Cosby, Nas, and Cottonmouth. When capitalism and respectability trumps real pain.


Mahershala-Ali-Cottonmouth-Luke-Cage

Luke Cage was a pretty fun romp through one of Marvel’s first black superheroes. The Hero For Hire took to the Netflix version of the marvel cinematic universe smoothly. Many pieces have been written about the cultural nods and asides in the series, but one big part of the black cultural experience stood out. It came in the interaction of Cottonmouth(Mahershala Ali) and Black Mariah(Alfre Woodard). 

Cottonmouth was one of the most dynamic characters on the show. Not only did we get to see his transformation from innocent impressionable youth to a murderous villainous adult, but we were also given great insights into what exactly kept him going. His fears, his hopes, and dreams were all laid bare for us in a way that many shows are not able or willing to do with their villains.  

As a child Cottonmouth was a virtuoso at piano. His grandmother, Mabel, a drug kingpin, didn’t care in the least about his talents, she was busy grooming him to take over her dynasty. His Uncle Pete(Curtiss Cook) however, cared very much, he’d sneak him to piano auditions and tried to steer him away from “the business” and towards the arts. Making him Cottonmouth’s hero. But while he was busy being a hero to a little black boy, he was a brutal villain to a little black girl. 

“Uncle Pete betrayed us.”
“Uncle Pete was the only one who ever had my back.”
Mariah Dillard and Cornell Stokes[src]

Back in the real world, our week has been utterly insane. Between Kanye “officially, officially” losing his shit, Nas being outed as an abuser, and Cosby FINALLY being found guilty…a reckoning is coming for black folk and our male heroes. Over the years, the story has become an old one. Famous man beats a woman on Monday, rapes a woman on Tuesday, puts out an album on Wednesday. The artistic capabilities of the man outweigh the life of the woman. This part of it has no race, indeed the white perpetrators of this, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, the list goes on and on. The difference is, with black folks, the people doing this sit in hallowed ground. The first major black television star is probably going to die in jail for his actions. R.Kelly, A man who’s writing is so prolific he most likely crafted the entire sound of R&B in the 90s is probably next. Nas is often listed on the top 3 rappers of all-time list. Though in retrospect his songs reeked of respectablity politics, “I Can” inspired a generation of black kids to strive for something more. But that does not outweigh anything he could e
I remember sitting in a film course and the (white) professor was showing us Triumph of Will and was telling us that we must separate artistry from what was done with the art and I spent the remainder of the class telling him why that was utter bullshit, and black folks know it’s bullshit so we need to apply it everywhere.

It’s extremely easy for people not caught in the crosshairs of powerful people to say “not my problem boy this song is bumpin’.” But the history of black men and black women is that black men were first unable to protect them, and then unwilling to. We have the means now to unlearn things but we are more dedicated to our egos than our women. We want our heroes to remain pristine, even though ignoring their misdeeds and atrocities allows and breeds more men just as violent.

 

But here is where we have to make the distinction in the narrative seen over and over. We cannot claim that all these atrocities white people have done are horrendous and disgusting, and turn around and forgive/ignore our own people doing the same thing. If you really care about it, start demanding these people pay as well, not “oh well they got off so let Cosby off” Fuck that. We cannot aspire to be white. The one rule of whiteness is that we’re never going to get in, so stop trying to become white men. Maybe if we respect the trauma we’ve put our women through over the years, we’ll get some new heroes that ain’t shitty, that will actually get us where we want to go. Don’t be a Cottonmouth. Cuz putting black false heroes over black women ends with a metal rod beatdown.

 

 

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