I often joke that if there are six degrees of separation between the average white American and the average white American celebrity that there are only two between the average black American and the average black American celebrity. Sometimes merely one. Black Hollywood? Is very small.
Not only is Black Hollywood very small, but it is still young enough that some of our most famous celebrities come from very humble beginnings. We have yet to enjoy the widespread nepotism that has been a boon to children of white celebrities for multiple generations. Because of this, and because rap music is still so tied to general American youth culture, and because the roots of hip hop are still firmly situated in urban areas plagued by crime and poor infrastructure, a young and wildly famous black American rapper could find himself hobnobbing with criminals.
That is not to say that white celebrities are not fond of criminals—or are not criminals themselves! There are the mob-loving crooners of yesteryear and the abusive and/or drug-addled celebrities we know all too well today. But those associations are not borne from the structure of our bigoted society, they are deliberate choices made in how to structure one’s social life.
Takeoff’s death is an unnecessary tragedy, one that I am wary about discussing on a platform that has grown so belligerently anti-black as Twitter. But his murder needs to be acknowledged by his peers, by Black America, by his fans, by the people who cared for him deeply. After all, he was only two degrees away from us. And his life mattered to so many.
I say this regretfully, because the tight circle of Black Hollywood and Black America often allows the average black person to interact with celebrities they admire, but perhaps it is time to add another degree. Perhaps we as average citizens should not have that type of access to celebrities for the safety of those very celebrities who are so dear to us.
Though I agree with Sanders, black celebrities should not be cut off from having social lives. Nor should they have to avoid socializing with their communities—with the black people they are drawn to and grew alongside. But one can easily have a life bursting with black culture and black people without ever interacting with those who would cause them harm.
Security costs money. And given America’s gun obsession, there is no place in this country where one is guaranteed freedom from a bullet. However, the more expensive an area, the more security it will have, and the less likely one is to die from gun violence. There are nightlife regions that are black and upscale—fully reserved for those within a certain income bracket and known to be completely intolerant towards gun violence. I hate advocating for class separation, but it is only for one sphere of life (after-hours partying), and it would result in a safer experience for those celebrities. For everything else? We could be as one.