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When I first read about the violent assault of music artist Megan Thee Stallion by rapper Tory Lanez, it was on Instagram.
As a huge rap music fan, I follow a number of accounts whose sole purpose is to discuss the art, announce content release dates and dispute best / worst albums. I don’t really follow sports other than the NBA, and even that mostly consists of me watching games with my dad and listening to him talk about the scoring records of players whose name I will forget by halftime.
Rap stats are the closest thing to sports I keep up with. So when Megan Thee Stallion took to Instagram to announce that she had suffered multiple gunshot wounds as a result of a purposeful physical assault, I was very concerned. When we later learned that it was Tory Lanez that shot her, once rumored to be her boyfriend but Meg has since debunked this, I was outraged.
I waited for all the big news outlets to report on the story and fill in the blanks that the rap fan pages couldn’t simply because they didn’t have access to all the information.
Days passed before any of them did.
I knew instantly that if Megan and Tory were two white celebrities, say Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for example, everything would be different.
All the massive news outlets would put it on their front page, giving a list of facts as they came in, updating constantly, supplementing with a history on the relationship of the two stars. Angelina and Brad would have given separate, private interviews telling their part of the story to a sympathetic reporter.
Instead, social media was allowed to hash out the truth of what happened to Megan, twisting the entire ordeal into a circus.
Instead of treating this violent, traumatic and terrifying event with any level of respect, Megan was dragged through the mud, accused of fabricating the ordeal to the point in which she felt the need to post images of her newly stitched gunshot wound.
When violent acts occur to or between white people, it’s breaking news.
When they occur to or between Black and Brown people, it’s tabloid gossip.
This phenomenon can be observed under a range of circumstances.
When Grammy Award winning rapper Cardi B filed for divorce from her husband, Migos group member Offset, unfounded accusations flared immediately. People accused Offset of having cheated on Cardi the entire time. Some accused Cardi of trying to steal his money (despite their net worth being near the same amount) and accused them both of neglecting their newly born daughter Kulture.
Just as Megan did, Cardi felt the need to take to social media to defend herself. In an Instagram live, she explained that she and Offset had simply grown apart. No scandal, no drama, just normal relationship things.
Yet when movie stars Chris Pratt and Anna Farris called it quits, the most attention it got was a few widely unknown blogs making widely ignored speculations. For the most part, their privacy during such a tumultuous period was respected.
Black people are not viewed as people by the media but as spectacles. Their trauma is seen as drama, not to be taken seriously and open for interpretation by whoever wants to offer their own unqualified opinion.
This may seem to be a trivial problem to raise concern over in a time where America is facing so many pressing issues, but the treatment of Black celebrities ties directly to the treatment of Black people across the country. While the fight for Black lives continues, we must recognize that an essential step in this movement is the basic respect for Black people on all fronts.