To everybody tweeting #BlameBlackMen, I see the Ice Cube in ‘Yoo’
OPINION: We need to re-engage our problematic brothers, because even if Trump loses, what have we gained as a community if we decide that 13% of Black men are just trash?
I care about Ice Cube’s opinions on the state of Black America in the same way I care about Kyrie Irving’s views on geography or Isaiah Washington’s opinions on LGBTQ issues. Which is not much at all.
Celebrities with big platforms and limited information say ridiculous things all the time and that’s not worth a lot of energy. However, Ice Cube’s foray into politics, the media backlash, the glee with which the far right is amplifying it and the subsequent #BlameBlackMen hashtag that’s sprung from it all has made one thing abundantly clear.
There’s a lot of Ice Cubes out there.
There’s an Ice Cube in your family. There’s an Ice Cube on your job. There’s an Ice Cube probably on the phone next to you as you read this article. While it has become a weekly ritual to ‘drag these men for filth’ online, it might actually be a lot more productive to learn how to reach them, before it’s too late.
Back in the 90s, Common dropped a diss track called “I see the Bitch in Yoo” about Ice Cube and the gangster rappers at the time that were poisoning hip-hop with violence, misogyny and wack samples from the 70s. In other words, Common was pointing out that Cube wasn’t “conscious” (for the Gen Zers out there, conscious is the 90s word for “woke” like Lil’ Kim is the 90s version of Nicki Minaj) Ice Cube has always been a problematic troll whose celebrity and wealth usually insulates him from much criticism.
He’s basically a West Coast 50 Cent without the six-pack abs. However, both then and now Ice Cube, exemplifies a certain philosophical strand of straight Black men who are now becoming Trump-curious and could be lost to the powers of MAGA forever.
How can you spot if there’s an Ice Cube in your life? It’s pretty simple. These Black men all share the following values (with some justification) to a certain degree.
- All white people are racist and can’t be trusted
- A man’s value is determined by his ability to make a lot of money and the more money you have the more powerful you are
- Women, like most white people, can’t really be trusted. However, if you make enough money you can earn their loyalty, even love
- Collective action, marches, protests, voting and politics don’t change anything for Black people
- Straight Black men get blamed for EVERYTHING and it’s not fair
If you have any doubt that these men exist, just check out the #BlameBlackMen hashtag that trended on Twitter Tuesday night as a response to Jemele Hill’s tweet about Black men and patriarchy. The anger out there is real and there are plenty of forces both white and Black happy to exploit it.
How do I know these values? As a straight, able-bodied Black man in America, these values are the low hanging fruit of patriarchy and capitalism. It’s almost impossible not to subscribe to some of these beliefs. Now let’s be clear, the majority of Black men probably only subscribe to one or two of these values on some limited level (Hint: 1 and 2). However, once you start moving down the list it becomes a pretty volatile cocktail that makes monsters out of men. A serum served up by ADOS, Sovereign Citizens and small corners of the internet.
You take the whole dose of these values and even the most mild-mannered, well-intentioned Black man can be transformed from Dr. Juneteenth to Mr. Hotep. These men are a minority of the Black community, but they are loud and get attention disproportionate to their actual numbers.
A colleague asked me earlier what percentage of Black men did I think fell into this category. I don’t know a figure, but I’m sure that 100% of the 13% of Black men that voted for Donald Trump subscribe to all of those attitudes. I also know that a lot of these Black men are hurting, and believe it or not, if we are committed to the collective improvement of Black lives, we need them as well.
There are not enough Black people in America that we can just throw out our problematic brothers. Believe me, we need more people.
I’m not suggesting coddling the Ice Cube in your life’s sexism, ignorance or penchant for confusing contrarianism with independent thinking. The goal is to inoculate them from the next dose of nonsense, to keep them from amplifying self-loathing hashtags like #BlameBlackMen, with facts, sincere engagement and validation rather than just calling them trash and toxic.
You’d be amazed how many Black men from the ‘hood to Harvard have heard “Black men are trash” their whole lives, from within the Black community. Then those same voices turn around and blame these men for not wanting to get involved with collective action.
When you hear a Black man say “I like Trump ’cause he’s gangsta” rather than berating him for admiring a white nationalist, accused rapist who stole from kids with cancer, offer an alternative: “Real gangsters aren’t in debt to the Russian mob for a billion dollars.”
When you hear a Black man claim “Straight Black men are always being told we ain’t shit!” and they point to some random tweet or online post, hit them with some facts: “Black men still run the majority of businesses and households in Black America, are voted into office by Black women and awarded most promotions. Real Kings should be able to take a little heat.”
Most importantly, when you hear a Black man say “All these protests didn’t do shit!” you could highlight the fact that everything their afforded in life is a result of Black men and women protesting all throughout history. It won’t work though. It’s better to highlight the multi-faceted approach to activism.
“Yeah, protests alone don’t do enough, but in combination with voting and economic empowerment policies, that’s the only way Black people have made any progress. Now you gonna sign this petition or what?”
This is not about reforming hardcore ADOS clowns, online trolls or misogynists. Let’s be honest, if you’re triggered by a couple of tweets you clearly have some issues that need to be worked out. This is about the Black community learning how to re-engage our problematic brothers. Even if Donald Trump loses, what have we gained as a community if we decide that 13% of Black men are just trash?
White people always find a space for their problematic men. White women on the left have opened their hearts to the 53% in the hopes of turning them into maybe only the 50% by election time. We will not solve misogynoir in two weeks, ignorance in 15 days or political apathy by election time, but finding a way that we can interact with the Ice Cubes in the Black community whether they are CEOs or work at the DMV or UPS should be a long-term strategy instead of treating these men like short-term punching bags.
Men like Ice Cube and 50 Cent are millionaires who can afford to be politically ignorant because wealth protects them. However, your brother in-law, neighbor and friend spouting similar toxic ideas are hurting themselves and the community around them. We can all see the Cube in them, but with a little time and patience, we can also give them a healthy dose of Common Sense.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University, a Political Contributor at MSNBC and SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. Notorious comic book and sports guy with dual Wakandan and Zamundan citizenship.
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