Cardi B’s Past Actions A Product of Her Own Exploitation, Not the Other Way Around
Rapper Cardi B finds herself on the defensive since an old video of hers resurfaced causing heated backlash online involving how to address her past actions. In an Instagram live rant, Cardi mentioned multiple accounts from her past in which she drugged and robbed men whose intention it was to pay for sex.
Almost immediately after the video reappeared, the #SuvivingCardiB hashtag began trending on twitter, in reference to the recent R Kelly documentary, which detailed a series of mental and sexual abuses R. Kelly carried out on multiple women, including underaged girls. People also compared Cardi to comedian Bill Cosby, who repeatedly drugged and raped women for years before being caught and convicted. Critics who resented the fall of formerly renowned artists to the #metoo movement felt duped when Cardi B admitted to what they considered the same crime without consequence.
In a recent VOX article, Constance Grady wrote that although the issue certainly does not pose as much of a threat to Cardi’s career compared to the revelations about R. Kelly and Cosby did to theirs, it is still, “raising major questions about our current era of celebrity cancel culture; Who do we forgive, for what, and why? And are we going to forgive Cardi B?”
This is lack of moral proportionality at its finest. People admired Cardi B’s success story until her overcoming narrative differed from what they viewed as an acceptable way to escape poverty. Cardi later said, in response to public criticism, “I made the choices that I did at the time because I had very limited options. I was blessed to have been able to rise from that but so many women have not.” Cardi B drugged men who wanted to pay her for sex, robbed them and left. An illegal act, but not a dramatically different crime from Tupac selling crack or Biggie Smalls dealing cocaine. These are crimes generated by economic conditions and however much you want to judge Cardi, put your feet in her shoes and know the facts.
According to the Pennsylvania coalition against rape, sex workers face much higher rates of sexual assault and domestic violence. Among those surveyed, 75% reported having been raped, 44% engaged in forced or coerced sex with self-identified law enforcement, 56% said they had been robbed or burglarized. 82% described some sort of physical assault and 83% recounted threats with weapons. Studies done by the university of Chicago and national center for biotechnology found similar numbers when analyzing nationwide data on violence against sex workers.
It is not unlikely the 26-year-old rapper experienced the inhumanity that came with sex work. Her profuse sobbing near the end of the short Instagram Live video of her admitting to drugging her clients certainly indicates something. Cardi hails from one of the poorest area codes in New York City (The Bronx, 10452), received little formal education and stripped and pimped herself out to raise money for her ambitions in music. When she drugged her clients, she did not rape or sexually assault them. There is no precedent to liken her actions to the obscenities of Bill Cosby or R. Kelly. They committed acts of sexual violence from positions of power and wealth. They used their influence and money to avoid prosecution and scrutiny. R. Kelly evaded trial for years while the general public knew about his underage sexual encounters. It did not take nearly as long for the internet to respond to Cardi B disclosing her past of drugging johns to make a life for herself where her well being was not financed by exploitative men seeking sexual pleasure. People really liked Cardi’s surface personality and story before they faced what she went through to escape where she came from and that shouldn’t change now that we may be uncomfortable with the details.
Cardi B is no Tupac, but to say she is a criminal demands an ignorance of the conditions that create drug dealers, prostitutes and thieves out of poets, artists and musicians.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.”