Ice Cube and David Duke have much in common


December 31, 1991|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

LET'S GIVE DAVID DUKE a rest for a moment and consider the ravings of another prominent bigot.

I'm not sure what his real name is but he is known to his many fans as Ice Cube.

Mr. Cube is described by his publicists as a "rap artist." I'll take their word for it, although I think that's stretching the word "artist" a bit.

His publicists also say that Mr. Ice Cube likes to use his music, if it can be called that, to make social statements.

One of his recent social statements has to do with the strained relationship that exists between black customers and Korean merchants in Los Angeles.

Many blacks believe, as Mr. Cube says, that the Korean merchants "disrespect" them.

He says that the Korean shopkeepers seem to believe that every black who walks in the door is a potential thief or gunman.

This isn't a new problem. It has flared up in New York, Chicago and other multiracial cities.

So in one of his recent recordings, Mr. Cube has made a social statement. The song includes this thought:

"So don't follow me up and down your market

"Or your little chop suey ass'll be a target...

"So pay some respect to the black fist

"Or we'll burn your store right down to a crisp..."

It's no surprise that Koreans were surprised, frightened and upset by what they took to be a rallying cry for blacks to engage in arson against their property. (Some might also have been offended by the reference to their "chop suey" asses. Mr. Cube is obviously unaware that chop suey is not a Korean dish. In fact, it isn't even a Chinese dish, having been invented in this country. But maybe all Asians look alike to Mr. Cube.)

Mr. Cube's publicist says that the Koreans have misunderstood the intent of the song. Mr. Cube wasn't really urging blacks to burn stores. He just wanted to make the Koreans aware of the frustration and resentment many blacks feel at social and economic injustice.

Well, that is a worthy goal, I suppose, but if I were a Korean, I would think that there might be a better way of discussing social and economic injustice than by angrily rapping about my chop suey ass or burning my store down to a crisp.

In fact, if I were a Korean, I would tell Mr. Cube to stop the con job about social and economic injustice; that he is a front-line bigot and is no better than David Duke.

I might also suggest that he stop rapping about disrespect by Korean merchants and give some thought to why Korean merchants are operating stores in black neighborhoods in the first place. That's something I have yet to hear explained.

If blacks don't like the idea of buying groceries, liquor and other products from Koreans, the solution seems simple enough. Open your own stores and sell the stuff yourself.

Yes, it takes a certain amount of capital to open any business, even a small store. But the Koreans manage to raise the start-up money, despite being a minority and, in many cases, having the added handicap of not speaking much English.

Mr. Cube, for example, is a wealthy young man. His rap records are big sellers.

So why can't Mr. Cube finance some ambitious blacks who want to open stores? In fact, if all of the disgruntled rap artists who make social statements would throw some money into a pot, a considerable number of blacks could open their own small businesses. That's how the Koreans do it. Those who are successful create a pool of money and finance those who want to get started.

Mr. Cube might also give some thought as to why Korean merchants might be wary of their black customers. If he wants to check police statistics in Chicago, New York and L.A., he would find that it isn't unusual for Korean merchants, as well as those of other backgrounds, to find themselves looking into the barrel of a pistol held by a young black man.

In some cases, such as that of a Korean merchant on Chicago's West Side, that gun barrel was the last thing they ever saw in this life.

There are some black merchants who don't feel fully clothed without a pistol in their belt. If they have reason to be cautious, why shouldn't a Korean?

This wasn't Mr. Cube's only social statement about other groups. It seems that he had a spat with his agent over the profit from recordings. Normally, these show biz differences are handled in lawsuits.

But Mr. Cube used his artistic form to air his grievance. It included this lyric:

"Get rid that devil, real simple,

"Put a bullet in his temple.

"Cause you can't get a nigga for life crew

"With a white Jew telling you what to do."

When he was asked why he thought it necessary to mention that his former agent was a Jew, Mr. Cube said it had nothing to do with bigotry: Jew rhymed with crew, so he was just being a poet.

Mr. Crew has inspired me to my first effort at rap. You provide the mindless thump-thump background music, and I'll handle the words.

"Hey, Mr. Cube, you don't like the Jew?

"Say he should be shot for cheatin' you?

"And you got a grudge 'gainst them Koreans?

"Say they should burn for treating you like peons?

"Different reasons and different strokes,

"But you and David Duke hate the same kind of folks.

"You're just another bigot, guilty as sin,

"You and David Duke, brothers under the skin."

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