Words by Andreas Hale.
When news began to spread across the World Wide Web that George Zimmerman would be competing in a “celebrity” boxing match, I was disgusted. Aside from the fact that Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges stemming from the now infamous incident where he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, I was disgusted at the concept that anybody, especially a murderer, could be considered a “celebrity.”
But you know what intensified my already prominent disgust? The news that a rapper would be the one facing Zimmerman in this sham of a boxing match. And not any rapper, it is gotdamn Earl Simmons, or Dark Man X, or DMX. You know, the rapper who’s notoriety today is based on his numerous run ins with the law rather than his discography? Of all the people that could have been selected for this deplorable circus of unfathomably distasteful proportions, a rapper who is known for running afoul is going to be opposite Zimmerman in a fight.
And there’s a reason behind that.
Ultimately, it would be framed as a battle of good vs. evil and the sides aren’t as clear as you would think they should be. Although we would like to believe that the world hates Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, that is simply not the case. There are legions of Zimmerman supporters out there and there is a reason why he is a free man today.
Believe it or not, some people think that Zimmerman was justified in his actions.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse as the good people at Refined Hype, AllHipHop, Smoking Section and a litany of others have put together well thought out columns as to why DMX shouldn’t participate. We continue to hear the outpouring of people who are asking DMX to not help Zimmerman become famous. While I agree with that assessment, what I am not seeing is discussion as to how DMX’s participation is just as damaging to the hip-hop community and African Americans as it is potentially profitable for Zimmerman in this pathetic excuse for a money grab.
There are two narratives here: The one where George Zimmerman becomes a “celebrity” after killing an unarmed African American teenager and the other where a once celebrated rap artist continues his fall from grace and becomes just who his detractors thought he was.
We are entrenched in an era where the term “celebrity” is loosely tossed around for reasons that are embarrassing. From the reality TV star to the Instagram modeling agency, “celebrities” are made out of people who really aren’t good at anything. If you take a look at some of these celebrities, ask yourself exactly what it is that they do. What is their talent? Kim Kardashian was called the modern day Marilyn Monroe by Kanye West. But did Kim Kardashian win a Golden Globe Award? No? Well, what is it that she does? Oh, nothing. Absolutely nothing.
The age of the talentless suggests to a generation of youth that you don’t really have to be good at anything to “make it” in this world. Get on reality TV, act an ass, become a celebrity. Or, show your ass (and breasts), attach yourself to a thirsty athlete or entertainer and become a celebrity. Great!
Now, thanks to the advent of social media, we can actually gauge just how important somebody is thanks to the number of “followers” they have. It’s a truly fucked up world that we live in and set the premise for George Zimmerman to make his own attempt at becoming a celebrity.
Things happen in increments, and something like this was eventually going to take place given the circumstances. Initially, Zimmerman shied away from the media when the news of Martin’s death went public. As everything progressed in real time on the Internet, Zimmerman began to see the support he was getting. “Hey, this might not be such a bad thing,” he must have thought to himself. He could gauge just how many people supported him simply by going on the Internet. Like a reality TV star, he was a controversial lightning rod. Love him or hate him, we were talking about him.
And now that he has been acquitted in a trial that, frankly, the prosecution overcharged to begin with (that’s a whole different can of worms), Zimmerman feels absolved of any guilt and has decided to shamelessly take his role as a character villain to the public stage. He didn’t sell a painting for $100,000 because he could paint, he sold it because he was George Zimmerman, or that guy that shot and killed Trayvon Martin. He’s not in this “celebrity” boxing match because he can fight, he’s in it because he is George Zimmerman.
Amazing how this celebrity thing works, right?
Here’s a question for you: If the roles were reversed between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, would Martin be celebrated? Hell, would he even be a free man?
Which leads me to my next point...
In addition to the nonsensical “celebrities who have no talent” era, we are also in an age where African Americans are still considered “thugs” and “whores” (Richard Sherman and Beyonce, respectively). Mass media racism still exists and the playing fields are not level. Apparently, because we have a Black president, all is well in the world. It takes a swift kick to the groin to understand that racism still runs rampant and African Americans, as well as the greater hip hop community, are still typecast with negative connotations. No, we’re not fighting in the streets for civil rights, but we are fighting for our identity.
As much as it was about why Zimmerman shot Trayvon, it is even more important to understand why he was followed in the first place. He looked suspicious. Because, obviously, being black and wearing a hoodie will make you look suspicious. Who are the overwhelming victims of police brutality? Do the names Rodney King, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant and a host of others who aren’t in our daily newscasts suggest anything? There is still a fundamental fear of the black man. And hip-hop culture is associated with being black regardless of the color of people who participate in it.
The racial stereotype is still as prevalent as it ever was despite what anyone preaching about a post-racial America tries to tell you.
And, simply put, Earl “DMX” Simmons is the embodiment of a wide range of negative racial stereotypes that a Zimmerman apologist would love to put down figuratively (and, in some cases, literally). He’s loud, angry and scary looking. He has multiple children out of wedlock, does a lot of drugs and is constantly in trouble with the police. He’s a menace to society and by putting a face on that menace; you now are tossing the proverbial blanket over an entire culture.
Attaching DMX and his laundry list of arrests to this fight casts a huge shadow over the hip-hop community. It’s not as if the stereotype doesn’t already exist that hip-hop culture is a bunch of weed smoking, sagging, foul mouthed thugs who disrespect women and profit off of negativity. That’s already out there and constantly (as well as unfairly) driven into our homes courtesy of conservative news outlets. And I’m not suggesting that he hasn’t done anything positive in his life. What I am saying is that he far more known for his multiple arrests due to everything from drug possession and reckless driving to animal cruelty and identity falsification. What it looks like is a person who didn’t deserve success to begin with ended up being what he was before he became a rapper. He’s back to being a criminal.
And that is the man selected to fight Zimmerman?
For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume that DMX gives Zimmerman a savage beat down that puts him as close to a near death experience as humanly possible. Do you think that the media is going to cheer for DMX or will they call him a “thug” who was desperate for the attention once his rap career was in shambles?
It’s not like DMX was on the frontlines when this Trayvon Martin situation began. We didn’t hear songs or speeches from DMX talking about the travesty that held the country hostage. His participation makes him look like an opportunist who is looking to rekindle his career.
But let’s just say Zimmerman manages to win; can you imagine the conversation then? I can almost hear Zimmerman say “You rappers aren’t so tough now, are you?” as his supporters applaud him for getting rid of yet another delinquent.
Don’t you get it? He wants to vanquish his “enemies” (read, black people) as part of his character. He needs to get revenge in hand-to-hand combat against DMX since he was allegedly beat up at the hands of Trayvon Martin. The teen falls into the same “thug” category as the rapper. It’s the master plan and the underlying narrative to this “celebrity” boxing match that we absolutely cannot participate in.
This is no win territory for hip-hop and a win-win for Zimmerman. We are being exploited as a community for Zimmerman’s gain. Whether he wins or loses, he’ll prosper while DMX goes back to doing whatever it is DMX does.
Not only does Earl Simmons have to turn down the fight because he’ll make Zimmerman famous, he has to realize that he’s merely making our culture a pawn in a larger chess match against stereotypes. It is a stereotype that he is unwittingly reinforcing and we, as a community, need to make sure that there are no traces of hip-hop in this three-ring circus.
Meanwhile, the murder trial for the man who shot and killed Jordan Davis for having his "thug" music too loud began this week. Will Michael Dunn be the next "celebrity?"
But I’m just a critic, who the hell am I?