My Thoughts On Ice Cube
Ice Cube is a living rap legend from Compton, California. He grew to prominence as a member of N.W.A., and would eventually make his mark in Hollywood; starring in over 40 films.
This summer Cube was motivated to leverage his huge celebrity to promote a political vision - his "Contract with Black America".
A 22 page document, with bullet point demands - ranging from judicial & banking reform, to specific appeals for the entertainment & film industry.
“We've been lied to for a long time, 400 years or more, and so one thing I know is we need to do something different.”
-Ice Cube, explaining his plan to Roland Martin
Behind each of those words is a thinly concealed frustration.
In every contentious TV interview, and Twitter video from Ice Cube, we are watching a man grapple with our present zeitgeist, of absurd narratives, and bizarre political realities.
While Americans - and black voters in particular - are motivated to VOTE ... much of the enthusiasm rests in the hope of avoiding the calamity of a second Trump term. One can't help but notice the passion recede, when making the affirmative case for Biden.
In some ways, the Democrat Party has become a victim of its own success. Riding a wave of national nausea over Donald Trump, and mobilizing the spark of a social awakening on race. The Democrat Party finds itself performing a delicate dance, this 2020 cycle. A predictably awkward dance. Gesturing toward its white liberal base - and moderate Republicans - as the stable path back to a pre-Trump "normal" ... but al-so ... swaaaying-hips with prevailing Black America; as the political stewards for a revitalized package of revolutionary, pro-black demands.
The engagement feels - to many - out of sync. Less than satisfying. Ice Cube speaks to this concern, however clumsily.
"It would be irresponsible of me to just let this moment go by ... to not do everything I can to make sure that going forth we're part of the narrative. That we own our politics."
-Diddy talking about "OurBlackParty"
I think it's no coincidence that in the same calendar year, other black media icons, Diddy and Kanye West, have each dropped their own bold political innovation.
What I see at the core of all these efforts, is the ascendance of a novice, and politically dazed black social elite, searching for meaningful political engagement. Fumbling sometimes in the dark, but seeking to use their elevated status and access in service of their definition of "the good".
Diddy and Kanye rank as the country's #3 and #1 richest artists in hip hop - at $885 Million and $3.2 Billion, respectively. Cube clocks in at #9 richest, ~$160 Million. They've all gained notable fortunes from their personal talents, and ability to make hits.
But unlike the explosive potential of a music single ... meaningful gains in the political and social spaces must be won more slowly, collaboratively.
Ice Cube says it was the murder of George Floyd - just five months ago in late May - that moved him to complete the contract, and reach out to the political campaigns. It's around this time that Cube begins tweeting a string of antisemitic symbolism and conspiracy.
According to this timeline of events, private talks began in late August. By mid September, Ice Cube believed that he was executing an impressive political power move on behalf of his people. But instead of Cube's contract, the Trump campaign rolled out their "The Platinum Plan". A soulless 2 page flyer, with an ambiguous, smiling woman, peering through text.
Dark blue contrasts against the white, drawing your eyes in.
"PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PROMISE TO BLACK AMERICA ..."
In a simple, but effective sleight of hand, Trump's team agreed to give lip-service to a small fraction of Cube's heartfelt agenda. Then, a low-level Trump staffer misleadingly tweets @IceCube with a tone of assumed partnership. Finally, Eric Trump seals the clever manipulation with this photoshopped picture, retweeted to his 4.2 million followers.
The ensuing confusion sparks media debate and wild Twitter conjecture. A rack of dishonest YouTube content, more conspiracy, and a new "#BlameBlackMen" hashtag.
Politics in 2020.
Trump gains from the buzz and stir of a popular black "endorsement". The media? ... a fresh, distracting narrative, and spinoff narrative, and more spinoff narratives.
All this, while Trump never directly acknowledges Ice Cube in any serious way.
The Trump campaign thrives in "well orchestrated chaos". Ice Cube, by contrast, now finds himself stuck on defense.
Frequently clarifying, instead of building, and potentially "cancelled", for now.
Welcome to Washington, D.C.
“We welcome smart people to come look at what we got, and build off of it ... Anybody can help us make it better.”
In the end, I see Ice Cube's political saga as a reflection of genuine discontent, and a DESIRE to find solutions. For this he has my utmost respect.
His plan to influence National policy - in six months, or less - was hobbled by political naiveté, and hubris.
If it's true - as the above quote suggests - that Cube wants to enter into a public dialogue, then this is my humble, initial reply:
I think that Ice Cube's potential as a justice figure will be immediately improved when he takes the time to seriously grapple with his own ideas. It is simply not possible to lead a successful political movement, based on principles of justice and anti-racism, while defending anti-semitism and vile conspiracy.
This needs to become obvious.
In the area of justice reform, alone - Ice Cube could direct his sizeable wealth, celebrity, and creativity toward partnering with any of dozens of reputable national organizations. Each with years of policy/advocacy experience, deep political inroads, and fleshed out agendas.
Ice Cube could use his considerable influence on a smaller scale, to meet with elected officials in his hometown, or any other local district in America. The young Mayor of Compton will likely be genuinely receptive. She's already launched the "My Brother's Keeper" program; with an agenda for the unique challenges facing Compton's black youth.
Thankfully, all of this can still be done. Today, tomorrow, and always.
Consistent engagement and creativity will lead to new ideas and new areas for action.
It won't be as sexy as meeting with the President.
The work likely won't garner national television interviews.
The success will be measured in years, not weeks.
However, this shift in approach can benefit real lives, and secure a legacy that cannot be co-opted, or warped by cynical enemies.
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