That didn’t take long. Less than 48 hours after tapes that contained statements from Donald Trump condoning sexual assault leaked, an advisor to Dr. Ben Carson whipped out the “blame it on rap music” card in defense of Trump’s rhetoric.
Here’s what Carson advisor Armstrong Williams told Business Insider in the middle of the political fallout:
“There are two issues. The tape itself, which unfortunately is the kind of language that we hear in rap music, we hear in probably coarse conversation, you know, unfortunately, we hear this.”
Equating Trump’s comments to what is one of America’s most popular music genre is yet another attempt to normalize the Donald while simultaneously shifting blame to someone or something else. Establishing a scapegoat and changing the subject is another form of logical fallacy that is rampant in political discourse in 2016. The problem however, lies in the basic comparison between Trump’s comments and rap lyrics. Currently, no rapper is seeking the highest office in the land, and whatever lyrics Mr. Williams is generalizing about likely come from people in their teens or twenties, not someone old enough to have an AARP card.
We don’t look for rappers to be policy experts. We don’t need them to understand gender equality issues and we certainly don’t look for them to be role models. Rappers can be crass, demeaning, and yes, even caveman-like at times when it comes to the treatment of women. We all acknowledge this, even rappers themselves. Jay Z’s “B*tches and Sisters” sums up at least three decades of the genre’s relationship with women — and it’s a complicated situation, to say the least. But Jay’s not boasting about groping anyone, grabbing them “by the p*ssy,” or reveling in making unwanted sexual advances.
In fact, a recent despicable comment from Rick Ross advocating date rape, was met with outrage from the community. And when met with that backlash, Ross himself clarified the lyric, and made statements in support of women and in virulent opposition of rape, something Trump did not even do in his non-apology.
Donald Trump grew up at the height of privilege, as a wealthy, straight white man in America. The majority of rappers grew up facing down specters of racism and poverty, not in environments that afford them the same kind of education Trump has had access too. Even so, the age gap between Trump and the rappers Carson’s advisor is citing are enormous.
It’s rare for a 60-year-old to think the same way he did as a 20-year-old. Even when rappers get old — 35 and up — they sometimes cringe at things they said in their younger days. When they were young and dumb, they didn’t have the maturity or wisdom you’d expect from someone who has spent six decades on the planet, entered into three marriages, raised several children, and who is currently attempting to occupy the highest role in our country. Using music as a scapegoat is the wrong move because no rapper is running for president.
Furthermore, art is often transgressive, and lyrics don’t necessarily reflect the personal standpoints of the people who wrote them. The language we heard from Trump is taken from small talk during his daily life, rap lyrics are constructed to convey a specific message, and often seek to highlight the environment in impoverished black communities — communities that are suffering because of racist housing policies championed by people like the Trump family.
Art is messy, taboo-breaking, conflicted, and unpredictable. But the rhetoric from a man who is campaigning to run our country should be anything but. An attempt to pass the buck from Trump to rappers in just another example of this man and his entire campaign’s refusal to take responsibility for their own actions.