“…When I got on camera I was in Too $hort mode and had a lapse of judgement [sic]. I would never advise a child or young man to do these things, it’s not how I get down. Although I have made my career on dirty raps, I have worked over the years to somewhat balance the content of my music with giving back to the community. … If you’re a young man or a kid who looks up to me, don’t get caught up in the pimp, player, gangster hip-hop personas. Just be yourself.”
First of all, this is untrue. Too $hort, an elder statesman in the rap game, has made a career of portraying himself like a pimp. While he doesn’t have the youth on lock the way a Jay-Z does, the entire premise of his XXL video series was that a younger generation of artists and fatherless young men perceive Too $hort as a parental figure. For him to claim that he hasn’t instructed younger males to participate in age-inappropriate and potentially coercive sexual behavior is a Mitt Romney-level flip-flop.
More important than Too $hort’s previous record, is his attempt to use “giving back to the community” as a defense. I don’t expect Too $hort to have the language to address what rape victims, scholars, activists and feminist writers and bloggers call “rape culture.”
What I do expect from him is more reflection. Claiming to have gone into “Too $hort mode,” as if he’d been possessed by Pimpin’ Satan isn’t enough. Broad claims of community service aren’t, either.
Learn you something, Too $hort! Then find an anti-rape organization that serves Black, Latina and other girls of color or provides anti-sexist training for men and write them a check. A big one. (Three that come to my mind: Chicago-based A Long Walk Home, Brookyn-based Girls for Gender Equity, and the DC-based national organization, Men Can Stop Rape.)
Bottom line: The editors behind “XXL Staff,” the magazine’s editor-in-chief, and Todd “Too $hort” Shaw are capable of much more than what they’ve displayed in the damage-control phase of this debacle. Given their capability for storytelling, this vague, ass-covering apology is a slap in the face to every adolescent boy and girl who has been sexualized by a grown man; to every middle school girl in the ‘hood being harassed by boys who have been miseducated by a chronological adult; to every boy being teased or ignored because he doesn’t use overt sexual harassment to prove his masculinity; to every child who is surrounded by coercive and confusing sexual imagery while being denied comprehensive sexuality education; to every mother, father or grandmother trying to keep their girls safe from sexual assault and their boys from becoming unwitting perpetrators or observers of it; and to little girls who have been branded as “fast” and therefore OK to violate. I hope all of the adults involved step it up before they do even more damage.
Akiba Solomon is an NABJ-Award winning writer, freelance journalist, editor and essayist from West Philadelphia. She writes about the intersection between gender and race for Colorlines and is the co-editor of Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts .