Between DJ Mister Cee's arrest for public lewdness and the distorted coverage of Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," last week was a banner one for online homo- and transphobia. Due to some overthinking wrestling with the ethics of republishing hate speech, I waited to address it. Now I'm reporting it because I believe we need a strong whiff of this toxic bullshit to figure out how to flush it out.
Comments About Mister Cee
To recap, On April 6 a leaked NYPD report confirmed what the 44-year-old DJ and producer first denied via Twitter and through surrogates--that on March 31, police arrested him and a 20-year-old transwoman who was allegedly sucking his penis in a parked car at 3:55 AM. Among the responses to a straightforward post on Rapradar.com, the web site of former XXL editor in chief Elliott Wilson, I found:
Juvenile jokes, like: "I wonder if flex going to say pause anymore? or is he going to say mister cee?"
A call for Mister Cee's firing from Hot 97: "this nigga is GAY AS FUCK get this nigga off the air. is a bad look for NY Hip-Hop!!!!!!"
An attempt at reframing: "See this is what's wrong with Hip Hop. WHO THE FUCK CARES?? IF dude is gay should that take away from all that man's accomplishments and contributions to Hip Hop and the culture. NO. It shouldn't. Hip Hop is so judgemental and Homophobic it's ridiculous. If you found out your favorite rapper was gay tomorrow, you would stop supporting and buying his music just because of his sexual orientation?? Y'all need to all grow up. And by YALL, i mean HIP HOP. Who cares, if it was a girl it would be like ok so what but cus it was a guy it's a big deal."
Dismissal of the discussion: "Gays aren't accepted in the hip-hop world. It's just looked down upon. End of story, stop fighting now, lol."
And some Eminem quoting: "FUCK YA! ... i dont wanna idolize and look up to a homo rapper...r u fucking kidding me? idc if i get shit for this but fuck homos. im homophobic and proud of it! 'homophobic? nah youre just heterophobic, starin in my jeans watchin my genitals buldgin!'"
Comments About Malcolm X:
Also on April 6, the fine folks at bossip.com delivered a misleading, jacking-for-hits post titled "R.I.P. Scholar Manning Marable, his last book hits shelves Monday, reveals Malcolm X had homosexual relationship!" This news brief, which was really about Marable's death produced:
Trolldom: "The shotgun blast to his chest wasn't the first time he'd had his guts blown out."
Denial: "even if that is true, at the very least he was bisexual and since i studied sexuality, that might've only been at a certain point in his life. the guy did say it was an early relationship so don't go and judge the late great brother on that. shit might not even be true."
Misunderstanding of historical research: "Marable Manning was born in 1950...He had to be about 6 years old when Malcolm first joined the Nation of Islam in 1956...So my first question is,how would he know about Malcolm X's sexual encounters? Malcolm told him and Alex Haley that he was a homosexual? I doubt it very much."
What Marable's Book Actually Says:
Because I'm a clarity fanatic, I excerpted what Marable wrote about an indigent, likely drug-addled Detroit Red, circa 1945. It comes from pages 65 and 66; an endnote on page 506 demonstrates how the historian was weighing claims introduced in a 1991 biography by political science professor Bruce Perry.
"...[Malcolm] first returned to New York City and subsequently to Boston, desperately trying to survive through a variety of hustles. It was during this time that Malcolm encountered a man named William Paul Lennon, and the uncertain particulars of their intimate relationship would generate much controversy and speculation in the years following Malcolm's death. ...The 'Autobiography' describes sexual contacts with Lennon, except that Malcolm falsely attributed them to a character named Rudy:
[Rudy] had a side deal going, a hustle that took me right back to the old steering days in Harlem. Once a week, Rudy went to the home of this old, rich Boston blueblood, pillar-of-society aristocrat. He paid Rudy to undress them both, then pick up the old man like a baby, lay him on his bed, then stand over him and sprinkle him all over with talcum powder. Rudy said the old man would actually reach his climax from that.
Based on circumstantial but strong evidence, Malcolm was probably describing his own homosexual encounters with Paul Lennon. The revelation of his involvement with Lennon produced much speculation about Malcolm's sexual orientation, but the experience appears to have been limited. There is no evidence from his prison record in Massachusetts or from his personal life after 1952 that he was actively homosexual. ... In his Detroit Red life, he participated in prostitution, marijuana sales, cocaine sessions, numbers running, the occasional robbery, and, apparently paid homosexual encounters."
Bossip Continues with Sensationalism
On April 8, instead of publishing actual content from the book and noting in a transparent way that "Malcolm X-was-gay?" already made the Internet rounds in 2006, Bossip chose to run an an elegantly titled "Was Malcolm X hustlin' gay sex for that paper?" It triggered:
Conspiracy theories wrapped in internalized white supremacy: "WHY EVEN POST THIS BULLSHIT? This guy manning just died recently and somebody is tryin to get people to buy this book! I'm no muslim, but one thing you can say and respect about them is they are disciplined! Our whole BLACK RACE needs to become more disciplined. I also believe by them trying to get this out is they want us AFRICAN AMERICANS to accept gays and lesbians. I dont gay bash, I respect everyone, I JUST DONT ACCEPT THAT LIFESTYLE AND NEVER WILL
Denial: "The type of person Malcolm X was to me would be the type of person to admit that he was invovled in gay sex. Personally, I dont believe it at all and Madame Noire needs to be shot for evening thinking about reporting some ish like this."
Futile attempts to reframe: "Are there any sex acts humans won't do for gratification? Is the issue really gay acceptance or is there more of a movement for humans to not feel uninhibited doning anything sexually they want with anything and everybody. My community is frustrated with the gay males hooking up the young boys that troll the shopping malls and public libraries in my city. Its is horrible what goes in public restrooms and, parking lots and cozy corners of local our libraries...in every part of town. Like the war on drugs it appears to be another battle law enforcement is losing. No shopper should be subjected to those acts."
More juvenile jokes: "How long before Tyler Perry plays Malcolm X as Madea"
What to Do With This Information:
The Internet is volatile and God only knows who the souls are behind these comments. Without that information, I can only surmise that they're in desperate need of media literacy, two-way in-person dialogue and able guides from within the hip-hop community who can transform a pitiful moment into a teachable one. Musing aloud on Twitter, dream hampton attempted to start that work; I'm sure more will follow in a variety of forms.
In that spirit, later this week, I'll present accounts from educators who teach hip-hop courses on a university level. Their students brought the Mister Cee/Malcolm connection into their classrooms and they turned it into an opportunity to probe and transform the anxiety.
For now, 'net heads, please add your two cents about how to manage hate speech in the comments.