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Sadly, Tory Lanez's guilty verdicts won't silence Megan Thee Stallion's critics

Despite his being found guilty on all counts, Tory Lanez didn’t lose as completely as he should have lost.
Image: Megan Thee Stallion at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 27, 2022.
Megan Thee Stallion at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on March 27, 2022.Anthony Behar / Sipa USA via AP file

Even before the Los Angeles jury that found Canadian rapper Tory Lanez guilty Friday of three felonies for shooting fellow rapper Megan Thee Stallion began deliberating this week, hip-hop blogs Say Cheese and No Jumper tweeted that Lanez had been acquitted. 

Even before a Los Angeles jury began deliberating the fate of Tory Lanez, hip-hop blogs Say Cheese and NoJumper tweeted that Lanez had been acquitted.

Though both accounts deleted their tweets and Say Cheese corrected its misguided “reporting,” neither did so fast enough to prevent #NotGuilty from trending. Clicking the hashtag brought up Twitter users celebrating Lanez’s falsely reported acquittal. Those tweets also bashed Megan Thee Stallion, whose real name is Megan Pete, and all those who’ve supported her since she first said in an August 2020 Instagram Live video that was shot by Lanez.

Lanez, who was convicted of assault with a semiautomatic firearm; carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle; and discharging a firearm with gross negligence, now faces up to 22 years in prison.  

It’s common for opinions to run wild during high-profile celebrity cases. Look no further than Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial for confirmation, but there’s also a troubling racialized and gendered aspect to the running narrative that Tory Lanez is the victim of a promiscuous liar who’s hellbent on destroying his life and reputation. This idea, which is rooted neither in fact nor reality, is a familiar playbook designed to discredit Megan Thee Stallion, who, it must be repeated, wasn’t on trial.

That belief is so baked in that, despite his being found guilty, Tory Lanez didn't lose as completely as he should have. Rather than the hip-hop community holding Lanez accountable for reportedly shooting his peer, a Black woman, in the age of the “protect Black women” slogan, skepticism has abounded instead. As a recent NBC News report found, “Many have also focused on [Megan Thee Stallion's] sexual history and portrayed her as an aggressor and a liar to undermine her testimony. The narratives have become viral social media content.” Additionally, prominent hip-hop figures have questioned her motives and her character. 

Joe Budden, a retired rapper who now hosts the popular Joe Budden Podcast, used one of his recent episodes to express his dislike for Megan Thee Stallion. He said, “Personally, I’ve seen this woman do horrible things to some really great people that I have a long-standing relationship with here in this industry, so I’m biased.” He walked back his comments in a subsequent episode. Rapper 50 Cent, who survived being shot nine times, compared her to actor Jussie Smollett, who was convicted of falsely reporting a hate crime to the police, while other hip-hop blog sites characterized Megan Thee Stallion as an opportunist who they said believes the media attention surrounding the trial would somehow benefit her career. Despite the rampant misinformation and the misogynoir that swirled around the case from the very beginning, the actual facts have never been clearer: Megan Thee Stallion was shot. 

Rapper 50 Cent, who survived being shot nine times, compared Megan Thee Stallion to actor Jussie Smollett, who was convicted of falsely reporting a hate crime to the police.

Dr. Lee Haruno, chief resident in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s orthopedic surgery department, operated on the Houston rapper after the shooting. During the trial, Haruno explained the results of Megan Thee Stallion’s X-rays and described the surgery she underwent. There were two “metallic foreign bodies” on the outside of her left heel bone and those same “metallic foreign bodies” were present “in soft tissues of the [right] heel bone.” Additionally, Megan Thee Stallion still retains tiny bullet fragments in her feet that the surgeons were unable to remove. During her testimony on the second day of trial, she said she no longer has feeling in the left side of her foot and has nerve damage in both feet that still causes pain.

There was no glass in her feet, as she allegedly told police officers after the initial altercation, and the Los Angeles district attorney’s office — not the victim herself — determined there was enough evidence to put Lanez on trial. And yet, Lanez’s supporters refuse to acknowledge these facts. If it’s left up to them, he’ll be able to resume his career with no problem. Given that hip-hop tends to close ranks around those accused of wrongdoing, especially when the person being harmed is a Black woman, there’s little doubt that Megan Thee Stallion will face continued ridicule. Because he's been convicted, she'll stand accused of dragging a Black man down. If he had been acquitted, then she would have been accused of lying all along. She was in a no-win situation, and at this point, putting Black women accusers in this kind of conundrum is more than a coincidence; it’s a destructive pattern.

She hinted at this during the trial when she noted that hip-hop is a “big boys club,” and worried about the impact coming forward to testify would have on her career. It’s an issue Megan Thee Stallion had previously addressed. In a 2020 op-ed for The New York Times, she wrote, “Black women are still constantly disrespected and disregarded in so many areas of life. In September, she tweeted, “It might be funny to y’all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized.” She also addressed the toll that this trial has taken on her psyche during her trial testimony. “I can’t even be happy,” she told the court. “I can’t hold conversations with people for a long time. I don’t feel like I want to be on this earth. I wish he would have just shot and killed me if I knew I would have to go through this torture.”

Black people have reason to distrust the justice system. We’ve watched district attorneys decline to prosecute police officers who’ve been videotaped fatally shooting unarmed Black men. We’re aware of the disproportionate punishment Black people face for a multitude of crimes as well as the racism embedded in death penalty cases. All of that is true, and it’s also true that five Black girls and Black women were killed every day in 2020 and the cause is often intimate-partner violence.

Megan Thee Stallion was put in an impossible situation, one that she never asked to be in.

If we can hold both of these truths at once, then we can also hold the idea that Megan Thee Stallion was put in an impossible situation, one that she never asked to be in. In fact, she initially lied to the police because, as she said during the trial, she had a heightened awareness about what an interaction with police officers could mean, especially for Lanez. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, she said she was worried the police “might shoot first and ask questions later. ... I didn’t want to see anybody die. I didn’t want to die.”

When Black men are victimized, our community rallies around the victim — as we should. In the aftermath of this trial and the polarizing response on social media, the ask should be simple: Show up for Black women in the same way. That starts with believing them and then helping them seek justice in the way they deem fit. It’s the least we can do.