pedophiles oh sorry ephebophiles racism rape culture victim blaming

Four men say they were molested as boys by Afrika Bambaataa. Where’s the outrage?

The Zulu Nation is distancing itself from founder Afrika Bambaataa
The Zulu Nation is distancing itself from founder Afrika Bambaataa

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.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

If you really want to make the argument that feminists don’t care about these children being raped because there black you might want to not make it on a feminist site that is specifically noting how horrible what happened to them was and calls out the mainstream media for ignoring them.

Also you act like its either care about this or care about Kesha but- Surprise! we can do both.

6 years ago

I don’t know of I agree with you, Zatar. I don’t think we should ignore or downplay how white mainstream feminism is.

Absolutely we can care about both Kesha and these men, but I didn’t think X was saying we could only give attention to one or the other (please correct me if I’m wrong). I thought they were more saying that some people hear about Kesha and are horrified, but don’t have that same reaction when they learn about the sexual abuse of young black boys.

Handsome "These Pretzels Suck" Jack (formerly Pandapool)

Feminism has done a wonderful job of setting up new protections for white women and children. It has a LONG way to go regarding the existence of black people.

Some of us are not surprised that you care about Kesha more than these kids.

I’m assuming that “you” is either referring to “Tumblr and other such sites” and/or “white people”, which is also true considering I haven’t heard much about it outside of this site, but I don’t think the comment sections of an article that people who don’t care probably wouldn’t click or read the comments of isn’t the best place to say that.

6 years ago

I agree that there are certainly major issues regarding how white feminism deals with race.

However I don’t think that X is arguing in good faith. Mostly because rather than bring this up somewhere else they brought it up here were the accusations are being treated as serious. And I do think that the overall tone they use when referring to us caring about Kesha does make it sound like a comparison with regards to the seriousness of the crime and is rather dismissive towards those who care about Kesha.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

Yeah, I think this is a case of an otherwise good point being used as a gotcha by a troll. The use of “You” combined with the douchetastic catch-22 of “And if you think that me accusing you means that I’m accusing you, then clearly you’re guilty!!!” like they’re running the bloody Salem Witch Trials… They’re using the victims as a beat-stick, and that’s fucking gross.

6 years ago

You’re probably both right :/ thanks for laying your thoughts out so clearly.

6 years ago


I had whole history lessons about why all Nazi art and style was kitsch rubbish, but it’s such a bad lesson, because really it’s possible to be a great architect or filmmaker and a really bad person.

The great majority of Nazi art is kitsch and rubbish, not because you can’t be a talented artist and still be a bad person, but because committees of hardline authoritarians tend to judge ‘acceptable’ art on criteria unrelated to aesthetic merit, and in a regime run by them, publishing art they don’t approve of isn’t usually a healthy choice.

Or that in those days it was normal for people to kill each other.

I actually do, but usually you have to go a bit farther back to reach ‘those days’ e.g. ‘so and so killed someone, but it was in a duel, and that was how things were done back then’. For that matter, people constantly talk about how ‘it was war, so it doesn’t count’.

Somehow I hadn’t heard that about Reagan. I honestly can’t say that I’m surprised at all though.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

Just been reading up on some more about the Bambaataa case.

Interestingly the original complainant says he’s bring the case, not especially to pursue Bambaataa, but in the hope of challenging the statute of limitations in relation to historic sexual abuse causes.

Any court decision would only apply to New York State but often when one state changes/reinterprets the law it encourages others to follow.

6 years ago

The issue of whether you can still admire an artist after finding out terrible stuff:

I used to LOVE Boy George. The first time I read ‘Take it like a Man’ I thought it was hilarious. The second time was after he’d been convicted of false imprisonment and sexual assault and I just saw it so differently – he came across as such an arsehole.

But there are loads of artists who we admire, who have probably done or believe terrible things – we just don’t know about them. I don’t think it makes us lesser people to still like the art (though I do draw the line at Gary Glitter).

1 3 4 5
%d bloggers like this: