One of the worst aspects of the social media/smart phone era is how folks choose to videotape bad events in hopes of going viral, or they standby like adoring crowds at the old Roman Colosseum cheering for their favorite gladiators–cell phones in hand.
While I have never seen a tape of this incident, a few years ago, I was working as an adjunct professor at Florida A&M University when emerging from class one day, I saw two young women fighting like they were UFC combatants. I immediately dropped my brief case and ran over to break them up. As I took blows to the head and body from the two women who were still trying to get around me to each other, I remember hearing male voices from the crowd yelling “fuck nigga move out the way,” and “let them hoes fight.” Fortunately, the two young women, completely disheveled, walked away and the crowd dispersed once it was clear that university police officers were on their way.
But what was not lost upon me that day was that of the 20 or so young men and women who were standing around, none sought to stop the two women from fighting. Indeed, this is happening even more these days, as I can rarely peruse my social media timeline without seeing some video featuring some form of sexual assault or fighting.
Of particular concern to me this morning are the videos that have surfaced over the past few days where one young “rapper” who calls himself Hood-T was exploiting a clearly mentally ill Maia Campbell, the former Spelman College student who was a successful actress and model in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Campbell, the daughter of acclaimed writer Bebe Moore Campbell, has had a long and public battle with bipolar disorder and depression, battles that seemingly grew worse after her mother died in 2006. Campbell’s downward spiral has included dependency on illicit drugs and through the years, several videos have surfaced of her using drugs or seeking to sell her body for a fix. Thus was the nature of a video shot on the camera phone of Atlanta-based F-list rapper Hood T, who shot Campbell seeking to score a hit last week and uploaded the now viral video. When the social media furor unleashed, a defiant Hood-T stated: “Just because she was a black actress from back in the day, who we already all know from Redan. She been on the block for years. We been knew this bitch. She been doing dumb shit.”
After her former “In the House” co-star LL Cool J went public with his desire to get Campbell help yesterday, another video emerged, this one shot in a barbershop and uploaded by a Brother “claiming” that he wanted to help Campbell get in touch with Cool J; if the brother really wanted to help Campbell and not exploit her further, he could have contacted LL in any number of ways.
(Campbell, center, with LL Cool J, Kim Wayans and Alphonso Ribeiro on “In the House)
The problem, of course, is a lack of empathy. Empathy and compassion are learned behaviors and unfortunately, far too many young black men and women these days lack the ability to see a situation and try to correct it instead of exploiting it for pecuniary purposes or “shits and giggles.” Which is sad because in my day job as a criminal defense lawyer, I see so many young black men and women robbing, burglarizing, raping and murdering because they lack even the basic semblance of compassion that would prevent them from doing a violent act to another person.
We have to do a better job, my friends, of parenting and mentoring young folks to know better and to do better so that instead of hoping to become a YouTube star, they can at a minimum work on becoming decent human beings.