The rapper Wiz Khalifa, recently in Columbia for a concert, made a stop at the grave of Pablo Escobar. There he laid some flowers at Escobar’s grave then posed for a picture at the gravesite while smoking a big fat spliff. CNN also reports that Mr. Khalifa also posed for a picture outside a home where an attempt was made on the life of Mr. Escobar many years earlier by attempting to blow up the property. For anyone unfamiliar with who Pablo Escobar was, he was a notorious drug kingpin whose murderous reign terrorized the people of Columbia and led to the deaths of thousands of people. His victims extended from the poor to the elite. Presidential candidates were among his victims, judges, police officers and the common man. One of his henchmen admitted to killing over 300 people, and ordered the deaths of over 3000. His reign of terror was felt across all of Columbia, his drug empire was like nothing the world had ever seen, and he became extremely rich funneling his product to the United States, and across the world. He became so rich from his exploits that he was once named by Forbes magazine as the seventh richest person in the world. This is not the full story of Pablo Escobar, time and space will not allow for a comprehensive detailing of this infamous character’s life.
Why then would Whiz Khalifa pay tribute to such a murderous villain? Was he attempting to solidify his street cred? Was he affirming his gansta bona fides, to show that he “keeps it real out here?” It is mind boggling that such an influential individual who has the potential to inspire so many would use his position as a prominent cultural figure in such an irresponsible way. This behavior coming from anyone would be disturbing, but it is particularly troublesome to see this coming from a black man. At such a time in America, when so many inner cities where black people live, and are the victims of violent crime; here comes this rich, privileged black man (and yes, he is a privileged black man) paying tribute to, and idolizing one of the most violent men that ever lived. He lionizes the life of a brutal mass murderer, without receiving the kind of blowback that we usually see reserved for white people, or black people of the wrong political persuasion who slip up. Recently, Ben Carson used the term immigrant to describe slaves and he ignited a firestorm for this egregious sinful act. Never mind that he used the term in the exact context that Barrack Obama used the term a few years earlier. He was never the less castigated all across the blogosphere, and opinion circuit. He was called the vilest names, and his comments made the news in the NY times, CNN, the BBC, USA Today, NBC News and on and on. While Mr. Obama referring to slaves as immigrants evoked applause, Ben Carson using the same analogy evoked mockery. Similarly, while there was some negative response to Mr. Khalifa, most of the outrage was expressed by the people of Columbia where Escobar was from, but the response in general to his actions is nothing compared to what we see when the offending individual is on the “wrong side” of the political spectrum.
Today, the scourge of Pablo Escobar and his legacy reverberates across Latin America and the United States, which continues to be the main market for the drug trade. In a time when there is so much violence in the black community, where so many decent people practically live as prisoners in their own homes, Mr. Khalifa’s glorification of a murderous drug Kingpin must be condemned in the strongest terms, especially by the people who have a prominent voice and a powerful megaphone. Refusing to hold men like him accountable is nothing more than a soft type of bigotry. It is a bigotry that says people like him cannot be expected to know, and do better and therefore deserves to be treated with kids’ gloves, and excuses must be made for him. We must do the opposite and hold him to the same high standards that we hold others to when they mess up. Let us stop embracing what has been ingeniously termed the soft bigotry of low expectations.