It’s time we talk about the responsibility of Black media and Black curators of conversation and thought owed to Black audiences. “Drink Champs,” a Black show on a Black-owned media network, allowed Kanye West to repeat debunked right-wing talking points about how George Floyd died.
Let that sink in.
Kanye stated that George Floyd died because of a fentanyl overdose, not police violence. That is false and has been previously disproven. Kanye’s repeating debunked narratives should not be further amplified.
He also downplayed the use of force during the attempted arrest.
The need to “own the internet,” as NORE tweeted promoting the episode, should not outweigh the harm done by platforming bigotry and giving further legitimacy to false narratives.
To echo Justin Tinsley, not everything is worth the price of admission.
The “Drink Champs” episode comes days after “The Shop” pulled its Kanye episode, choosing not to amplify hate speech and harmful stereotypes. And some folks might agree or think what Kanye said “makes sense.” Unfortunately, people believe and bear witness to false information all the time.
Setting standards in media isn’t censorship.
Black media like REVOLT and “Drink Champs” need to set better standards for conveying information to the Black audience they claim to serve. There is no one way to provide news, information and conversations, but there should be some clear values and commitments toward the truth.
Further, there is nothing “light-hearted” about a conversation that, at points, devolves into someone with a large platform and name recognition continuing to re-emphasize white supremacist talking points. Blanket disclaimers slapped across the amplification aren’t enough.
First amendment considerations regarding censorship apply to government entities, not private corporations capitalizing on shock jock-style conversations. Whether it’s Candice Owens, Kanye West or Herschel Walker, the failure to fact-check, verify or offer pushback on clearly false propositions is a problem.
There is nothing freethinking or independent about letting people spew rhetoric encouraging narratives that undermine us. We should be using our platforms to uplift our people, not just celebrities concerned about their branding at any cost.
Black media owes a duty of care to Black communities
In a tweet seemingly responding to the outrage, the “Drink Champs” Twitter account says people should watch the entire three-hour conversation. Naw, we not doing all of that. The Tweet itself acknowledges the controversy was being leveraged as an engagement tool instead of doing the work of building audience engagement.
Media personalities and the platforms that support them must do better. You can have conversations that explore controversy and still be responsible for facts—but also, knowing that in-depth discussions get reduced to short clips means it can’t just be a free for all.
Embracing a value alignment that centers on factual analysis isn’t something just for journalists to consider. Black creators and thought leaders owe a duty of care not to spread false or misleading claims. Everyone may have an opinion, but not every idea needs validation and amplification.
Read: If Black Media Doesn’t Tell The Truth About This Nation, It Won’t Be Told
It also doesn’t matter why Kanye continues to double down on these conversations. His efforts to further white supremacy by continually spreading anti-Black and antisemitic rhetoric encourage those who wish to harm our communities.
In the past several months, Revolt has given a platform to several controversial figures making unfounded claims that went unchecked. Freedom of speech does not mean anyone is entitled to a platform. And the clicks for controversy business plan shouldn’t outweigh due diligence in making sure factual commentary is prioritized.
Writing about Kanye West’s antics and increasing insistence on doubling down on Guardian columnist Derecka Purnell challenged the viewpoints he chooses to amplify under the guise of being a “free thinker.”
“Entire progressive and radical traditions exist where people of all races offer vigorous critiques of the status quo with surgical precision,” Purnell wrote. “We need fewer ‘free thinkers’ and more critical thinkers who ask about these traditions and find their places within them.” (Read the entire column here).
Correcting the record: Cops killed George Floyd, not drugs
In April 2021, a jury found former police officer Derrick Chauvin guilty of murder. Also, during the Chauvin murder trial, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Ander Baker, testified that George Floyd died due to the “subdual restraint and the neck compression.”
Additional officers faced charges for their role in Floyd’s murder. As reported by NewsOne other first responders took issues with the conduct of Chauvin and other officers when they arrived on the scene. None of the responding officers offered lifesaving aid to Floyd, who was clearly in distress.
Minneapolis firefighter, Genevieve Hansen, took the stand and testified that she witnessed Floyd’s head under the knee of Chauvin as other officers helped hold him down. The sight of Floyd struggling to breathe made Hansen angry enough to get loud with the officers.
“It was just alarming, the amount of people that were on top of one person not moving and handcuffed,” said Hansen during testimony. “[Floyd] needed help, and he wasn’t getting it.”
While the controversy for clicks ecosystem isn’t limited to Black media only, chaos agents already seek to demobilize our communities. We don’t need it coming from inside the house as well.
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