Racism Masked as Sarcasm: An Open Letter to ValleyWag

Posted: September 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Divine, Nas, Ben edit1
Racism comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s blatant and in-your-face, other times, it’s nuanced and cloaked in sarcasm, like ValleyWag’s latest article taking subtle shots at Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz’s friendship with underground rapper Divine. It isn’t the first time that the tech-gossip blog (yes, there’s such a thing, courtesy of Gawker Media) has mocked Horowitz’s passion for Hip Hop culture. Editor Sam Biddle has practically made it his personal mission to attack Ben every chance he gets. However, RapRehab’s recent article, “How an Underground Rapper Befriended a Billionaire Venture Capitalist”, featuring Divine who shares his incredible journey from running Brooklyn streets with criminals to dining with Ben in Silicon Valley, seems to have rekindled ValleyWag’s penchant for ridiculing the billionaire rap fan.

Blog co-editor Nitasha Tiku bases her entire piece, “Why Does Andreessen Horowitz Have an Official Rapper”, on but a mere fragment of Divine’s uplifting story. Whereas she could have written a stirring article about the unlikely but inspirational tale of how the formerly incarcerated young artist turned his life around, Ms. Tiku opted to focus on a minor chapter in the rapper’s amazing journey: a song Divine wrote for Andreessen Horowitz’s company podcast. Drenched in condescending undertones, Tiku extracts quotes from various online interviews and strategically manages to only include the rapper’s most colloquial expressions in a cheap and obvious attempt at trivializing the nature of Ben and Divine’s relationship. Painting the artist in a negative light, Tiku excludes the majority of Divine’s heartfelt words, in favor of exploiting typical rap stereotypes and playing to an elitist readership who already buys into the “rappers-are-idiots” mentality. Just check the comment section for confirmation.

Throughout the article, Tiku incorporates pictures of Ben and Divine, including one of the pair both sporting shirts that read “VC Life – Inspired by Ben Horowitz”, a slogan created by Divine. This also appears to be fodder for jokes as the author and commenters imply, directly and indirectly, that Divine is a kiss-ass and Ben has found a new pet in the rapper. The implications here reek of classism and a healthy dose of good old racism. But from the looks of it, Tiku’s veiled jabs parrot her editor’s obsessive hatred for Horowitz as well as her readers’ sycophantic sentiments. Birds of a feather really do flock together.

Is it just too uncomfortable for some to see a Black man on his rise to success? Does it go against the narrative that ValleyWag writers and readers subscribe to? The fact that Ben is being scoffed at for his love of Hip Hop and association with rappers says a lot about the general public’s notion that Black and White, rich and poor, hood and suburbs, just shouldn’t mix. This form of “harmless” mockery conceals the belief that the disenfranchised and disadvantaged should stay in their place, unable to dream, unable to hope, unable to taste success. It says that the idea of a Black man, a rapper, socializing with a wealthy White man is so bizarre and in contrast with popular perception that it is worthy of belittlement and a disparaging article on a blog whose very popularity is predicated on sensationalism, unsubstantiated reporting, and the notorious click-baiting tactics of its otherwise mediocre writers. Ms. Tiku can poke fun at Divine and Ben all she wants. At the end of the day, she’s just a blogger who gets underpaid to write about billionaires. Oh, the irony.

Here’s Divine’s open letter to ValleyWag and Nitasha Tiku:

Ms. Tiku:

Peace Queen! Great morning.

This is Divine. I just recently came across an article you wrote where I was a co-subject.

I was trying to figure out the angle of the article and purpose you had in writing it…I felt the undertones of it were based in sarcasm and an attempt to undermine the positive essence of my story relative to Ben Horowitz beyond the mere trivial aspect of me being told by Ben that I was now the official a16z rapper once I co-wrote a song for the firm’s podcast.

My real life story of my criminal past and life struggles to eventually get the opportunity to be amongst a man of Ben’s stature is much more deeper than simply Andreessen Horowitz having an official rapper. To highlight that minimal and irrelevant point of a mere statement Ben made to me is ridiculous.

I’m not an employee of Andreessen Horowitz, nor am I a paid in-house rapper. I’m simply a friend of Ben’s and a friend of the firm, a real life flesh and blood human being who had an unfortunate life that put me on a negative path and who used spirituality and the love of Hip-Hop music as a means to persevere through a lengthy federal prison sentence while still a teenager, who only completed the 8th grade and got my GED to become self-taught, and so many other positive accomplishments I’ve made against the odds and won.

I’m a true and living inspiration and my relationship with Ben serves as a reminder that some of the greatest gifts of the human spirit are that of faith, hope, kindness, forgiveness and compassion. My life is no joking matter to be undermined and presented in media as mere sensational gossip with no deeper value beyond entertainment.

There are so many positive stories and social ills that can be addressed and brought out for dialog from my story. This isn’t about Ben having billions of dollars and what that can afford him like he “bought” himself a rapper.  This is about the dynamics of life on a higher level where the authentic love of Hip-Hop brought two totally different individuals together who would have never crossed paths otherwise, who were from two different walks of life and ends of the socio-economic spectrum.

And let’s not forget that Ben is self-made. He worked and leveraged his intelligence, education and opportunities to be where he is today.  Nothing was handed to him. He wasn’t born rich. He understands poverty and furthermore the plight of black people, their culture and history, etc. and it’s not because his wife is black either. He’s authentic in who he is. He doesn’t have to reach for acceptance.  He naturally embraces the black experience ’cause that’s what he naturally feels. To be criticized for being successful and true to oneself is insanity on the part of the critical. Why? Because it’s unfounded…but that’s just what haters do. The written and spoken word affect and direct the people who affect the world around ‘em.  It’s wise to be ever mindful of the ideas we manifest to give life in the written and/or spoken word and in deed.

No ill feelings, I just wanted to share some deeper insight on your article since I was a co-subject and my story was the foundation of it. I close how I opened.

Bless! Peace!
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