“Look Like A Young Man:” RZA Says Black Boys Need To Be Aware Their Image Can Invoke Fear In A White Officer
Wu-Tang member RZA recently let his new Blackness hang all out in an interview on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect which could easily be summed up as a disappointing cheerleading session for respectability politics.
The rapper was asked what he thinks when he sees the Black Lives Matter movement and responded:
“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.”
It’s also not necessary to shoot down unarmed Black men and women in the street just because they’ve grown out of adolescence but that’s still happening on a weekly basis. Perhaps RZA’s detachment from the specific championing of Black lives mattering has to do with the fact that had he not become a rapper he would be a police officer.
“Look, I wanted to be in law enforcement as a kid,” he confessed. “You wanted to be these guys, you know what I mean? In the old days, a cop, you’d let him in your house and give him a cookie and milk. Now you’re like … yo, yo yo, yo.
“I love what the police do for our society, I love the idea of it, to serve and protect. Those who are upholding that idea, then they are beneficial to society. But those who lose that focus, whether they lose it through fear, through stress, or through not being properly trained—and they are allowed to go out on the streets—how can you enforce law if you don’t understand law?”
Or if you’re not held accountable to those same laws you were put in place to enforce? But never mind that. According to RZA, Black boys are the ones whose accountability also needs to be checked. He went on to say:
“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.”
No thanks. It’s not everyday citizens’ job not to invoke fear into gun-toting upholders of the law and the fact that RZA fails to acknowledge hoodies, timbs, and fitted caps were the standard uniform of Wu-Tang back in the day is simply laughable. For safety’s sake, yes, it may, unfortunately, be wise to advise young boys not to dress a certain way in this day and age, but in no way does any responsibility fall on them should they have an altercation with police simply for dressing that way. And let’s not forget all the fallen men and women who have been stopped and frisked, pulled over, and arrested wearing button up shirts and three-piece suits. The problem is skin — not clothes — and the greater responsibility falls on officers to stop upholding these false images of all Black men, women, and children as lawless thugs rather than us trying to convince them otherwise with our apparel.