It’s said there’s no such thing as bad press, and this certainly may be true if the case of criminal rapper Jahseh Onfroy is any indication.
Because a video he made in which he hangs a six-year-old white boy now has more than seven million views on YouTube.
The video, a re-release of the rapper’s “song” “Look at Me!” certainly did make people look at him. The 19-year-old Onfroy, whose stage name is XXXTentacion, is not only getting video hits but taking hits in the media. Yet the situation really should make us take a look at ourselves — only, not in the way Onfroy intends.
The video is meant, supposedly, as social commentary. Filled with vulgarity, words demeaning of women, and lewd sexual language, it portrays Onfroy leading a high-school class in beating up a white teacher, who is struck with phallic objects. It then switches to a scene of three hanged black men, one of whom is Onfroy. The next segment briefly presents the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, the 2016 police shooting of Philando Castile, the 1991 Rodney King incident, the vehicular homicide of white woman Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, and the 2014 Ferguson riots. Then there’s the scene that put the video on the radar. (I won’t present or link to the video here, but anyone intent on finding it will have no trouble.)
The white boy, and a black one, are walked to a place where a noose is hanging. Onfroy is then seen kneeling down and, after talking briefly to the two children, slips the noose over the white boy’s head and hangs him.
Many in the media make the obvious point that a similar portrayal involving the hanging of a black child would never be tolerated. The video’s casting director, LaShawnna Stanley, explained the scene by saying that “XXX wanted viewers to see ... what if it had been white men and boys getting hanged for 150 years in America,” writes TMZ. Somehow, I don’t think that’s the message most people will get.
TMZ describes the video as “centered around police brutality against black citizens, white supremacy and slavery.” In fairness (and I always try to be fair), Onfroy criticizes the Ferguson rioters and black bigotry as well, saying at one point, “But, yo, you'd rather hear me say ‘f*** black prejudice.’” He also renders commentary at the video’s end in which he cites black-on-white crime (Kori Ali Muhammad incident) along with the reverse and makes statements such as, “Murder is murder whether you're black or white.” Yet even if he does want to do good here, the problem is that he doesn’t know what good is.
He’s not alone, however. Onfroy’s video conflates incidents whose only significant similarity is that they’re used to foment racial unrest. Till was a 14-year-old victim of a heinous crime; Castile was an unfortunate man who, apparently, made the mistake (and it was a mistake) of not following police commands; King was a convicted robber who led police on a high-speed chase and then was beaten; and Heyer was run down with a car driven by a white supremacist. (Speaking of which, Onfroy says that if you don’t like his video, you’re “racist.”) But does this conflation, confusion and false accusation sound familiar?
It’s precisely what the media have been doing, in a more genteel manner, for years!
Remember the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” lie? The continual playing of the race card? At least Onfroy may be sincere, actually believing the propaganda.
Imagine if the media told the truth all along, that more whites than blacks are killed every year by police, that cops are more likely to shoot white than black suspects relative to the races’ different homicide rates and the rates at which they feloniously shoot police, and that studies have shown that police are more willing to shoot white suspects. There might actually be less anger, rioting and murder. But, hey, you can’t tear down a successful civilization with Truth.
As for the hanging, the only other work in which I’ve seen a child hanging portrayed was in the film For Greater Glory; there it served to illustrate the barbarity of the anti-Christian, leftist Mexican government of the 1920s.
Yet Onfroy’s video is different. “A picture is worth a thousand words”; no matter what Onfroy says in his video, the imagery of blacks being abused by whites and blacks beating up a white teacher and hanging a white child will have a certain effect — and it won’t be to soothe the savage breast. And, hey, “Look at Me!” is in an album titled Revenge.
Yet there’s a larger point here. The problems in the black community (and the wider society) today aren’t caused by 60-year-old injustices; criminals being treated like criminals; or the occasional, and tragic, bad police shooting.
They’re caused, in part, by the kind of cultural effluent Onfroy is peddling.
Whatever the message, delivering it with vulgarity, decadence and lewd sexual content does more harm than good; it contributes to the defining of deviancy downward and degrades the audience. Only a virtuous people can be peaceful and free; the world’s Onfroys deliver vice. (As to this, please read my essays on music’s and profanity’s effects on civilization.)
I wouldn’t expect Onfroy to understand this; he’s a vulgar, unsophisticated individual. The more distressing reality is that people such as him are in fashion, enjoying generally favorable treatment in the media, wide markets and the vast wealth they bring.
Onfroy would do well to hold his tongue on matters he doesn’t really understand and take the advice of a different singer, Michael Jackson (who had his own issues): “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change.” The rapper has already served juvenile-detention time for gun possession, and he’s now going to be tried this fall on charges that he strangled, beat, falsely imprisoned and threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend, and engaged in witness tampering. The details are provided in the short video below.
Onfroy is reportedly going to release, among other things, a mixtape titled “I need Jesus.” He certainly does. But tragically, following our civilization’s lead, he’s more likely to find a prison cell or coffin first.
Photo at top: Screen-grab from "Look at Me" video