Charlamagne Tha God’s Laughter at Violence Against Trans Women Is More Dangerous Than He Thinks
At least 15 trans women have been shot or killed this year alone. The toxic masculinity of Charlemagne Tha God’s radio show only makes matters worse.
"Put Molly all in her champagne / She ain't even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that / She ain't even know it."
"I wish a bitch would turn down my marriage proposal. It's either yes or u die. Those are yo options. Not gonna embarrass me."
The first quote is a lyric Rick Ross rapped in 2013. The second is a 2016 tweet from comedian Lil Duval. Both men recently appeared on The Breakfast Club, a radio show hosted by Charlamagne tha God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee and the backlash culminated with a protest of Charlamagne at Politicon this weekend in Los Angeles. Both men, with their previous history of advocating sexualt assault and misgoyny, delivered exactly what you'd expect on the show this week. The question now has become — should Charlamagne be blamed for what guests on his show say?
In most cases, a host would never be held accountable for their guests, but when it comes to The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne is often caught laughing along with the vile things that come out of his guest's mouths. During Ross’ appearance on The Breakfast Club, he was asked why he's never hired a woman to his music label and responded: “You know, I never did because I always thought that like I would end up fucking the female rapper [and end up] fucking the business up. I’m so focused on my business. I gotta be honest with you. You know, she looking good and I’m spending so much money on the photoshoots... I gotta fuck a couple times."
After being blasted for promoting sexism in the music industry, Ross issued an apology on Facebook: “I want to address an insensitive comment I made on a very sensitive issue, especially in a minority dominated industry like hip-hop. My entire empire’s backbone is led by 2 of the strongest people I know and they happen to be women, my mother and sister. The operations wouldn’t run without them and I have the highest regard and respect for women in this industry. I have a daughter myself, my most cherished gift in the world. My comment is not a reflection of my beliefs on the issue. A mistake I regret." It was kind of Ross to apologize, but Charlamagne didn't do himself any favors either by laughing at a misogynistic joke.
The incident that led to protests of Charlamagne, however, involved Duval joking about violence toward transgender women. Charlamagne first asked how Duval felt about Trump's recent ban of trans men and women in the military, which Duval tried to ignore. During the conversation, Duval and Charlamagne keep referring to trans individuals as "transgenders," which would've been problematic enough if they hadn't continued. DJ Envy asked Duval what he'd do if he met a girl who was trans and Duval responded: "That ain't a boy, that's a girl." Envy further pressed the situation by asking what Duval would do if he had sex with a woman, then discovered she was trans: “This might sound messed up and I don't care, but she dying.” Shortly after, Charlamagne said “that's a hate crime,” but Duval continued to go on about how in that situation he'd be “tricked” into being gay.
Envy then held up a copy of trans author Janet Mock's latest book Surpassing Certainty (which she'd promoted on the show recently), and was asked if he thought Mock was "pretty." "That nigga doing his thing," Duval said, misgendering Mock and prompting a fit of laughter from Charlamagne. In 2017 so far, at least 15 trans women have been shot or killed by other fatal means, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Violence against trans women is the most common form of violence in the LGBT community and it's dismissive jokes like this that can lead to more violence. The same way Trump can fuel transphobia by tweeting about how trans men and women are a burden to the military, Duval and Charlamagne laughing about transphobia can give a voice to men who might be prone to violence against trans women. Furthermore, it propagates the idea that trans women are deceptive and their sole purpose in life is to lure heterosexual men into their boudoirs.
Mock penned an op-ed for Allure today, calling out The Breakfast Club for using her as a prop to incite violence against trans women. She wrote: "It’s this deplorable rhetoric that leads many cis men, desperately clutching their heterosexuality, to yell at, kick, spit on, shoot, burn, stone, and kill trans women of color. Until cis people — especially heteronormative men — are able to interrogate their own toxic masculinity and realize their own gender performance is literally killing trans women, cis men will continue to persecute trans women and blame them for their own deaths."
It calls to mind this an episode of Survivor from this year, where contestant Jeff Varner outed fellow contestant Zeke Smith as trans. In doing so, Varner wanted to prove that Smith's ability to hide his trans identity proved he could also be duplicitous in the game of Survivor. Of the outing, Smith said: "I continue to be troubled by his willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform." The same can be said of Charlamagne, whose popular morning show provided a soundtrack of laughter to the idea of murdering trans women and furthers one of the most dangerous stereotypes about trans women that even pops up in film and television (e.g. Pretty Little Liars, Dressed to Kill).
This is what led to protests of Charlamagne on Sunday at a Politicon event. He was there to discuss hip-hop and politics with Ari Melber, but Ashlee Marie Preston, trans editor-in-chief of Wear Your Voice magazine, had other topics on her mind. Joined by Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Preston shouted at the stage during Charlamagne and Melber's discussion that the idea of murdering trans women is not a joke. There's also been a growing sentiment on social media that a boycott of The Breakfast Club is necessary. Not that it will accomplish anything.
Charlamagne, an MTV star who has been featured on a variety of the network's programs (and other programs produced by Viacom, MTV's owner), doesn't have a large LGBT following. It will take more than members of the community for Charlamagne to own up to the idea that even as he casts himself as a victim by claiming he isn't responsible for his guests' words, he still gets to profit from their hatred. As long as companies like Viacom and iHeartRadio (which produces The Breakfast Club) don't care how Charlamagne treats other members of the black community, they'll continue to co-sign him and have him on their programs.
This isn't the first time Charlamagne has faced controversy and it certainly won't be the last time. As an author of the book Black Privilege, Charlamagne posits that opportunity comes to those who create it. But in his case, his opportunity comes from demeaning and endangering women and LGBT members of the black community and being allowed to do so by his white employers.