XXXTentacion's murder and the nuance of addressing the past transgressions of the dead
When you die, your memory gets placed in a vacuum. Your fans and those you hold dear choose to remember the good; the positive influence you left on them or the strides you made, both professionally and personally. Others will analyze you as a whole and come to a determination on whether or not you were a quality person. One sinful transgression is all that is needed for a person to formulate an unwavering opinion about your time here on earth.
The murder of rapper XXXTentacion - born Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy - stunned social media Monday, leaving a flood of tweets memorializing the 20-year-old and debates on how his life should be remembered. The volatile star lived a very grim life; born to a single mother whose last priority was raising a son, XXXTentacion was only 6 when he stabbed a man while protecting his mom. A violent childhood followed him, and he was later expelled from middle school, and arrested in high school for a number of reasons, including armed robbery, burglary, and illegal possession of drugs and firearms. During a 2016 interview with No Jumper, XXXTentacion talked about his time in juve, and shared a story about stomping on his cellmate's head, smearing his blood on his face like warpaint, because he thought he was staring at him naked.
Then there's the accusations of violence against women. An old video surfaced earlier this year, which appears to show XXX striking a woman from behind. His ex-girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, accused XXXTentacion of brutish, horrifying abuse, from breaking her phone and slapping her in the face, to raping her with a barbecue fork, to daily verbal attacks and threats, to holding her underwater and threatening to drown her, and guilt-tripping her into near-suicide attempts.
When XXXTentacion went to jail for armed home invasion and aggravated battery charges, Ayala fled and dated someone else. When he found out after his release and them moving back in together, Ayala claims he punched, strangled and threatened to kill her and their unborn child. He was on trial for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness tampering at the time of his death.
Obviously there is a high degree of difficulty analyzing XXX post-life. To most, the horrifying accounts of his 20-year-old life will outweigh his music and his influence, and that's fair and reasonable. Others have an easier time separating the artist from the art. To some, his short existence is the most tragic part of the story; a child who wasn't able to overcome a difficult childhood & reach his potential on this planet. A large section of people - particularly the youth - are mourning his death because his words - full of pain of hopelessness - resonated deeply with them.
It's an uncomfortable conversation to have. My mother, god rest her soul, always taught me to never speak ill of the dead. There's a bad taste that fills your mouth when you damn someone who's not able to defend themselves.
It's a shame for a life to be taken so young. Nobody deserves to go out at 20, but his death and his young age doesn't give him a pass for his alleged mistakes either. He was reportedly working on becoming a better person, which is great. Your actions do not tell exactly who you are as a human being, but if what XXXTentacion was accused of doing is true, that can't be swept under a rug. He cannot be made a martyr of. He is not Biggie or Pac. He's not even Malcolm, the man some people have compared as a controversial youth who grew into a man who moved mountains. Let's make it clear: domestic violence is not a "mistake" you made when you were younger. You do not have "growing pains" learning how not to hit women. Just don't hit women. The practice is elementary.
Where society can take XXXTentacion's death and create positive discourse by having a raw discussion about the grave effect abuse has on a child that lingers well into adulthood. XXX was very vocal about the life he had growing up, and how it led him down the path that ultimately led to his death. His music and his words touched a lot of young people who felt depressed, anxious, fucked up and defeated. Some of them lived similar lives to Jahseh Onfroy, or have had some kind of personal affliction addressed in his music. His pain was raw, but it was real, and it's a real feeling inside many of us.
Our society sucks at talking about mental health. People are made to feel as if their feelings and traumas - true and excruciating as it may be - are inconsequential or invisible. But we're all flawed, every single one of us. If we can stop ignoring when others lay their pain bare on the table and just listen, we make a tiny, yet huge leap towards saving our kids.
Jahseh Onfroy's death is a sad tale of an abused child growing up to abuse others. The best way we can remember him is by trying as best as we can to break the cycle.