On November 18, 1991, Billboard Magazine released an editorial condemning Ice Cube’s album, Death Certificate, as racist. Timothy White, Billboard’s editor-in-chief, accused Ice Cube of “racism, anti-Semitism and hate-mongering stupidity.”
I was vaguely aware of the allegations of racism that had been pointed at Ice Cube. When I started listening to his music a few short months ago, I read and re-read the Wikipedia entries on the guy. I didn’t get it. Nothing I heard in his lyrics suggested anything inappropriate. Sure, his stuff is filled with violence and profanity, but that’s the lifestyle he’s trying to give voice to. When you’re a part of a minority that’s constantly held down, you’re bound to develop some anger.
Today, for the first time, I listened to the Ice Cube track “No Vaseline,” which is Death Certificate‘ s closer. In the song he includes lines such as “cuz you let a Jew break up my crew” and “Cuz you can’t be the Nigga 4 Life crew/ with a white Jew tellin’ you what to do.” There are other instances, of course, but that’s hardly the point.
I spoke briefly to a friend about this and she was taken aback. I informed her of the accusations (which she was unaware of) and that I could kind of see the point. I told her about the singling out of white Jews and then lamented a bit on the song “Cave Bitch,” from 1993’s Lethal Injection. She looked more than a little annoyed by the thought. Her response was simple: “Talk to someone who’s been pulled over for D.W.B. (driving while black) and see what they have to say about it.”
And that’s the more honest way of looking at it. It’s a funny world we live in when white folks have the right to get upset about two (mostly inoffensive) lines in a rap song. It’s like Ice Cube says in “When Will They Shoot?”: “Callin’ me an African-American/like everything is fair again.” The political correctness we enjoy today doesn’t do anything to change the past. We’ve done everything we can to forget our own history. “African American” is a term that helps white people disconnect from the injustices done unto a people. We did the same thing with “Native Americans,” who were only exploited back when they were “Indians.” Adoption of the term by the black community doesn’t change this.
It is more telling, I think, what Billboard did not attack Ice Cube for. The man’s lyrics are overflowing with misogyny. He does, after all, spell “‘girl’ with a ‘b.'” He makes a whole lot of derogatory statements about homosexuality. And, for all his talk about white men, he is most brutal towards members of his own race, most notably when he’s “takin’ niggaz out with a flurry of buckshot” and “knockin’ niggaz out tha box, daily.”
White men have a problem with Ice Cube when he directs his anger toward white men. They could not care less about the other minority groups he attacks. When they find themselves in the crosshairs, things change.
But that part’s funny in a sick way. According to the FBI’s 2010 statistics, a mere 18.4% of racially motivated crimes were committed by blacks. Compare that to the 58.6% of hate crimes committed by whites. And, if you really want to get down to it. Of the hate crimes committed by all races, a whopping 0.03% involved rape or murder. And 2.1% involved arson (which was one of the specific allegations made by Billboard). Those stats suck if you’re in that 0.03% minority, but for the rest of the 99.97% of America, those odds at surviving an encounter with a black person are pretty good. It seems that Ice Cube’s AK usage is somewhat less frequent than his songs would have us believe.
On the other hand, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, gays, as a group, are 41.5 times more likely to be targeted by hate crime. 25% of emergency room visits by women are the result of domestic violence. Of everyone in contemporary America, the white man is, by far, the safest.
I can’t help but think that singling out Ice Cube for “racism, anti-Semitism and hate-mongering stupidity” in relation to the white man without also pointing out the offenses done unto these other groups is, in itself, racist and hate-mongering. Being a white man in America seems to come with an inalienable right to privilege. It seems mad to me to that a black man can be publicly labeled as racist by a majority group with a long and bloody history of subjugation of other races. As Time Magazine so aptly pointed out in 1993, “in a society where teens routinely pack illegal weapons, blaming the disturbance on song lyrics seems to miss the point.” Flinging the blame at a genre of music born of social injustice for the simple crime of telling it how it is?
That’s not right.
The final word, I think is best expressed, by a white guy, a couple of Jews, and a Mexican: