Fatherhood in Black and White (Proximity): On DJ Khaled, Asahd, and Racial Capital

Photo courtesy of Instagram

Asahd Khaled is a lucky child. He has a father who adores him and a social media fan base that even established celebrities envy. What, you might ask, is so wrong with that?

Well, to answer that question I must pose another: What was wrong with Lil Wayne bringing his daughter on stage during the 2009 BET Awards? In an April 2009 article for Clutch, April Silver wrote: “Then the little girls came onstage…literally the little girls.” “Are those children?” I asked out loud, in disbelief.

These girls, who all appeared to be pre-teens, were having their 15 minutes of glam on one of the biggest nights in televised Black entertainment with two of pop culture’s biggest stars at the moment, with millions of people watching. I’m told that one of the girls is Lil Wayne’s daughter. That doesn’t matter. In fact that makes it worse. Last night we were reminded that there are few safe spaces for our little girls to be children; that some of us are willing to trade their innocence for a good head nod.

Silver’s criticism echoed sentiments I heard throughout the day following the 2009 BET awards indicating that Lil’ Wayne’s daughter being on stage was an indoctrination into a life of violence and hypersexuality. In contrast, Asahd Khaled has been adorned with the emblems of hip-hop culture literally since infancy. And those adornments have been met with the oohs an aahs we expect to be showered on cute babies.

Asahd can be seen in his father’s arms during press conferences, in music videos, and studio sessions sporting chains and other symbols of rap industry culture. While there are certainly matters of sex and gender at hand that dictate the difference in how the daughters and sons of hip hop are treated, I want to center this discussion on something more intangible: proximity to whiteness. Could it be that DJ Khaled’s proximity to whiteness—and consequently Asahd’s—inform the public’s acceptance of Asahd’s participation in unapologetically Black culture?

Not long ago DJ Khaled, who is Palestinian, came under fire for his use of the word “nigga” given that he is not Black. Khaled, a polarizing figure in hip-hop, utilizes his post as a producer to profit from Black culture. He is, however, not Black, meaning that he is not subject to the gratuitous violence and structural positionality of those from whom he profits. This is not to say that Palestinians do not face violence in a white supremacist society, it is to say that the violence is not the same and not nearly as penetrating. Because Asahd Khaled is not marked from birth as hypersexual, violent, and criminal the way that Black children are, his participation in the hip hop industry is not met with alarm.

People think it’s cute because, subconsciously, they know that Asahd can easily remove the chains and the shades and utilize his proximity to whiteness to etch out a different path in life while Lil Wayne’s daughter, who is not afforded the assumption of innocence, cannot dance to a chart topping song without folks expressing concern for her future. The underlying psychoanalytic framework of the latter criticism reads something like “you’re already Black, why Blacken yourself more by validating our violent fantasies?” To put a finer point on it, Lil’ Wayne’s daughter cannot shed her Blackness the way Asahd and his father can shed Black their symbolic Black face, and it is for this reason that folks criticize Lil Wayne’s parenting while endorsing Khaled’s.

Folks hate when Black rappers indoctrinate their children into anything involving Black culture, but because Asahd, like his father, has access to whiteness (which stands to mean he is not readily identified as Black and therefore evades the gratuitous violence society reserves for Black bodies) and profits from rather than being submersed in Black culture it is acceptable for him to wear chains and be on video sets.

And this condemnation is not specific to the daughters of rap stars. A January 2014 photo of Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa’s son Sebastian sparked debate such as that proffered in a Hollywood Life article that closes with “Wonder what’s next: maybe a grill once those teeth come in? Tell us what you think HollyMoms! Do you approve of Baby Bash’s bling? “

The closing inquiry positions Sebastian’s jewelry—and proximity to his Black father—as a matter of judgment or approval rather than an unquestionable indication of a bond between father and son.  Rapper Tyga came under similar criticism for telling E-News that his son King (whose mother in Blac Chyna) likes “cars, women, jewelry” to which Page Six quipped “Leave it [to] Tyga to give sound parenting advice about raising his 4-year-old son King Cairo.”

If you still aren’t convinced that proximity to whiteness informs the criticism faced by Black children but evaded by their non Black counterparts, perhaps the recent firestorm surrounding Wale’s daughter Zyla can provide the final advance. Wale posted a video of his daughter celebrating her first birthday via the Nigerian tradition of being adorned with money. In commenting on his Instagram video of the festivities (which clearly highlighted the cultural tradition) folks disregarded the cultural significance of the ceremony and dubbed a one-year-old Black girl a future stripper.  I highly doubt those commenters are on Asahd’s social media calling him a thug in the making.

Fatherhood — parenting in general — is beautifu,l especially when there is a loving relationship between parent and child. This essay is not meant to detract from Khaled and Asahd’s bond but instead to offer a lens

through which we can consider the near instantaneous violence endured by Black children from birth, which Asahd will profit from but never endure. That is to say, Black culture is to be enjoyed, endorsed and profited from by everybody but Black people. And that Black children are not even free to have engage in their cultural inheritance without critique and ridicule.

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