A Case Study of Black Male Privilege: Kodak Black
By Ciana Alessi
Many are familiar with 21 year old Florida rapper Kodak Black, whether it be from the popularity of his music, his 2016 rape allegations (currently an ongoing investigation), or his recent rejection from the Hip Hop community due to his comments about Lauren London, partner of the now deceased Nipsey Hussle. Kodak Black is a poster child (one of many) for male privilege. There, I said it. The case of Kodak Black is surely not an unfamiliar one. Off the top of my head, it’s easy to list fellow men whose careers were allowed to flourish unimpeded because the general public turned a blind eye to their destructive, problematic behavior (see: XXX Tentacion, R. Kelly, and a scary amount of professional athletes). For some of these individuals, their career has hardly suffered, merely slipped if anything. While for others -- like in a case where public evidence of wrongdoing emerges -- there is quick, collective rejection of that person from the public.
The difference between absolute ruin and a slap on the wrist is typically dependent upon the condition of the victim: America loves someone for which they can feel perfectly sorry. An apt example is the child abuse case of former Minnesota Vikings player Adrian Peterson. Peterson was swiftly condemned in the public opinion when pictures of his son’s wounded legs surfaced on the internet, because who doesn’t feel badly for a helpless, young child? This American scale of pity follows typical racist, sexist, heteronormative lines -- which is so The American Way -- therefore, it’s easy to feel badly for young children (white children, of course, get precedence, then black and brown), heteronormative white men, heteronormative white women, light-skinned or ethnically ambiguous heterosexual women, then follows heteronormative black men, heteronormative WOC, and so on. Privilege plays a clear role in this decision of adequate victimhood; we hardly see public outrage when, for example, transgender women are assaulted and murdered at alarming rates throughout the country. So when someone assaults, abuses or otherwise attacks a person who does not fit into this scale, especially a dark-skinned black woman or POC who identifies as LGBTQIA+, the American people aren’t as outraged. Unsurprisingly, abuses become rationalized or brushed off, like in the case of R. Kelly, where most of his victims were teenage black girls, some of Kelly’s defenders went on record placing blame into the hands of these girls’ parents or the girls themselves, as statistically, black girls are seen as less innocent than girls of other races starting at age 5. Yes, five. This process of “adultification” is a clear result of victimhood bias, because, again, it’s much easier for children (who are seen as children) to garner pity from the American public.
To me, the fact that Kodak Black is only now being ostracized from the Hip Hop community is frankly alarming. Although his rape accusations from a high school student were surely on the public’s radar, they had no effect on the success of Kodak Black’s career: Black had two songs that reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 2018 and multiple songs on the charts from 2016 onward. Nor did his appalling online interactions with fellow rapper Young MA affect his success, as earlier this year he asked the publicly lesbian MC “How you a girl but don’t want your pussy penetrated?” after she (obviously) rejected his advances. The public’s reaction to Kodak Black’s comments about Lauren London are extremely telling of which actions against which victims are worthy of career-ruining, public ostracism, and which simply cause the loss of a few fans.
Kodak Black’s past victims are both women who, for all intents and purposes, don’t warrant outrage from the public because they aren’t the right kind of victims; they don’t quite fit the mold of “victim that the American people want to feel sorry for.” In the recent case of Lauren London and Nipsey Hussle, however, there are two important differences. Number one, the framing of this controversy. And number two, what I’ll clumsily call the pity-ability of Lauren London. First and foremost, the narrative of this issue is consistently “Kodak Black disrespected Nipsey Hussle by making advances at his former wife Lauren London.” It is not framed as, “Kodak Black disrespected Lauren London by making advances at a her while she is grieving the loss of her partner.” As twitter user David Dennis Jr. stated in a tweet following the incident, “Yall not defending Lauren London yall defending Nipsey Hussle's woman and theres a big ass difference.” And there is a big ass difference! Instead of defending Lauren London, masses of people are simply defending Nipsey Hussle’s wife, the mother of Nipsey Hussle’s children. Not the whole ass woman who has had her own wildly successful career, has a freaking name (don’t get me started on successful women being called “so-and-so’s wife”) and so many identifying features besides her status as a wife and mother.
In terms of pity-ability, to say London is in good standing is an understatement. Lauren London is an attractive, light-skinned, heterosexual woman and a socio-economically privileged public figure. How can the American public not feel (rightfully) sorry for this extremely likeable, safely conventional woman’s loss? Or not feel badly that London must endure Kodak Black’s comments during such a difficult time? Such a response would be clearly cruel, and I’d like to explicitly say I entirely believe that people should feel badly for London’s loss. Yet, although Kodak Black’s comments were entirely inappropriate and disrespectful, they should not be oh-so-surprising considering how much the young rapper has gotten away with thus far. One of the many consequences of male privilege, or any kind of privilege, is complete ignorance of the threshold of acceptability; if a child is never punished for hitting their sibling, they will never understand that their actions were wrong. We’ve seen this phenomenon all too clearly in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. And, as with these movements, the first step toward male accountability is outright rejection of these men by the public. I believe it is due time that Kodak Black is punished for his abusive and entitled behavior. Unfortunately in this case, Kodak Black’s social exile still reeks of male privilege, but I would still consider this explicit rejection of the young rapper a step in the right direction. One step at a time, right?