Why We Hope the DMX/George Zimmerman ‘Celebrity Boxing’ Match Doesn’t Happen
By Dan Weiss
One of the more memorable songs of New York folk-punk singer Ed Hamell’s career as Hamell on Trial is called “Don’t Kill.” Simple enough, right? He narrates from the POV of the big dude upstairs about that very commandment: “Was it the ‘thou’ part that threw you?” “Shalt not means ‘don’t,’” etc. Then as an aside: “I thought I etched this in stone!”
When it was announced this week that semi-retired rapper DMX is negotiating a contract to fight 2010’s most-hated American villain, hubristic acquitted murderer George Zimmerman, in a presumably televised “celebrity boxing” match, it’s hard not to imagine DMX killing Zimmerman with his bare hands.
Why? Because this is not a “post-racial” America and when several of its denizens have revenge fantasies—what ’90s movie was it where the doomed heroine yelled “My boyfriend’s big and black and he can kick your ass!” Scream?—the beat-down is often imagined to be delivered by a bald, ripped, gold-chain-clad muscle museum like Earl Simmons. Just substitute Mr. T or Samuel L. Jackson or your Blaxploitation hero of choice. Maybe throw in a few MF bombs and you’ve got all the makings of a bankable fiction.
This, however, isn’t fiction. It’s also gross.
We know these fantasies because of the uncountable number of times throughout recorded history that a white person lied to the police about describing a suspect as black, even—especially—regarding a rape or murder. Works of art that are not taken lightly, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Congressional Medal recipient Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” center on this injustice because it’s real, and because real resonates.
This realness is right here among us, souring the air with the nervous realization that the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin would be alive if he wasn’t presumed a dangerous criminal. But this is a possible assumption up against a definite reality: Martin is dead because of unclear actions taken in a struggle after realizing he was being followed by someone. A possible murderer versus a definite murderer.
It’s all too perfect a setup to make us itchy for someone, perhaps a black rapper who’s spent a bit of time at the gym and made his household name by barking into a microphone, to respond with irrational violence. Do we want Zimmerman to die? Do we want a black person to go to jail for manslaughter, televised no less? Or do we just want to see his ass kicked a little, to watch him feel pain and humiliation on a national scale, to beat up the real boogeyman, while reinforcing Zimmerman’s imaginary boogeyman, the Dangerous Black Guy Who Wants Him Dead?
The online civil rights organization, ColorOfChange.org wants DMX to bow out of the event because they say it will only “further exploit a dead young black man for personal gain, while framing this commercial spectacle as an opportunity for ‘justice’ for Trayvon.” The organization has gone as far as to start a petition that they hope will show the rapper that justice for Trayvon and others will not be acquired through more violence. “The only thing George Zimmerman’s ‘celebrity’ boxing match accomplishes is driving money and attention to a violent sociopath and his bottom-feeder promoter,” the petition states.
Mike Tyson also weighed in on the prospective fight in an interview on Chicago’s sports radio show, 670 THE SCORE on WSCR-AM 670 (a Radio.com station), saying the battle was just rewarding “bad behavior” and putting Zimmerman “back in the spotlight.” Tyson also noted that there’s a big difference between a street fight and a legitimate boxing match explaining, ”DMX is gonna realize…that boxing in the ring is totally different than boxing in the streets. He’s going to find out in the first five seconds if he’s not in condition for this stuff.”
When asked whether he would like to switch places with DMX and take a shot in the ring with Zimmerman himself, Tyson quickly said no. “All this stuff is built around hate,” Tyson said, “and I don’t want to be around nothing that’s built around hate.”
Even DMX isn’t sure if he’ll agree to the fight, telling an interviewer yesterday (Feb. 6), ”Well, I was challenged. I was challenged. I still haven’t really decided whether I was going to do it. But if I did do it, whatever money that was supposed to go to [Zimmerman] would have to go to charity.”
Adding, “I will gladly beat the s*** out of him.”
Not everyone who wants to see Zimmerman get his on TV is a bad person. But their real pain is being exploited, as TV is wont to do. Zimmerman has likely been advised that this is some sort of plea bargain with America, that he’d be showing what a good sport he is by taking a dive in front of the whole country—how bad could he be if he lets one of those black people beat him senseless to entertain us? To what end? To test his primetime-ness for a reality show? To restore his good name? The only reason we know his name at all is because he slaughtered a teenager. Zimmerman is not an entertainer, and Gladiator was a movie, not a treatise for coping with collective feelings of injustice.
If you want to feel sick, try to imagine the announcer giving the “and in this corner…” speech in that exaggerated voice about Zimmerman. What hyperbolic feats and nicknames could he come up with? “Killer of unarmed teen”? “Racist”? “Wife abuser”? These aren’t clever because they aren’t jokes; I am trying and failing to think of what could be said that would give this the jovial spin of a real sporting event. There’s a reason we no longer throw our problem citizens to the lions in a Colosseum. Torture and humiliation and death aren’t justice. As far as entertainment goes, violence is violence. So let’s hope DMX—or The Game, another rapper who announced publicly that he’d love to do this thing—get talked out of this by a little bit of perspective. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Was it the “don’t” part that threw you?