Wu-Tang Clan honcho RZA addressed accountability and the abuse of police power in a new interview with Gawker, supporting indictments for every cop seen in the harrowing video of Staten Island resident Eric Garner’s death.
The producer pointed to several problems surrounding the case, including officer Daniel Pantaleo’s decision to subdue Garner by jumping on him, rather than using a non-lethal option like pepper spray; and the quick escalation of the incident despite the comparative insignificance of Garner’s alleged crime: Selling loose cigarettes. But the rapper said the real problem laid elsewhere.
“[W]e got the guy red-handed, in HD quality,” RZA said. “And not just the one cop; all those cops should have been indicted. Those are the guys who give us the non-value of black life.”
The clear video evidence, RZA suggested, should have made an indictment possible, especially at a time when cameras are being used to dole out tickets to drivers who are caught running red lights. But the rapper argued, “Even with all our tech advances, we are actually devolving. When Rodney King got done up by those cops, the video was grainy and they got away with it. But now? Now we have clean quality, up-close shots and the people who run the system are still saying no, there is no crime here.”
The rapper noted these problems are often systemic, but refrained from calling it flat-out racism or blaming police everywhere, noting that his cousin is a corrections officer, his DJ was on the force for 17 years and both his father- and brother-in-law are cops (“Thanksgiving at my house is a cop convention,” he cracked). The issue, RZA said, is accountability.
“When you see it on camera, when we get a grand jury — white, black, aliens, and not one person says ‘indict’? No one sees the injustice? It’s not that I fully blame the cops. I played a cop on TV. I spent a year walking around telling people: ‘I’m a cop.’ But it’s becoming like the people in uniform have criminal personalities and criminal minds — and they’re not embarrassed by it. They find no fault in what they’re doing; a spade is a spade yo.”
RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan are among a number of musicians — including Stevie Wonder, Killer Mike, Pharrell and Michael Franti — who have spoken out against grand jury decisions to not indict officer Pantaleo in Staten Island and Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, for the shooting of Michael Brown. The Wu-Tang Clan incorporated footage of the massive protests that subsequently swept across the country in their video for “A Better Tomorrow,” while Will.i.am used the actual video of Garner’s death in his clip for “The World is Crazy.”