The Curious Case of A$AP Rocky: A Complicated Call for Our Unwavering Commitment to Justice

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A$AP Rocky has just been released and sent back to the United States after being incarcerated in a Swedish prison for nearly a month. After an altercation in downtown Stockholm, he was charged with assaulting two men who were captured on video harassing the rapper and his friends. Despite being hit with headphones and followed down the street, Rocky and his associates continually attempted to deescalate the situation; but, the Swedish men were unrelenting. It ended with Rocky tossing one of the men into the curb. Rocky cooperated with authorities and turned himself in. Although it was quite clear that the entertainer and his friends acted in self-defense, Rocky was detained, and his harassers remain uncharged. 

There are mixed feelings about Rocky’s international imprisonment. Most recently, Trump, in an attempt to recover from the backlash of his latest flagrantly racist tweets, promised to investigate at the behest of his friend Kanye West. Several days later, Trump, in what can only be understood as some twisted joke, condemned Sweden for its mistreatment of African-Americans! (insert serious side-eye) 

Some people, including several celebrities, have voiced their support and lent a hand in bringing Rocky home. However, other individuals have expressed that they could not care less about Rocky’s imprisonment, citing it as karma for the artist’s anti-black and sexist comments. In previous years, folks have rightfully come down on Rocky for issues of colorism and anti-blackness. In a July 2016 interview with The Breakfast Club, Rocky exclaimed that he did not care to talk about the events occurring in Ferguson at the time because as a resident of Beverly Hills and Soho, he “could not relate.” He has also made other problematic comments, including a tweet stating that dark skin women have no business wearing red lipstick.  

If we are truly committed to the cause of equality and justice for black people on a national and global scale, how can we not care about Rocky? While we may not like his comments or agree with his philosophy, how do we ignore this? This attitude that Rocky reaped what he has sown and as such did not deserve our support or intervention is another manifestation of our toxic cancel culture. Our petty mindset says, We don’t agree or like Rocky, so his freedom, his experience of injustice, is not my fight.  I am not dismissing the hurt or the emotions experienced by those who read his tweets or listened to his insensitive words. Rather, it is a call for us to be the best version of ourselves and to operate in love and not pettiness.   

Rocky’s unfair detainment can be both a wake-up call for the rapper and a moment where we recommit ourselves to the fight against racial injustice. They can exist simultaneously. But for us to deafen our ears or close our eyes to this situation sends the message that we are only invested in justice for black persons as it applies to those we care for or those whose actions we agree with. That is not the definition of commitment. Whatever our beef with Rocky, legit as it may be, what is happening to him is an injustice, and it is deserving of our attention, our voice, and our elbow grease. The rapper and his friends are being released and returned to the United States on August 3rd. Sweden will issue a final word on their case on August 14th. While the experience has seemingly ended, only time will tell how this injustice has potentially impacted both the rapper’s outlook on racial discrimination on the homefront as well as our ability to foreground our commitment to freedom.

MJ VanDevere

MJ VanDevere is a doctoral candidate at a predominately white elite institution in the South who uses humor to combat racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that seek to diminish her greatness. She is a self-proclaimed “stand-up snob” who does not have a favorite comedian, so please don't ask unless you have several hours to spare. Some of her favorite movies include, Life, Dead Presidents, and Happy Feet. If, she could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would definitely be laugh, and maybe write. Adulting is her greatest work in progress.

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