Updated: Tuesday, June 26, 2018, 6:35 EDT: A very contrite and possibly quite high Lakeith Stanfield took to Instagram on Tuesday after news broke that he had taken part in a “freestyle rap” (he was reading, so … ) that included the word “fag” and other anti-gay lyrics.
Stanfield began his mea culpa by saying, “Hey, I make videos all the time, which I usually end up deleting as soon as I make them.” He then went on to say that in his videos, sometimes he assumes characters that have “different viewpoints, and different views on life, and different perspectives.”
He says the character that was spewing all of the homophobic ish is one that he is “definitely not in line with and I definitely don’t believe those things.”
“So I just want people to know, coming from me, that I’ve never been homophobic,” he adds, and continues by saying that “I’m a person that moves in love, and I want to promote and continue to push that, and love for all people and all different types of love and every form it takes.”
He ends with, “So, yeah, I just want people to have a clear understanding because sometimes I make these things that could be very offensive,” as his voice trails off.
Even the beloved fall short.
Lakeith Stanfield, breakout star of black film and television in the 1-8, has shown himself to be stupidly human, prone to missteps and, in this case, capable of some truly deplorable shit.
Lest this sound like an excuse for what he did, I’m just stating facts.
The 26-year-old actor has perfected the weird-but-cute black-guy schtick, both in his role in Atlanta as well as in real life (case in point: He recently showed up to the BET Awards red carpet in a shiny black Powerpuff Girls wig), but this ain’t that.
Recently, a social media user who goes by the handle @_BayBey reposted a since-deleted Instagram post from the actor captioned with Stanfield’s words: “Offensive freestyle (not for the easily offended).”
Suffice it to say, it’s offensive.
In the 30-second clip, Stanfield can be seen looking down and reading from a piece of paper, reciting some doozies, including, “That’s some gay shit”; “Fag, I don’t really like to brag, but I’m straight, rich”; and “Fuck them bitches up the ass and I’m famous/and all these gay niggas mad cuz they hate this.”
As a rap, it just hits the “meh” level at best, but is a little ... focused, if you know what I mean.
In the year of our Lord 2018, Stanfield knows better than to use the word “fag” but did so anyway. Some fans are calling on Tessa Thompson, rumored paramour of Janelle Monáe, to come get her boy. (They both star in the upcoming Boots Riley-directed film Sorry to Bother You, out on July 11.)
As social media continues to expose the bad deeds of our heroes, favorite artists and icons, the question remains: Is there space in public life for mistakes? If you, say, continue to support Stanfield, are you anti-gay or homophobic? If you buy a Nas album, do you support domestic violence? If you still laugh at The Cosby Show, are you showing love to a rapist?
If this is the case, drawn to its logical conclusion, you can’t enjoy anyone’s art if they aren’t damn near perfect, or at least sufficiently apologetic. (And please don’t @ me because I am not excusing anything that comes from people’s mouths or what they do—I really have been grappling with this issue for a few months now.)
Obviously, actions are greater than words. Accordingly, the action of physically attacking women or gay people, as late rapper XXXTentacion—and, allegedly, old favorite Nas—did, makes it easier for some to smugly say no más.
The fact is that Stanfield is pretty beloved—and a damn good actor—but when these celebrities (Joy-Ann Reid comes to mind) are caught out there spitting—or writing—wounding words, do they get a pass for talent? Why? That’s the part I’m still turning over in my mind: Why do some get more sympathy than others? Is it because they’re likable? Because their film choices are superb? Their personal choices sufficiently woke? Is it that they align with your values—you know, a black person who’s kinda quirky, but cool?
After hearing his derogatory language, some have said they’ll be boycotting Stanfield’s upcoming film, while others say he’s “canceled.” Many commenters under @_BayBey’s post were decidedly unimpressed by Stanfield’s little rap, and many more were disappointed in Stanfield, who seemed like a breath of fresh air in Hollywood.
Are celebrities expected to always rise above our racist, sexist, homophobic, patriarchal culture—hip-hop or American? Is the worst thing you’ve ever done or said grounds for cancellation if you are in the public eye? Does it depend on whether—and how—you/they/I apologize? Do actions and words deserve the same response (e.g., Bill Cosby’s committing rape vs. Dave Chappelle’s rape joke)?
Or is all of this a matter of “free speech” and “censorship”? Even as I ask the question, one fact doesn’t escape me: Those are the arguments that always seem to come out of the mouths of the ones not being attacked, the ones who have the privilege to question, whether a black man using XXXTentacion’s youth to defend his history of abuse, or a black heterosexual woman feeling comfortable enough to question whether a gay slur is all that bad.
I tend to err on the side of “Ye who is without sin ... ,” but others seem to have no problem pressing cancel immediately. But what happens when one of their faves turns out to be problematic?