On August 8, 1988, N.W.A. released its highly problematic debut album, “Straight Outta Compton.” On August 8, 2017, people are celebrating a guy losing his job for mildly hurting some people’s feelings with a supposedly problematic memo. These things are wholly unrelated, but James Damore, author of the memo, could learn something from the gangsta rappers.
Before we get there, though, we have to figure out how we got here. First, Al Gore invented the Internet. Then people realized they could use the Internet for pornography. Once bored with that, they turned to another form of stimulation: digital lynch mobs. Imagine the outrage and slew of hurt feelings that “Straight Outta Compton” would have elicited if the Internet had been around when N.W.A. was being highly problematic.
Now, to be honest, N.W.A. wasn’t exactly measured when discussing women and sex. (And let’s just pretend that Eazy-E never released “Nobody Move,” a track in which, in one verse, Eazy details an experience with what he thought was a woman.) Before he said those things, though, he said some other bad things in the title track of “Straight Outta Compton.” E didn’t even wait to get a couple of tracks in; his first verse in the very first song includes “You think I give a d-mn about a b-tch I ain’t a sucker.”
I mean, seriously, that’s almost as bad as this verse from “I Ain’t The 1”: “Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are ‘just.’ I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”
Oops, my bad. That wasn’t Ice Cube, which would explain the lack of a rhyme scheme, but now-former Googler Damore, the guy people are happy got fired. Damore, in the spirit of N.W.A., had the temerity to suggest, in the most foul-mouthed way possible, that there’s an inclusion problem at Google. Except actually he was very measured in the infamous memo that 99 percent of people upset about it didn’t read.
Fortunately, Tipper Gore is onto other issues these days, so Damore won’t have to worry about her wrath. Nor will he have to worry about the F.B.I. coming down on him—yet. He does have to worry about the Internet, so he’s not free of Gores, as he’s now forever that dude who said those sexist things.
Because that’s how we got here. Whereas N.W.A. created a whole lot of outrage with “Straight Outta Compton,” some of it was warranted. They were not nuanced in how they discussed the differences between men and women, but brutal and ruthless. But it was harder to take them down in August 1988 because people had to actually type letters and make phone calls and that’s a whole lot more work than a status update. People did the work, though, and N.W.A. persevered.
Damore should do the same, particularly as he wasn’t calling women b-tches or proclaiming their only use is as sex objects. He may be facing the Internet lynch mob, but he doesn’t have to do it sitting down. As Ice Cube said of the group’s tangles with their Gore: “It was all kinds of forces against us — it didn’t crack us, break us, turn us into punks. It didn’t make us bite our tongue. It just made us stand up even more — and that’s powerful.”
Stand up, Damore, and don’t let this August 8 take you down and bite your tongue, but rather let it serve as a launch-pad, much as it did for N.W.A.