Last week, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (my old employer) ruled that rapper Meek Mill was entitled to a new trial on his 2008 drug conviction, the same conviction that kept him on probation for 11 years and dogged him all through his meteoric rise in the music industry.
It’s now in Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s hands to decide whether to retry him, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to conclude that this is the end of the road. In fact, Krasner was one of the people Mill indirectly thanked after he heard about the Superior Court’s decision: “This positive outcome wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family, my attorneys ... the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and my supporters who have stood with me through the ups and downs.”
All hail the conquering hero. Because that’s what this famous Philadelphian is to a lot of people, including equally famous friends like Malcolm Jenkins, Jay-Z, Michael Rubin and a whole host of others who have raised the rapper up as a symbol of the “criminal injustice system” for people of color. Mill seems to have recognized his symbolic importance to the cause by commenting: “Unfortunately, millions of people are dealing with similar issues in our country and don’t have the resources to fight back like I did. We need to continue supporting them. I’m committed to working with my team at the REFORM Alliance to change these outdated laws and fix our broken criminal justice system.”
And there you have it. A multi-millionaire whose misogynistic lyrics, arrogant attitude, disrespect toward the judge who tried to help him (and who he and his posse continue to slander) is now the face of a movement to end cash bail, reduce probation time and divert offenders into alternative resolution programs instead of jail.
I guess that works for some people, including his famous friends and the folks who think he’s a musical genius. It doesn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for the people who have been victims of the type of crimes Mill and his supporters brush off: drug dealing, weapons charges, probation violations. You know, illegal activity.
I’ve written about Mill for a few years now, ever since he came onto my radar screen with his attacks on Judge Genece Brinkley. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I know the judge personally, that I attended her wedding, that I’ve sat in her courtroom, that I’ve seen the engagement she has with the community and with the people who come before her in her professional capacity, and I think she is a good woman. She, of course, has not been able to defend herself against the onslaught of articles and commentaries made by the “Friends of Mill,” who have accused this African American female jurist of having “enormous bias” against him and of being “a little delusional.”
These comments have not been challenged by the judge, because she is prevented from directly addressing them. Unfortunately, they just hang there in the ether, and will remain a part of the unforgiving internet narrative.
And that’s as abhorrent as any supposed inequalities in the criminal justice system.
You can support rapper Mill’s quest to clear his own name if you truly believe that he was an innocent victim of a flawed apparatus that traps young black men in a cycle of crime, punishment, release and repeat. You can even, if you suspend belief, accept this multi-millionaire with friends in high places as the face of racism, bigotry, bias and the desire to keep those young black men in cages.
What you cannot do is allow him to trample over the reputation of a woman who worked harder than most to get to a position of authority, influence and respect. It is amazing to me that in this #Metoo era, where we are supposed to respect women and acknowledge the difficulties they face, particularly women of color, that we allow her to be slandered simply to advance a comfortable narrative.
Instead of “Dreams and Nightmares,” maybe Meek’s next opus should be “Hypocrisy and Hype.”
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.