RZA Says Blacks Need To Take Responsibility For The Images They Portray To Police (Video)
RZA recently spoke with Bloomberg Politics about a number of issues, including his recent back and forth with Martin Shkreli, the controversial pharamceutical executive who purchased the lone copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin album, as well as his thoughts on Hilary Clinton and her candidacy for President. During the same conversation, he was asked his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, and his remarks have set off a social media firestorm.
RZA begins his response with “of course Black lives matter,” and goes on to say “all lives matter,” emphasizing that he stopped eating meat because he extends that philosophy beyond the human race. He then spoke about his feelings about law enforcement, noting that he wanted to be in law enforcement as a kid. RZA suggests things have changed since he was growing up, saying that “in the old days…a cop, you would let him in your house and give him a cookie and milk. Now, you’re like ‘yo, yo, yo…'” He goes on to elaborate that there are differences between police officers, and he still believes in the ideal of what police stand for but acknowledges that not all uphold that ideal, “I love what the police do for our society, I love the idea of it, to serve and protect. Those who are upholding that idea, then they are beneficial to society. But those who lose that focus, whether they lose it through fear, through stress, or through not being properly trained—and they are allowed to go out on the streets—how can you enforce law if you don’t understand law?”
It is at that juncture that RZA goes down a path similar to the one that drew ire for Kendrick Lamar in 2015, for comments he made to Billboard about Michael Brown’s death, and some of his lyrics in his song “The Blacker The Berry.” In speaking to Billboard, Lamar said “What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.” Critics took offense at his remarks, asserting that it was misguided to blame Blacks for police brutality against them. Kendrick later clarified that he was not pointing fingers at the Black community, but at himself, as he acknowledged that he had hurt his own people as a youth, and to point a finger at the police without also looking at himself would be hypocritical. RZA makes a similar point, but extrapolates it to others in the Black community:
“When you think about some of the brothers who are being brutalized by the police, you also got to have them take a look, and us take a look, in the mirror, at the image we portray. If I’m a cop and every time I see a young Black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them. I tell my sons, I say, if you’re going somewhere, you don’t have to wear a hoodie–we live in New York, so a hoodie and all that is all good. But sometimes, you know, button up your shirt. Clean up. Look like a young man. You’re not a little kid, you know what I mean? I think that’s another big issue we gotta pay attention to. Is the image that we portray that could invoke a fear into a white officer, or any officer.”
Do you agree with RZA’s point that, in addition to police needing to uphold the ideal of “to protect and serve,” there is also a responsibility for people in the community to “clean up” their images?