Ice Cube Took Donald Trump's Bait

Opinion: Ice Cube allowed himself to be used as a pre-election political pawn by an administration that hasn’t shown any signs of enacting radical change.

Ice Cube Donald Trump

Image via Getty/Leigh Vogel

Ice Cube Donald Trump

Ice Cube has allowed himself to become the latest celebrity to be used by the Trump campaign. On Wednesday, Trump senior advisor Katrina Pierson shouted him out for his “willingness to step up and work with @realDonaldTrump Administration to help develop the #PlatinumPlan.” The tweet stoked fears that Cube went full-on MAGA, but he’s since clarified that he merely took a call from the Trump administration inquiring about the Contract with Black America that he devised in August. 

Cube, a self-described “lifelong Democrat,” says that he showed the contract, which vies to “strike at the heart of racism and present a blueprint to achieve racial economic justice,” to the Democrats. They told him they would address it after the election. Then he got a call from the Trump administration, and he says that Trump has since “adjusted” his Platinum Plan catered toward Black America. 

But a look at the Platinum Plan doesn’t show many, if any, of Cube’s seismic requests. Cube merely joined Kanye West, Steve Harvey, Ray Lewis, and others as Trump’s bargaining chip with Black voters. While the president has claimed to have “done more” for Black people than any president, his aggressive law and order policy, tax breaks, immigration policies, and poor response to COVID-19 have all hurt Black people. He’s no friend to Black America, which is why he’s desperate to appeal to us through his association with celebrities. Cube took the bait. He exposed his social and political insulation by even proposing reparations and antiracist education to an administration that doesn’t even believe systemic racism exists.

In an interview with Big Tigger on Atlanta radio station V-103, Cube was unequivocal that he wasn’t endorsing either candidate, said he didn’t trust either party, and correctly opined that politicians “make promises they don’t keep.” His comments seemed like the perfect reasoning to be wary of talking to either side of the aisle, but he ultimately surmised that “I’m not serious [about change] if I don’t take this call” from Trump. While he may have thought he was simply doing his duty as an American, he gave Trump the optic of Black support that he desperately needs weeks away from the election. The Washington Post recently reported that Black men are a “coveted” demographic this election year. This news will be fresh on the mind of Black men somehow on the fence about who to vote for, many of whom may not do the due diligence to clarify the nature of Cube’s involvement with the administration. If Trump were re-elected as a lame-duck president, he’d have no pressure to actually enact any of the Platinum Plan. 

Ice Cube’s miscalculation may have also done serious damage to his own legacy. He has one of the most politically incisive, pro-Black catalogs in rap history. Everyone knows N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police.” But his solo Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate albums especially took aim at vessels of anti-Blackness like politicians, the police system, “sellout” Black entertainers, and racist store owners. “Black Korea” framed the ’92 riots in the way that modern artists speak to the Baltimore and Ferguson anti-police uprisings. He rhymed with a coarseness and militance that’s unparalleled in mainstream rap, capturing the fury of Black people who were sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

He once called out Eazy-E for attending a 1991 “Salute to the Commander in Chief" luncheon by rhyming, "I never had dinner with the president." But he’s arguably done worse by helping Trump’s campaign. He hasn’t endorsed Trump, but he spoke to the administration and allowed them to beat him to the punch of announcing their discussion. Pierson’s tweet was misleading, and allowed conservatives to “claim” him. People are calling Cube a sellout for his willingness to talk to Trump, but his actions have led some to wonder whether he was selling an image all along. 

It’s foolish for Cube to have believed a system that’s proven unable to acknowledge our humanity and hold violent police accountable would take such intense demands seriously.

Cube rapped on “Burn Hollywood Burn” with Public Enemy, but has since become a Hollywood star. He wrote “Fuck tha Police,” the quintessential anti-police song, but has played a cop on film numerous times in his career, and called the experience “kinda cool.” He had late Nation of Islam figure Khalid Muhammad speaking on his Death Certificate album, but Muhammad lamented that when he started to face backlash from the establishment for his anti-Semitism and sought the rapper’s alliance, “Ice Cube melted on me.” Cube posted anti-Semitic images of his own earlier this year, so that probably wasn’t the reason for his cold feet. Apparently, just because you say fuck the system doesn’t mean you’re willing to do what it takes to abolish it. 

Ice Cube’s Contract With Black America seeks an expeditious alternative to “gradual reform.” The ambitious plan seeks to strike at almost every societal ill plaguing Black people: there’s a proposal for reparations, massive bank and lending reforms, an end to prison labor, a demand for 20% of local police budgets to be rerouted for communities, mandatory anti-racism curriculum in schools, and “mandatory funding of ‘Black Studios’ by the largest Hollywood studios, record companies, and television studios and networks to compensate for years of lack of support.”

While the Platinum Plan’s promise for “federal policy reforms to advance home ownership initiatives” appears inspired by Cube’s request for the “Federal Reserve to allow a one-time interest free loan for home ownership,” the minimal plan adjustments pale in comparison to the optic of Ice Cube being pro-Trump. The Trump campaign calling Cube wasn’t about policy, it was about pageantry. The president has been operating off of social currency for the past four years, inviting Kanye West to the oval office, helping legitimize Kim Kardashian-West’s criminal justice passion, and helping free ASAP Rocky from jail in exchange for favor from their fans. That’s why Jay-Z told Meek Mill not to meet with Trump about prison reform in 2018, right before the midterms. Trump was seeking the same boon among Black male voters from speaking with Cube, and he got it. 

True economic equality can never come from within a system based on exploiting poor people. The GOP is honest about its desire to conserve the nation’s systemic inequality, and Democrats merely pander enough to cover the scent of their own oppressive policies. There’s no room to finagle radical change from that dynamic. Even the contract’s request for 13.4% of the economic pie (to reflect Black people’s 13.4% population) is more extreme than anything Republicans have ever proposed. 

During his interview with Tigger, Cube said that the Democratic party’s refusal to even lie and say they’d offer Black America more than $150 billion “was a red flag.” Katrina Pierson, the Trump advisor who started yesterday’s firestorm, tweeted that the Platinum Plan seeks to “empower a [Black] community that has been intentionally decimated by politics.“ But Pence said in his recent debate that systemic racism is a mere “presumption.” Is that contradiction also not a “red flag”? 

Cube should have known better than to speak with the administration. Just a couple years ago, he made an “Arrest the President” diss track claiming that Trump should be arrested, rhyming, “That nigga is Russian intelligence.” He also told Tigger that “both [parties] have in some ways been evil to Black people. We can’t be looking for a lesser evil—they're all evil.” He knows Trump is full of it, but dealt with him anyway. Why? Even if Trump promised to enact everything in the Black Contract, he’s a pathological liar. In 2016, Trump promised to invest $550 billion in American infrastructure “to ensure we can export our goods and move our people faster and safer,” but that never happened. So why would anyone believe he’s willing to give Black people that kind of money?

On “Arrest the President,” Cube rhymed, “I'ma roll with the aliens/Man, fuck these homosapiens.” It’s an interesting line that harkens to the radical theory of Afropessimism, which postulates that America doesn’t view Black people as human, but mere material for the American empire. It suggests that the country subsists off our labor (and our culture) but rarely seems to acknowledge our humanity. Consider that Milwaukee officer Brett Hankison was charged for shooting at a wall, public property, but not for killing Breonna Taylor. It’s a polarizing idea, but it’s reflected in Black people’s perpetual frustration with a Democratic Party that offers us the bare minimum. It’s foolish for Cube to have believed a system that’s proven unable to acknowledge our humanity and hold violent police accountable would take such intense demands seriously.

Yesterday, Cube tweeted, “Black progress is a bipartisan issue.” More aptly, genuine equality for Black people isn’t going to be given from the two-party system. That’s not possible through racialized policy; it’s going to take a system where the construct of race isn’t a factor. 

Everything that Cube has said about Black people having no economic power, and politicians being hard to trust, is valid. He told Tigger, “When you have no money in a capitalistic society, no one pays attention to what you're saying.” That’s true. But that’s when you shift from a capitalistic society. He also told Tigger that “Black people need to be independent of these parties,” but then walked it back by clarifying: “Not saying we’d try to put somebody in as the president as an independent.” The statement reflects that he knows where “the line” is at from progressive to radical, and doesn’t want to cross it. 

This system can’t legislate racial equality. That only comes from an infrastructure where all things are equal from the start. Cube should have known better than to believe Donald Trump, of all people, was interested in offering it. Rhyming fiery lyrics is one thing, and placatory calls with Trump is another, but the “complete paradigm shift” that the Contract With Black America seeks entails sacrifices that Cube has never actually made. If he doesn’t want to upset his millionaire’s lifestyle by proposing radical means to enact his radical ideas, that’s his prerogative. But he shouldn’t be enabling Trump in any way by meeting with him.

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