I released my 3rd official solo album Whole Tushie on 11/11/2016. I did all the beats, all the raps, all the engineering, all the artwork, a video, produced my own line of merch, and really put my all into it. On 11/14/2016 my twitter account got hacked by a nazi who wanted to sabotage my album release. What follows is my response to that nazi, and all nazis, and my attempt to share some insight on how our nation can come together to end the acceptance of hate once and for all.
It’s 1996. A 15 year old Jewish boy is sitting in a 10th grade chemistry class at Saint Thomas Aquinas, a private Catholic high school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He transferred to this school as a sophomore, and he is one of very few Jewish students. He smells gas amidst a lecture and, fearing a leak, he raises his hand. The teacher calls on him, “I smell gas Ms. Messenger.” She doesn’t miss a beat, “You’re just afraid to get gassed like all the other Jews Zach!” The class laughs. He looks around but there are no sympathetic eyes. He sinks into his chair uncomfortable, uncertain why such a cruel reference to his dead family members is funny, and uncertain how to respond.
It’s 2016. A 35 year old Jewish man is sitting at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles appreciating the vast expanse of time that ties dinosaurs and humans to a shared space. He just released his 3rd official album, Whole Tushie. It’s taken him 16 years to build his career as an independent musician and today is a day for him to celebrate his perseverance, appreciate who he has shaped himself to be, and reflect on his life. He watches as pockets of gas rise from the eons worth of decaying corpses below, and bubble up, sloshing the weird mix of water and muck in a deceptively banal display of celestial increments of time. He checks his email. His twitter password and email contact have been updated, but not by him. Over the next week he will receive anonymous messages and come to find out that anonymous internet nazis don’t want him to rap, so they sabotaged his album release. He tries to take it in stride, but he stumbles, he is uncertain how to respond.
"all Trump has done is remove the lid that concealed the noxious ingredients in the caustic stew that has nourished so many white Americans for centuries."
Both of these stories are about me. They’re separated by 20 years, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to explain why one is worse than the other. I’m not here to say that things are worse under Trump. But I am here to say that this is a final wake up call for all of us. The behavior that Trump has made so glaringly unacceptable begs for urgency, but it’s not new. It seems like the hate is boiling over with Trump, as if the roaring fire has been stoked and copious fomenting agitants have been thrown into the bubbling cauldron that is America’s racial identity. But all Trump has done is remove the lid that concealed the noxious ingredients in the caustic stew that has nourished so many white Americans for centuries.
Saying, “Things are worse under Trump,” is basically a roundabout way of saying, “It wasn’t bad enough before, but now I’m paying attention.” I know it seems accurate to suggest that it’s worse now, because hateful people are truly motivated in this moment, and we are hearing about more of them. This is their playoffs season, and they’ve all been wishing for an opportunity to wear their jerseys, and do their perverse celebration rituals. But we are also hearing more people speak out. People are speaking out because they recognize the true cost of silence, and they know that the first step to truly end the oppressive era of America is for people to be united by a single narrative of equality and love. So, it is up to all of us right now to define what this narrative is.
"Truly changing our nation isn’t about doing things different, it’s about doing things that weren’t being done before."
Our response can’t be a reaction. When you react to racists, bigots, and similar ne'er do wells you reinforce their hate, you validate it by giving it an opportunity to exist outside of the petulant fool who imagined it, you entrench yourself in a caustic dynamic set forth by a crackpot, you rid your yard of dog shit with your mouth and never do a thing about the dogs. The only true solution for change is the third option, something radical, something unforeseen, something perhaps bizarre and incongruous. Truly changing our nation isn’t going to be about telling racists, bigots, and assholes to sit down, it’s about helping the oppressed to walk on water. Changing our nation isn’t about forcing accountability on government or people who voted different than you. Truly changing our nation isn’t about doing things different, it’s about doing things that weren’t being done before. We don’t want to change the narrative that’s been given to us, because that narrative always defaults back to Trump and hate as soon as you stop fighting it. Instead we are creating a new narrative, defining a new standard for our society, and working together as individuals to ensure that standard is carried out.
When a nazi hacker(s)--it sounds a little too ridiculous, but these are the times we’re in--sabotaged my recent album release I saw the opportunity to offer my thoughts on what this new narrative might be. On the Monday after my album released I got an email from twitter saying that my password and email have changed. I didn’t change them though, so I’m blocked out of my account, and contacting support initiates a process that takes several days. The saboteurs deleted all of the tweets about the album, and blocked everyone I follow. The tweet that they left at the top of my timeline said “Stop disparaging Jewish people please. Don’t compare stuff to nazis and hitler. It’s not your trauma to play with for jokes or views.” Humorous bunch.
"Truly changing our nation isn’t going to be about telling racists, bigots, and assholes to sit down, it’s about helping the oppressed to walk on water."
In the week when folks were going to show their support for my album they couldn’t because I had them blocked. A few days later I got some messages on Instagram from someone who claimed to be responsible, they offered to meet up and give me back my account for $15. I told him--I assume it was a him--he was full of shit and that the damage was already done. The conversation quckly turned toxic with accusations that Jews shouldn’t rap, amongst a tirade of insults that seemed grounded in the insecurities of a teenager. So, some angsty kid just spoiled hundreds of hours of my work in order to have a little nazi chuckle. To say I was pissed would be inaccurate. This was such an effective and complete sabotage that I experienced a visceral rage that is about survival, not emotion.
Now, imagine someone gets ahold of the kid and kills him. Breaking his bones certainly crossed my mind. Sure, that’s some form of justice, but now we’re all just deeper down the hole that this hateful crackpot started digging. On the other hand, imagine if all of a sudden millions of people rushed to download my album? Downloading the album is the radical third option that subverts the system of oppression. The mythic clarity of this sequence of events is a mirror by which you can easily direct your attention to your individual surroundings. And I assure you that if you look, you will find this exact narrative is playing out right now in whatever communities you are a part of. But, the atrocities in your area can be stopped before they start, you just have to decide to take action before there’s something to react to.
"Oppressors don’t lose when you beat them, they lose when the oppressed win."
Oppressors don’t lose when you beat them, they lose when the oppressed win. So, it’s on you to figure out how to beat them to the punch, and turn everything into punching bags that harness energy, and transform the energy into electricity that powers a TV show about amazing minorities in your neighborhood. If you kill them they continue because we’ve been killing nazis for a good 69+ years now, and they’re still here. But what we haven’t been doing as a society for the last 69+ years is vigilantly invoking actions and narratives that champion and protect the victims of systemic oppression. That is now the explicit duty of all those with privilege regardless of race, sex, gender, religion, or otherwise.
We have black history month but how often do you do something to give a black person a leg up in the world, or even make a sincere inquiry into their well-being? We’ve got gay marriage but when you’re around your homophobic friends and family do you make a selfless attempt to hear them out and try to change their minds? If we don’t want our children to grow up in a nation where white men make black men illegal then we need to start constantly celebrating the legality of black men at all times, especially in the company of oppressors. No matter what color your skin, no matter your sex, age, gender, sexual preference, religion, or country of origin, if you have the capacity to subvert the systems of oppression then it is your duty now. Go out of your way to ensure that you offer some indication of love and respect to everyone you interact with. We must create a society where the oppressed are protected and empowered, but we can’t do that by reacting to powers of evil, we can only do that by acting on powers of love. If you see a racist stop a racist, but if you don’t see a racist then it’s time to start helping the oppressed, and ensuring that they feel like people of absolute importance. That way when the racists show up all they can do is motivate you to help more.