The reality is, it IS possible for two (or more) opposing things to be true about a human being at the same time. In this new generation of social media justice, we ignorantly and childishly believe that one, singular-pointed sentence must encapsulate a person's entire life, which is complete bullshit. If you look at humanity through the lens of "this person must either be a SAINT or a SINNER" then you haven't fully grown up yet.
Dr. Dre IS one of the greatest and most influential producers hip-hop has ever seen -- AND he is a cowardly, woman-beating dickhead. Eldridge Cleaver was a brilliant activist for the Black Panthers -- and he also beat the hell out of his wife Kathleen Cleaver. Mike Tyson is not only an iconic boxer, many see him as a somewhat hilarious TV and movie star -- and he also beat up Robin Givens and was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992. When I see these men, I don't see one or the other -- I see them in their totality. They are all cowardly assholes who put their hands on women, and that should be known about them today, when they die and decades after, when the only remnants of their existences are contained in history books.
It is incredibly DISGUSTING for any man to overlook Dee Barnes claims, thinking that she should "SHUT UP" to allow Black men to flourish. That has been a long running theme in the Black community, especially throughout social justice groups like the Civil Rights movement and the Black Panther party. Black men have been telling Black women for far too long, "C'mon Black woman, support Black men and suffer abuse at our hands! You'll get free after we become equal and decide to talk about your problems with being raped, assaulted and ignored!" Black women deserve better. With that said, hip-hop is a very strange platform for Black people, because while the music is our culture, the violent and misogynistic elements of it leave us with an ultimately complicated relationship with the art form.
Growing up in the hip-hop culture, I've battled with loving the music and hating some of the speech at the same time. Hip-hop heads who find themselves staring down the barrel of this conundrum, typically choose to embrace hip-hop while being extremely cognizant of its problematic nature. We're forced to view the music by its totality, from Nas' "I Gave You Power" to Akinyele's "Put It In Your Mouth." And that's the mature way to not only view N.W.A. and Dr. Dre, but most human beings.
It's simply wrong to believe that we should overlook ALL of the political impact that N.W.A. had on furthering free speech amongst young, Black people because of the content of their other songs and the disgusting things they've thought and done off stage. While at the same time, we cannot ignore, discount or minimize what Dee Barnes, Michel'e and other people say about Dre and N.W.A. -- because that is of the utmost importance. But for people who have contributed some semblance of good to the world, it's important that we don't lose the basic humanity to view these people as 360° beings.
If it's your belief that hitting a woman means a man has lost all possible chances at being a redeemable person, that's fair. But, it's also fair to realize that being human is not just about GOOD vs. BAD, or NICE vs. EVIL -- there's a nuanced grey zone that we should be able to navigate too. A grey zone that we should be ultimately familiar with, because it's where we imperfectly live our own highly flawed lives.
Click here to read more stories on ByBlacks.com.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: