A musical pioneer who played a central role in defining a genre of music that now dominates the airwaves has been accused of child molestation by four men, who say the man abused them when they were boys in the 80s.
Where’s the media outrage?
The answer to that question tells us a lot about the racial divide in the US — and the racial divide in our mass media.
The allegations against Afrika Bambaataa, the hip hop DJ whose early tracks, particularly the Kraftwerk-swiping Planet Rock, helped to define and popularize both hiphop and electro in the early 80s, have been covered on black-oriented radio talk shows, in the hip hop media, and in black-oriented publications like Jet and The Root.
But the story has barely made a ripple in the mainstream — that is, white-dominated — media, with the notable exception of the New York Daily News, which has broken key elements of the story.
The details of the allegations are certainly troubling enough. Vulture — one of the handful of other outlets in the mainstream media to cover the story — sums up what we know so far:
Last month, Ronald Savage, a former New York State Democratic Committee member,accused Bambaataa of sexually abusing him in 1980, when Savage was 15 years old.
Since then, three more men have come forward with similar allegations: A man named Hassan Campbell told the New York Daily News that Bambaataa repeatedly sexually abused him when Campbell was 12 and 13, calling the DJ a “pervert” who “likes little boys.” Two other men whose identities were not fully disclosed also say Bambaataa abused them when they were minors — a former bodyguard also claims Bambaataa abused “hundreds” of young boys since the early 1970s. Bambaataa has denied all of the allegations.
[NOTE: The reference to the early 70s is puzzling. Elsewhere in the interview quoted in the NY Daily News, the apparent former bodyguard simply referred to “the 70s,” so I’m assuming he was misspeaking when referring to the early 70s. Bambaataa was born in 1957; he started his career as a DJ in 1977.]
The leaders of the Universal Zulu Nation, a sort of hip-hop advocacy group that Bambaataa founded in the 80s, first responded to the allegations by dismissing Savage, the first accuser to step forward, as “mentally challenged,” and denouncing the Daily News as a propaganda organ “compromised and controlled by U.S. government intelligence.”
But on Friday the group reversed itself, issuing a statement announcing that
ALL accused parties and those accused of covering up the current allegations of child molestation have been removed and have stepped down from their current positions.
If the allegations against Bambaataa are true — especially those coming from the man who says he was the hip hop producer’s former bodyguard — we’re talking about abuse on a Jimmy Savile scale. So why isn’t this story getting written about in the New York Times or talked about on CNN? Because the alleged victims were black boys? Because white people see Bambaataa more as a one hit wonder than a cultural icon?
Maybe Hannibal Buress needs to start talking about Bambaataa in his standup. That might get this story the attention it deserves.