Killer Mike is no stranger to the political arena, and he recently took to CNN to co-write an op-ed in light of the controversial suspension of Mississippi high school student Taylor Bell. Bell was removed from school after he recorded a rap song in which he accuses coaches at his school of engaging in sexual behavior with his classmates. Instead of heeding the teen’s warning of inappropriate conduct within their staff, school officials suspended Bell, claiming they felt “threatened, harassed, and intimidated.”
In the case of Bell v. Itawamba County School Board, Killer Mike and co-writer Erik Nielsen postulate that Bell wasn’t suspended because of the claims he made (claims that were later confirmed in sworn affidavits by the girls involved), but he was punished because of the way he presented them. “Bell wasn’t being punished for making threats against school employees, even if that was the school’s justification.” The op-ed reads, “Instead, he was being punished for using the wrong art form, rap music, as his voice of protest.”
He states that there are double-standards across different platforms for expression. Even though some lyrics in Bell’s rap were violent, he says that, “We don’t assume that Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King or Johnny Cash carry out the (sometimes extreme) violence depicted in their art — because we acknowledge it as art.” And he says that rap as art is not treated the same way.
The case has made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the details of the story are contentious to say the least. You can read the op-ed in full here.