For at least the past year every time I’ve crossed paths with a cop, I’ve felt a pang of anxiety. Just the other night I was at a cross walk and a cop made a motion for me to cross the street in front of his car. It was a good 30 seconds before I recognized his hand motion as a common, innocent hand gesture and decided to enter the cross walk. I don’t know a black person right now who isn’t afraid to be in the presence of law enforcement even if they’ve called on them for assistance; and yet, all RZA is concerned about is the fear we invoke in the hearts of white police officers.
That was the standout sentiment from the Wu-Tang clan member’s interview with Bloomberg in which he talked about Black Lives Matter and the current racial climate in America. It was during his chat that we discovered the rapper is an All Lives Matter advocate, telling the interviewer when asked how he feels when he see the Black Lives Matter movement:
“Of course, black lives matter. All lives matter. I stopped eating meat because their lives matter to me. I don’t think it’s necessary for us to grow a cow to kill it.”
And yet we grow individuals in our community from boys to men only for them to be killed by overzealous officers whose actions have repeatedly been deemed necessary by juries across the nation.
But that wasn’t the most disturbing comment during RZA’s interview. He went on to talk about his respect for police and how he would’ve been an officer if he wasn’t a rapper, saying:
“When you think about some of the brothers who are being brutalized by the police, you also got to have them take a look, and us take a look, in the mirror, at the image we portray. If I’m a cop and every time I see a young black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them.
“I tell my sons, I say, if you’re going somewhere, you don’t have to wear a hoodie–we live in New York, so a hoodie and all that is all good. But sometimes, you know, button up your shirt. Clean up. Look like a young man. You’re not a little kid, you know what I mean? I think that’s another big issue we gotta pay attention to. Is the image that we portray that could invoke a fear into a white officer, or any officer.”
So it’s okay to murder someone on the suspicion of fear? What about the fear black boys and girls feel walking down the street, being stopped and frisked, unnecessarily pulled over, and placed in cells where they’d later be found dead? Three officers at the most have been killed, not even out of fear, but in retaliation for the black lives that didn’t matter to cops. Do you know how many black teens and men and women have been killed because a cop (or neighborhood watchman) feared they’d be killed by a toy gun, a bag of skittles, or bare hands with not a weapon in sight? Too many to count.
A badge has become far more fear-invoking than a hoodie and yet we’re still the ones being gunned down and left hopeless against a criminal justice system that thinks much like RZA: if our image costs us our life, it’s our fault. The thing is RZA fails to realize the image that invokes fear is black skin, not a hoodie or baggy clothes and no amount of dressing up can change that.