Yesterday, news broke that LA based rapper Nipsey Hussle had been shot in front of the store he owned called Marathon Clothing in South LA. As details emerged, many prayed that the 33-year-old rapper would survive his injuries despite the grim details and videos coming from the scene of the crime.
Unfortunately, the rapper quickly succumbed to his injuries—six gunshot wounds including one to the head. And immediately following the death, social media was split between grief and apathy, a place we have been before when we lose the life of a Black celebrity with a complicated past.
A past somewhat littered with homophobia.
It needs to be stated again that we have been here before as a community: Whether it be Sandra Bland, Erica Garner, or XXXTentacion, we have seen folks lack nuance in their deaths in an attempt to only show “the good” of what a person stood for—or this belief that if more time was afforded to said person growth could have happened, especially when it comes to homophobia.
My greatest fear now is that we are not learning from these moments and rather repeating a cycle of silencing communities that justifiably can feel indifferent about a person, while also holding space for those who mourn. That communities who had been particularly hurt by people like Nipsey due to held beliefs, and now are expected to forget that pain so quickly in the wake of death.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Nipsey, like many Black men I have encountered was a complicated individual when it came to his politics. He has been challenged and called out publicly for his blatant homophobia—something that he and many others feel emasculate Black men while harming our public image.
In a Breakfast Club interview following the statements, Nipsey alluded to the fact that he has queer people in his life, as well as around him regularly so he wouldn’t ever discriminate against their “lifestyle.” Although many are sharing this as growth, I can attest that his views in that interview are still part of the problem.
There is often this request for people who are queer to be who you are, just not so publicly. This notion that we must be race first at all times because image of Black men is more important than the space for men to not be a monolith in performance of masculinity and manhood. This assumption that it is a “lifestyle” like that of the rich and famous when it is in fact our life.
And within this is a belief that the more visible our community is, the more it will destroy Black male images and, in some way, influence Black kids to identify across the LGBTQ spectrum.
Nipsey represented a micro part of a macro issue—meaning he is not the beginning nor ending of homophobia but as a leader plays a role in how that is discussed among the community that follows his every word. That is something he should be held accountable for.
It is truly okay for us to talk about people in totality. What Nipsey was doing for many segments of the Black community is to be applauded. Teaching Black folks about reinvesting in their communities, trying to bridge the gap between Silicon Valley and urban areas is something to be commended. He was also part of a group that created Destination Crenshaw, a community space honoring artistic achievements by African Americans.
Nipsey also invested in a coworking space called Vector90, which provided a place for youth to take classes in science, technology, and mathematics. Nipsey has also made some homophobic comments and made comments stating “Black women are a disgrace to Black culture”. There is nothing wrong with discussing who he fully was, the good, the bad, and the growing.
So, I want us to get to a place where we can discuss a Black life where we don’t reduce a person to their homophobia but also not deifying them to the second coming of Jesus in a attempt to negate their total truth. I want us to learn to talk about the gray areas of a person’s life with nuance and balance. And I want us to have the ability to hold space when people critique folk in death because let’s face it, there is no valid time where critique has ever been acceptable.
I want Black liberation, and to me, this liberation looks like all of us being able to understand that any personal feelings against one’s politics can’t trump our feelings of disdain for Black death. It’s a position that we must choose for ourselves, because within this project we must create space to truly respect others in the LGBTQ community whose wounds run too deep for them to continue to fight for people who will never fight for them.
And this is something that the cishet community must learn to not only understand, but accept. Points that allies and advocates need to work on as well.
Today I pray hard for my community, the entire community. The community that mourn and the community wounded. I’ve said it earlier, and I’ll say it again: I hate seeing Black death.
We lost a 33-year-old Black man who had done many great things, but still had a lot of growing to do. Two kids lost their father. A woman lost what she has stated was “her soulmate.” And a community is once again asked to be silent in their pain.
But we also lost a trans woman by the name of Ashanti Carmon who was gunned down this weekend, too. She was in her 20’s — yet only one will be discussed ongoing.
Her death is tied to the subtle violence that blossoms from homophobic beliefs that so many in Black community carry, so in these moments, where we again must face grief at every angle, we must not look away from the truth — even if not perfect.
Because ignoring it isn’t keeping any of us alive.