“Look Like A Young Man:” RZA Says Black Boys Need To Be Aware Their Image Can Invoke Fear In A White Officer

January 7, 2016  |  

Celebrities attend the opening night of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 'Sherlock Holmes' at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre Featuring: RZA, aka Bobby Diggs Where: Los Angeles, California, United States When: 15 Oct 2015 Credit: Brian To/WENN.com

Celebrities attend the opening night of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre
Featuring: RZA, aka Bobby Diggs
Where: Los Angeles, California, United States
When: 15 Oct 2015
Credit: Brian To/WENN.com

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.

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  • Lou Wills

    Oh PLEASE, THEIR IMAGE IS BEING BLACK! Have you ever heard of GENOCIDE? Well, in case none of ya’ll get it…that’s whats happening, GENOCIDE, but GOD has a lot to say about that!

  • Emily post

    The way you look does play a role in how people see and view you… Great point. Sorry that some of you are so delusional to think it doesnt. The issue with the black community is they are not receptive to any type of critics. One is stop supporting Media images people places things that show you in a horrible light. The MEDIA Entertainment Television film and Music also has a lot to do with the way blacks are portrayed and they get let off the hook time and time again…. The fact that some have been taught we all are equal and diversity is the way to go when that is not your reality never has been. Not promoting your culture within your culture and good traditional values comes back to bite you every time. The reality is no one cares about your children more than you… Parents need to take more responsibility for their children. Sorry Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin are not the same incidents and to treat each and every incident like it is the same is Wrong. One had a fake gun and the other a Arizona Ice Tea… Being Profiled and being shot are two different things.

  • magic3400

    “No thanks. It’s not everyday citizens’ job not to invoke fear into gun-toting upholders” …

    The last person black kids should be listening to is the author of this article, she gonna get y’all kill. RZA giving you some real talk, whether you agree or not. Pull you pants up and stop looking like a hoodlum everywhere you go and you lower your odds of lead poisoning. Listen to what this man is trying to ya, he’s giving you good advice on how to lower the odds of getting a 17 .40cals to the chest.

    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results — Albert Einstein

  • Dr. Nupe

    He should talk to Martese Johnson, my fraternity brother from UVA. RZA would have a different perspective.

  • Jene SaisQuoi

    I think blacks should keep doing things they way they have been, after all, it has been working really well, so far, hasn’t it?

    • Guest

      You are so right. Things were so much better when blacks dressed nice in the 60’s.

  • WakeUp***FLAWLESS

    it breaks my heart seeing ppl i came up on develop respectability policies,i’ve heard this mess from my mother and my family i just try to ignore it,but it saddens me

  • Nicole

    I agree with what he’s saying.

  • Jen Page

    I don’t think what he said was wrong, because it is truth. And sometimes the truth does hurt. When we dress or speak or act a certain way, we real or show certain aspects about ourselves to other people. Sometimes we enforce the very stereotypes we try to break. I know many young black men who wear “urban clothing” but would not harm anyone. I also know young black men who wear the same clothing and they are not very trustworthy. Everyone is judged based on their looks. If you see blonde, white woman dressed with a low cut red dress on that shows off her cleavage some people might think she looks like a bimbo/ dumb blonde. Same can be said for a black woman. Some people might think she looks like a hoe. You could see a cop getting a donut and assume he’s automatically racist because he’s white and wearing a uniform. You wouldn’t know anything about him, you can’t read his mind or his heart, but because of what he’s wearing you assume things about him you can’t be sure of. It’s not right to judge someone based on their clothing or their looks. But it’s unavoidable because we’re human and we judge people all the time whether we want to admit it or not. Through in a racist history, stereotypes, cultural differences and it all just gets worse.

  • hollyw

    Welp.

    Glad this whole piece started with: “Wu-Tang member RZA recently let his new Blackness hang all out in an interview on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect…”

    Told me everything I needed to know as far as the content! Really, negr0e? Bloomberg lol??

    I say just keep letting our black entertainers audition for these white corporations, see how far they will co0n and reveal any hidden pr3judices, ignorance, and/or depr@vity in front of a white audience. The more honest, the better; let me know now!

  • xyzebra

    There’s a guy in a hoodie who sells $7.50 pills to people for $750 each. He’s not a black drug dealer, he’s Martin Shkreli, a young, white CEO. Does Rza criticize him? No. Instead, Rza sells him the only copy of his album for $2 million. See where I’m going with this…

    • hollyw

      *snap snap*

  • Chanda

    I think his heart is in the right place being that he has sons and may be speaking from experience but often times it’s not so much the clothes but mostly about attitude: yours and theirs (the officer’s). Being black or brown is target enough and then you encounter a crooked cop? If both parties are being arrogant or arguing back and forth, it’s not going to end well. It’s unfortunate there’s so many trigger-happy cops that can’t really fight, but there’s still some good ones out there.

  • ds9sisko

    Right now, I’m sitting in a very crowded Starbucks in northwest Atlanta. There are a variety of people here: Black, white, Arabs, a few Latinos & Hispanics. I’m wearing a black cardigan, black shirt & jeans and black dress shoes. Several of the other Black men here are dressed in semi-casual to business attire, as are several of the white men. MANY of the white and Arab people — mostly young men— are wearing baseball caps/fitteds, hoodies, sweats, and from my vantage point at least 2-3 of them are saggers. Several of the Black people — mostly young men — are wearing exactly the same thing. Now, out of all these people here and in all of our dress, who IS NOT LIKELY to be harassed by the police? THAT is the question ole RZA needs to be asking. It’s not the CLOTHES or the FASHION STYLES that are the problem.

  • JAI

    It’s astonishing to me.
    White youth can dress however they want and it’s written off as a “phase”or them “expressing themselves”. I’m talking piercings, Mohawks, goth like, bright colored hair and all.
    Why aren’t minorities allowed to have a “phase”? Why must we dress business casual at 15 just to be given basic respect as a human being or for fear of being profiled? Furthermore, why are these old sell out blacks condoning the profiling like me dressing in a button down is going to save me if I’m in a white neighborhood. I’m a physically imposing, dark skinned black man. I’m going to be feared and profiled by bigots whether I have a hoodie or a polo on.

  • ♎Lauren♎

    Y’all still want these celebrities to speak out on theses issues?

  • Guest

    RZA has to pander to the white mainstream, ’cause they’re the only ones buying his music these days–see their last album. So his respectability politics comment makes perfect sense.

  • Taneesha Culture Clash Thomas

    i lost respect for him after he did that man with the iron fists movie…

    • hollyw

      Lmbooo nooo you didn’t!!

      • Taneesha Culture Clash Thomas

        LMAO!

  • One Mans Opinion

    Just because he dressed a certain way when he was young, does that mean he should not have evolved? Also, he lived that life so when he speaks about it, he is speaking from experience. Some of our youth aspire to look threatening, posture, pose and vocalize violence. This is a far departure from young men who walked for civil right. Yet and still, Police officer are NOT justified in the killing of people who are not committing criminal acts.

  • A.P. Millz-CT

    This is what happens when you give “Certain” black people money! He’s beginning to get out of touch! REally? It’s these black kids fault, b/c they aren’t wearing a damn suit? They should be shot in the street and stop & frisked b/c of a damn hoodie! I’ve lost respect for you RZA! Now, I predict he’ll be leaving his black wife for an Asian, or White Woman,.

  • guest

    What a hypocrite! It amazing how much moving up in the world can make you forget your experiences and where you came from

  • queen_melanin

    oddly enough, studies show that white men and women when asked the age of a black youth/male will assume they look four years older than their actual age. cops at least in big cities tend to patrol black/low income neighborhoods because they are least likely to speak up when their rights are being abused. this seems more systematic to me

  • Coletha Woodson

    This same “old”thinking exited in the 60’s regarding young people’s hair…and yes people were killed for it! Society knew it then and we know it now. The collective WE are not our hair or our clothes. It’s an attempt to keep certain people under control. Killing and harassment from police will continue in OUR communities but it doesn’t mean we have to tolerate it. This behavior will continue until a law says the police must live in the communities they serve. We tried years ago and lost the fight. Courageous people must take up this issue/ fight again and win it! Make it happen…..somebody!

  • dee

    dang…really Rza?!

  • Mocha

    Well it’s true..we must be accountable for how we want people to treat us. It’s just no way in getting around that. I think all of this plays a part in the problem. I don’t dress a certain way at work because I don’t want to be perceived as such. That is human nature. I don’t get why we complain when people tell us to do better. Don’t you want us to do better? Well in order to do better, you have to be able to take in what you are doing wrong. No one is saying they ARE better..they just know WE CAN BE AND DO BETTER. Nothing wrong with that kind of encouragement. This is similar to what Cosby was talking about and people tried to rip him a part for it.

    • Cocoa Rose

      Lol. Cosby is being railroaded as we speak.

    • Chey

      You hit the nail on the head! No one can tell anyone anything nowadays for fear or being considered judgmental, holier than thou, self righteous, or trying to tear Blacks down! No accountability whatsoever.

    • ds9sisko

      I’m sitting in a very crowded Starbucks in northwest Atlanta. There are a variety of people here: Black, white, Arabs, a few Latinos & Hispanics. I’m wearing a black cardigan, black shirt & jeans and black dress shoes. Several of the other Black men here are dressed in semi-casual to business attire, as are several of the white men. MANY of the white and Arab people — mostly young men— are wearing baseball caps/fitteds, hoodies, sweats, and from my vantage point at least 2-3 of them are saggers. Several of the Black people — mostly young men — are wearing exactly the same thing. Now, out of all these people here and in all of our dress, who IS NOT LIKELY to be harassed by the police? Answer that.

      • Tom Tucker

        No one will be harassed, police cannot afford Starbucks.

    • TheAudacityOfDope

      Thats the thing. Black people really seem to have a problem with having that tough conversation with ourselves. The one that says the rest of the world really does fear and look down on our young men because of the BS image that rap music has created for our culture. We’re the only race of people that literally has a soundtrack for self destruction and yet act willfully ignorant and unaware of the things that are causing the problem. Yall know dayum well what the man was talking about. Yes, you may be killed for being black but I’d wager it’s twice as likely to occur if you’re hanging out looking like a thug personified. We need to prepare our children for the harsh realities of what lies beyond the safety of their homes. Moreoever, we need to consider the end result of condoning certain behaviors and acting as though there wont be a lingering result of not having corrected them.

  • fourthwavefeminism

    RZA’s one to talk.

    • Guest

      That’s the funny thing. Back in his Wu-Tang day–his comment would have made zero effing sense, seeing how they were dressed. That’s what make his statement even more comical.

      I think he means well, he did talk about unstable cops that should not be wearing any sort of badge, but he should have left at that seeing how he use to dress during his hay day.

      • fourthwavefeminism

        I agree. I understand the whole “learn from my mistakes” route he’s probably taking here, but when I see young guys on the street, their pants are tighter than mine! lol that “thug” look is no longer about super baggy pants and white t-shirts, at least as far as I’ve noticed.

        • hollyw

          I don’t understand it. He should not have chosen the BLM and a comparison to boys who’ve literally been shot to death to make that argument. That was crazy.

          • fourthwavefeminism

            I see your point. I should’ve mentioned that I don’t think any of these boys should have been shot regardless of what they were wearing, I’m sorry. I was referring to how others perceive a kid who’s dressed sloppily but yes, regarding BLM there is absolutely no excuse.

      • magic3400

        A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

        Muhammad Ali

        • Guest

          I’m calling out his hypocrisy, not his thought process.

          • magic3400

            That’s exactly what you’re doing, the fact that you don’t realize it speaks volumes…

            • Guest

              “That’s exactly what you’re doing, the fact that you don’t realize it speaks volumes…””–Yes! I am calling out the hypocrisy of a person who dressed in this “thug”manner when it was time to make millions. He exploited this “thug culture” for monetary gain, all the while influencing inpresionable youth to do like wise to their own detriment. The plight of these impressionable youth were unimportant back then, because money was more valuable.The attire was great when it was time to make him money, but now bad after he’s made said money. What that says, if he had to do it all over again, he would do the exact same thing. The fact that you don’t realize this speaks volumes.

              • magic3400

                Maybe keeping black kids in school and teaching them math and science and ENGLISH is more important than the clothes worn by some rapper 20 years ago.

                But the bottom line is this:
                1 – He’s an entertainer
                2 – I just Googled his images and most, that ARE NOT entertainment related, shows he always dressed relatively conservatively for a hip hop artist.
                3 – So you are more angry with the exploited than the exploiters? Because the masters are the record industry who make BILLIONS of dollars off poor black artists, most will never make it big and get rich.

                For every RZA I’ll show 1,000 who were sold a pipe dream only to end up broke while making billions for the record label.

                The role models start at home, it’s not RZA job to raise our youth, that’s the responsibility of parents. If you are doing your jobs as parents then RZA could were a tutu and 6″ heels and it won’t matter one bit. You want to be angry with someone then be angry with black parents that don’t keep their kids in school, that have 5 baby daddies and take little interest in their child’s education. You want to get back at hypocrites, then educate the kids that buy the music and watch how fast things change.

                • Guest

                  Ok, here we go again, I’m not blaming RZA for ANYTHING, other than HIS hypocrisy. That’s what my comment was about, nothing more, nothing less. But the fact that you took more from it then what was there-because YOU agreed with his overall message–is why I had to spell out for you why I and some others felt the way we did.

                  Even though, you say the role model starts at home–which I wholeheardetly agree–but you’re STILL looking up to him blindly, hence as to why you didn’t understand why those of us who knew his career were calling him out.

                  “I just Googled his images and most, that ARE NOT entertainment related, shows he’s always dressed relatively conservatively for a hip hop artist”–Precisely!!! The gritty, grimy, hip-hop images were left in the videos for the consumption of his young fans–That’s the explotation part that I’m speaking of.

                  And I’m not putting all of the things wrong wiht the black community (lack of parenting, schooling, disciplining and etc) on RZA or any single entity, because there are many factors that contributed to it. Those that profited handsomely from it did so, because men like RZA had no problem exploiting the culture. The “1,000” that couldn’t, wish they could, so it makes no difference either way. If you really want to look at it in an objective way, everyone is guilty, but the record execs are not the ones speaking out about respectibality politics here, RZA is and that’s why I and others are calling out his hypocrisy.

                  And calling out hypocrisy, has nothing to do with getting “back at hypocrites”, so I have no idea why you think that’s the case here. I’m for educating ALL, the ones that buy the music, and the ones that don’t, which my orginal comment had nothing to do with either of those things. I think you’re taking people’s views about him from this interview, way more personal than it actually is.

                  • magic3400

                    Lets see, you blamed him for: 1 – exploited this “thug culture” for monetary gain and 2 – influencing inpresionable (sic) youth

                    So my comment touched on

                    1 – His career
                    2 – “Impressionable” youth
                    3 – His attire both in and out of the entertainment business
                    4 – What we can do as a black community that’s more valuable than complaining about what a rapper wore as a rapper 20+ years ago.

                    Growth is not hypocrisy, it’s growing as a man and realizing at 46 (in his case) that what you were doing at 26 may not have been the best you could have done.

                    Either he’s giving good advice or bad advice. If you think his advice is bad because he dressed like a thug and made money from it, then maybe you should reassess your values.

                    Finally, I don’t look up to him, I was fighting for my life in Beirut Lebanon when he was still in grade school. My heroes never came home.

                    • Guest

                      “Lets see, you blamed him for: 1 – exploited this “thug culture” for monetary gain and 2 – influencing inpresionable (sic) youth”–Aka called out his hypocrisy.

                      1 – “His career”–Aka exploitation of this “thug culture”.

                      2–“Impressionable” youth”–Aka the people that bought into the image of the “thug culture”.

                      3–“His attire both in and out of the entertainment business”–Aka which highlights that the “thug culture” was the image to be sold.

                      4– “What we can do as a black community that’s more valuable than complaining about what a rapper wore as a rapper 20+ years ago.”–We can start by not “complaining” about others calling out the hypocrisy of a rapper that sold the image of this thug culture 20+ years ago for monetary gain.

                      “Growth is not hypocrisy, it’s growing as a man and realizing at 46 (in his case) that what you were doing at 26 may not have been the best you could have done.”–And growth is also acknowledging your wrongdoing at 26 in the quest for wealth at all cost, and wishing at 46 that you had done things differently seeing the aftermath that it’s had on the population you represented and catered to.

                      “Either he’s giving good advice or bad advice. If you think his advice is bad because he dressed like a thug and made money from it, then maybe you should reassess your values.”–He’s advising respectability politics, which if it works for YOU–then it’s good, if it doesn’t for others, then it’s bad. If you’re having difficulty processing that, there can be varying perspectives to a point of view, with ALL being valid–then maybe you need to reassess your critical thinking skills.

                      “Finally, I don’t look up to him, I was fighting for my life in Beirut Lebanon when he was still in grade school. My heroes never came home.”–That is wonderful, but this information is irrelevant to the discussion at hand. You’re arguing from an emotional standpoint, not a logical one. But I’ll add to that, I for one NEVER cared for his music , because I saw it for what it was THEN, and that’s why I’m calling out his hypocrisy NOW.

                      I have not ONCE said your perspective is wrong, but you seem incapable of comprehending mine.

                    • magic3400

                      By your logic, if he was doing drugs AND selling drugs as a young man but reformed himself and became a politician he’d be a hypocrite for turning his life around and advising others that doing AND selling drugs is a bad thing since he surely exploited someone at some point.

                      I get your point, I simply think it’s ridiculous. I put it in the same class as “stop snitching” or “talkin’ white” or many other self limiting burdens we place ourselves as some test of our true blackness.

                      I get it, you don’t think he’s qualified to give good advice because he once wore saggin pants and a hoodie…I get it, that’s totally logical.

                    • Guest

                      Wow! That is simply amazing. Still having difficulty processing this.

                      Critical thinking be damned.

                    • magic3400

                      Nope, no difficulty at all. Just tried of piety.

                    • Guest

                      Lol! Makes perfect sense.

                    • magic3400

                      Agreed…

                    • Guest

                      Agree as well darling.

    • guest

      This happens all the time with black celebs that have assimilated but when we hear this from members of the hip-hop community it is even more of a slap in the face. At least other black celebs, artist and athletes didn’t make their millions glamorizing criminal activity and behavior like many hip-hop artist including RZA did, and then have the nerve to chastise our children for wearing hoodies. I’ve lost what little respect I had for this man.

      • fourthwavefeminism

        I’m disappointed with him as well. It’s a very “uhhh did you forget who you were 15 years ago?” situation.

    • Tom Tucker

      Better get that kitty cat on a diet. His double chin looks bad.