There was a point in my life at which I was so detached from myself that I thought Eminem was my favorite rapper. His “Slim Shady” persona spoke to me at age 12, giving me joy I didn’t enjoy again until I came to experience Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” album in its entirety. There was nothing more soothing to my new teenage angst than Eminem, a rapper refusing to censor himself, well aware of the extent to which parents disapproved of their children listening to his music and the messages therein. He was a parody of himself and of life in general, and his gradual transition to becoming someone who is politically correct who cares about the wellbeing of others is both shocking and unnecessary.
Over the last week, I’ve witnessed overwhelming praise for Eminem’s cypher at the Black Entertainment Television Awards. I’ve been unofficially boycotting BET since I sat through a seven minute and 30 second commercial break during “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly but something just feels morally wrong about being able to make and eat a bowl of cereal during a single commercial break. The whole debacle turned my need to consume entertainment from that channel to a low vibration. I’ve been officially boycotting BET since I found out that it was white-owned, having been bought by Viacom in 2001, a company whose CEO is white. I can pinpoint exactly where that feels wrong — starting and ending with the name of the network being “Black Entertainment Television.”
The only good thing to come from BET recently has been the annual BET Awards, which focuses on the pinnacle parts of Black culture each year and rewards them a way no Grammy ever could. (I was boycotting the Grammys long before Taylor Swift’s “1989” beat Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” for Best Album of 2015. This saved me from hurting when Adele’s “25” beat Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” in 2016.) Now, the only part of the BET Awards I can really enjoy has been the rap cyphers in the middle of the show. I never watch the complete award show — I don’t have the patience.
Eminem’s cypher this year did the most boring kind of bare minimum allyship it could have. He “spoke out” about already widely covered issues. Eminem spent a substantial amount of time shouting about President Donald Trump — loudly disagreeing with his policies and expressing violent dislike of him, things anyone who has a heart would do — and although many people thought it was REVOLUTIONARY! and PHENOMENAL! — I still have a lot of questions about Eminem’s 2017 “freestyle.” Why was it five minutes long? For no reason. Why was it acapella? For no reason. Why were there no other people rapping around him? For no reason. But most importantly: Is he actually being serious? Unfortunately, yes.
There’s been a trend of demonstrative Trump hate in the white liberal community, and like most things in liberal media, it’s been mostly meaningless. Contrary to popular belief, being anti-Trump is not standing for any actual causes. Anti-Trump is not pro-marginalized groups. Being anti-Trump isn’t pro-Black, pro-immigrant, anti-Nazi, anti-capitalism or anything that might disrupt the overtly negative governmental platform of the current presidency.
Eminem used his platform to reiterate things that POC have been saying since the the first time Trump called Mexicans “rapists,” and to pretend that Obama was America’s savior. It’s hard to explain why it’s frustrating to hear the same ideas thrown back and forth, but the most difficult part is hearing people think that Eminem’s ideas are new. It shows this stark lack of awareness when people show appreciation for white men saying ideas that have been circulating anyone with brain for the better part of a year.
Eminem will not be attacked by the president for his statements. Not in the way Colin Kaepernick or Jemele Hill have been. He will not lose any kind of job or be suspended and censored in the ways they’ve been — he will continue to think he’s done some sort of justice. Rapping about hating Trump is a nice, but empty, gesture. It is not real advocacy for people affected by this administration. It is a spectacle. It isn’t really helping. Being an ally shouldn’t be overshadowing those who are already fighting without adding anything. Being an ally should be standing in solidarity with those affected who have a voice, and supporting them wholeheartedly.