A$AP Rocky is going to trial in Swedish court for his involvement in an altercation that took place on July 3 in Stockholm. Rocky, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, alleged that he and his camp were acting in self defense, as they were being harassed by two men whom they warned several times to not follow them. This resulted in those two men sustaining injuries. If charged, Mayers could be facing two years in jail.
To many people on social media this was an injustice by the system and they rallied for Mayers to be released. To others this was his past coming back to bite him. Mayers, unlike his peers J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, has stayed away from talking about politics in his music. In a 2015 interview with TimeOut, Mayers expressed that he “did not sign up to be no political activist” when asked about police brutality. That same interview referenced a similar question he was asked during a guest appearance at Oxford University. “I don’t feel like anybody’s obligated to talk about that kind of stuff unless they want to,” said Mayers. “I don’t feel like everybody should be like Kendrick or you know talk about political things just to stand out.”
We live in an era when social justice is seen by many as a cash grab. A celebrity espousing social views not only gains cache with certain circles of the entertainment industry, but also expands their appeal to potential consumers. This is problematic as the relationship between media and our citizens is fragile at best, and hostile at worst. Many people see the media as an extension of the state, pushing nefarious agendas that only serve the elites and other powerful groups. Celebrities are more or less a part of the elite. Which means even if someone like Colin Kaepernick has a genuine cause, him questioning the status quo while being sponsored by Nike looks sketchy from the onset. To most people, a celeb using their platform is just a means to an end. This is even more problematic as it paints many civil rights groups who may push for similar causes as attention seekers. It sets a dangerous precedent for any organization trying to achieve social progress.
Because of Mayers’ status, he’s distant from many issues affecting disenfranchised people. This of course will make him indifferent to such issues. However, this is a moment where we teach people like Mayers what’s at stake in certain issues. Part of a successful movement is educating enough people to cause change. Especially those with means like Mayers. People who are dismissing what’s happening to Mayers because of something he said years ago are only being petty and shortsighted.
You can disagree with Mayers’ (vacant) politics. You can even boycott his music. However, shaming him and others like him for his opinion is unproductive, especially in discussions around social justice. Critiquing someone is normal in any public discourse but it shouldn’t come at the cost of losing a potential ally.