I present to you my “Damn, you used to be my shit and now I can’t fucks with you” list. This list is composed of some things I have GENUINELY valued and have since been forced to eliminate from my life due to actions or positions that I find JEM-like (yes, truly truly truly outrageous). In order of when they were purged from my life:
#1 R. Kelly- 2002
This is the man responsible for the “Bump & Grind Remix.” You know the song where, for shits and giggles, he threw in “show me some ID before I get real deep in.” We loved him for every line in that cut. And as any card-carrying member of “90s R&B Lovers” will tell you, R-ah could do no wrong for almost two solid decades. Folks let the fact that he married Aaliyah when she was about 15 years old totally slide (really gross to hear him say that “even little cute Aaliyah” (who was about 13 at the time) had that “vibe” on his first hit). I’m giving myself a pass on the oversight as I was but 14 at the time.
But I was 22 and madly in love with TP-2 when the videos of R. Kelly urinating on teenage girls surfaced and it became clear that he wanted to see IDs to confirm that his ladies were in fact underaged, not some kooky 20 year olds tryna pass for 14. I lived in Philadelphia at the time and remember being disgusted by comments on morning radio. Somehow because we all used to jam to “It Seems Like You’re Ready” (another one that seems disgusting in retrospect) he was absolved of blatantly preying on impressionable, vulnerable, still-developing-brained, young girls. At the time I would ask “if you found out that Ray Charles had been smashing your underaged mother in her youth would you still be the first one to cop his new album?” Of course not, because you care about your mother. If it were your sister you’d be ready to set it off like Latifah. But folks saw these young women as accessible fair game, some even ridiculously arguing that the sexual skills that they believe they witnessed in the videos meant they were experienced enough to be with a 35 year old man. Friends from Chicago told me that seeing him at the Rock & Roll McDonalds cruising for teens while they were in high school was a legit regular occurrence. But the VIBE magazine article really put the nail in the coffin for me. I’m convinced. I’m still not even sure how he managed to get away with reduced charges and acquittals. All I do know is that I can’t fucks with him and it hurts cuz I used to love H.I.M.
# 2 NIKE (2010)
This would have been #1 on the list had I not taken so long to break up with NIKE. I found out how NIKE got down back in 1999 when I was interning at Manna Community Development Corp. in DC. A colleague placed this nifty little button on my laces.
And then he ran down its well-documented history of sweatshops and child slave labor. Oh the horror. Turns out NIKE has now been synonymous with exploitation since the early 90s: child labor violations out the wazoo, worker abuse, slave wages, the works. And while I reduced the frequency with which I made purchases, I just didn’t know how to quit him. But at some point you can’t help but confront the fact that you being a slave to fashion is endorsing others being literal slaves of fashion. And for goodness sakes, kicks just aren’t worth it.
#3 Mel Gibson (2010)
Who couldn’t love Mel Gibson, the hunky partner of our beloved Danny Glover in all the Lethal Weapons? And then to beef up the love he goes and makes Braveheart??? Literally, probably my #2 favorite movie of all time (yes, Berry Gordy’s Last Dragon will always be #1). But then William Wallace went bananas. And suddenly this dude…
became this dude...
Okay, maybe it was always there and we chose not to see it.
The abuse of his girlfriend, crazy rants ending up regularly in the news. And as appears to be the norm when white men go off on such batty rants, racial epithets are to follow. "You look like a f*king pig in heat and if you get raped by a pack of ni**ers it will be your fault." Oh Mel, I’m gonna need you to ask yourself WWWWD?
#4 And coming to the stage the latest addition to the list, CHICK-FIL-A (2012)
You had me at waffle fries Chicky. I hadn’t been able to indulge very often because of their locations, but that only made eating a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich all the more like Christmas. But oh noooo, here you go Dan Cathy opening your yap with a hard-core denunciation of gay marriage.
I understand corporate advocacy. It’s your company. Trust that if I had a business I would be using it to push all that I believe in. And I’d accept that I would lose money from the Tea Party crew, bigots and Black Eyed Peas lovers everywhere. And as much as we would like to use government power to obstruct the businesses of douchebags because they say something we vehemently disapprove of, we can’t. That’s where the First Amendment advocates have to chime in because it’s a slippery slope. But I’m an individual, not the government. So I have the right to criticize the hell out of a company and deprive myself of the golden chicken goodness, to make sure Dan Cathy & Co. won't get any of the money in my chicken account (You don't think I really have one do you?? Racist. Smh).
There are plenty of other things that I’m certain should be on this list. I’m not saying I am the prime contender in the running for Ms. Sacrifice, but every day we make decisions that speak to what we believe in, who we are. And these decisions can have tremendous effects that reverberate beyond our immediate space. Consider where South Africa would be right now without divestment. Where you choose to put your dollars matters. Whom you choose to back counts. When the R. Kelly scandal broke I remember wishing it had been Ja-Rule because I welcomed the end of his career (the Universe was listening and gave me 50). Not supporting Ja would’ve been so much easier. But it seems as if life is often about the decisions that don’t come easily. Some things are not so egregious as to warrant complete denunciation. Others just are. And even when we don’t want to admit it, we always know where that line is and who or what should be added to the list.