The hip-hop community was stunned as news broke that rapper XXXTentacion had been shot and killed on June 18 outside a motorcycle dealership in Florida . The 20-year-old rapper – born Jahseh Dwayne Onfrey – had been stirring up controversy in the music world for a while following allegations of brutal abuse towards his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
Now, full disclosure: I am not, and never have been, an XXXTentacion fan.
I’d heard some of his music in passing, but any opinion I had of the rapper had not really been fully-formed until I read the now-famous article from the Miami New Times. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how I felt while I was reading Tarpley Hitt’s profile of Onfrey. I was disgusted, angry and completely dumbfounded by the accounts of his stans rushing to his defense despite the overwhelming evidence of his brutal abuse of Geneva Ayala, his ex-girlfriend.
Ayala has been crowdfunding to pay for her medical bills after Onfrey’s attacks left her close to blindness. She’s also been relentlessly harassed by Onfrey’s stans (Hitt reported that because of it Ayala had to leave her job at Dunkin Donuts). I’m not about to sit here and recount every single disturbing detail of his alleged abuse of Ayala, who had been pregnant for some of his most violent attacks, because it’s too much.
I could go on, but what I really want to talk about is what Onfrey’s murder means in terms of philosophical justice and what the world’s reaction to it says about how our society perceives accountability.
Actually, I can. I don’t think anyone’s death should be celebrated but beating the shit out of a gay man for looking at him and his pregnant gf as well as attemping to rape her is horrific…I’m not even gonna say his name… this tweet is all the attention he’s getting from me https://t.co/IajjBntJqG
— chloe (@contrachloe) June 18, 2018
If I’m being completely honest, the only thing I care about in this entire fucked up situation is that Ayala, the woman he brutalized, can get the healthcare she needs and not continue to be abused by his fans, fans who would rather put a young man’s talent before a young woman’s wellbeing. I could give a shit if he was the next Tupac or if he was starting to donate to domestic abuse prevention organizations after he was exposed for what he really was. Onfrey was a dangerous, cruel man – he hated gay people and he saw women as property. But did he deserve to die? I’m not at all qualified to answer that question – who among us is? – but the allegations against Onfrey and his subsequent murder have made me start to question whether truly bad, even evil, people deserve to die. Would it have been better if Onfrey had survived and been served the justice he obviously deserved? Will Ayala, who suffered and continues to suffer because of Onfrey, feel any relief now that her abuser is dead? Or will his death empower his most dedicated and quite honestly rabid fans to continue placing the artistry of a man over the pain of a woman?
Y’all gonna protect that nigga’s ghost more than you do Black women and that’s the fucking tea.
— lil jonjon & the smol side bois (@hoodqueer) June 18, 2018
I don’t know if I’ll ever personally have an answer to any of those questions, and I won’t pretend that I do have an answer. Like everyone else right now, I’m just trying to figure out exactly where I stand in terms of what I personally feel about his murder. Part of me does believe that he deserved what came to him, but another part of me – the part that believes that the death penalty may actually just be an easy way out for the grossest criminals among us – doesn’t.
Some people are saying that now, Onfrey won’t have the chance to redeem himself and grow as a person. Maybe that’s true – I don’t know. But it’s as if our culture would rather wax poetic about a man’s “lost potential” than simply listen to women. That’s my takeaway here – we will always put men before women – especially Black women – , regardless of what those men have done, or will do.
the survivors in your life can see you waxing poetic about your favorite abusers
— Hannah Giorgis (@ethiopienne) June 19, 2018
I would like to believe that people can change, but the longer I’m alive in a world where the most powerful people in our society will demonize women for trying to take agency over their bodies, or suppress the voices of minorities, or force thousands of migrant children to “live” in prison camps…the harder it gets to believe that’s true.
XXXTentacion was not a good man. His death is not a loss of potential – if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that he probably wouldn’t have changed that much had he lived to see another day. The only empathy I feel is for Ayala, and for every other victim of domestic violence that lives on to see their abusers deified after their demise.