Abolition, Tory Lanez & Meg thee Stallion
I am a Black woman, a defense attorney, and an abolitionist. Those things don’t conflict, but during the trial against Tory Lanez, as someone who was not rooting for him, people assumed they must. Believe it or not, everything that’s unfolded since Tory Lanez shot Meg thee Stallion makes a case for abolition and illustrates how our criminal system serves as an impediment to preventing harm.
Condemning crime is not the same as solving it. To “solve crime” we must prevent it, and we can only do that by interrogating and understanding how and why the crime came about—the root cause—so that we can address it. Abolition is about preventing harm, and the fundamental recognition that what we’re doing now doesn’t do that— because it’s not meant to. Instead, it makes matters worse—because it’s meant to. Yet, we are invested in treating criminal convictions and incarceration as the answer to all our problems, as being synonymous with “justice,” so we refuse to interrogate our issues without the legal system, or to hold each other accountable another way. What’s worse, is we often can’t hold each other accountable for harm we’ve caused in honest, healing, non-punitive ways that help address and correct the behavior, because the threat of our criminal system stands in tension with that.
I was relieved and happy for Meg thee Stallion when Tory Lanez was found guilty of all his charges. I didn’t feel that way because I was especially outraged by his crime, or because I think his conviction (or any conviction) constitutes “justice,” or because I think he “deserves” prison, or because I think incarcerating him will benefit a single soul.
Two years ago, Tory Lanez shot Meg thee Stallion in her foot. Initially, we only knew she’d been shot, and everyone assumed Tory did it, but Meg said nothing. The internet responded with countless memes and jokes about Tory shooting her. That’s important—because the people who now hate Meg and champion Tory Lanez, an artist who wouldn’t have crossed their minds if they’d been asked to name their top 50 rappers of today, would have you believe that that hatred doesn’t come from misogyny, that it is solely the result of their unshakable conviction that she is lying on an innocent Black man. They’d have you believe that if they had a video of him shooting her, if they knew he shot her, they’d sing a different tune. That’s why it's important to remember that initially, before they cycled through conspiracies (see how the goalpost shifted from she was never shot to ok she was shot but she’s lying about who shot her to slut-shaming her to challenge her “credibility” while never addressing that of the man actually on trial or the litany of things that diminished it) they openly assumed he shot her… and they thought it was hilarious.
Meg still said nothing. Then, Tory apologized to Meg privately. But even though Meg had remained silent and not intimated that she wanted to press charges against Tory, Tory’s team who probably reasonably understood that it’s the district attorney’s office who presses the charges, not the victim, and in wanting to protect Tory from negative press, leaked stories to the blogs that would absolve him of wrongdoing, which reasonably antagonized Meg.
It was then and only then, that Meg decided to tell the public how he’d shot her, but she’d protected him nonetheless because she was scared the police would brutalize them if she told them he had a gun or what he’d done, so she allowed the police to handcuff her and criminalize her, to his benefit, all whilst a bullet was in her foot. Telling the truth prompted Tory Lanez to mercilessly attack her however he could, fueling a massive hate train against a woman he’d liked, a woman he’d worried would never speak to him again because of what he’d done…because he thought his freedom depended on it.
The result? For two years, swaths of Black men, artists and athletes who’d never given him a second thought—and even disliked him in some cases, Drake—began trying to iconify him and ascend him to unearned importance in the community; shouting him out, uplifting his music, and relentlessly criticizing Meg. When they were chastised for it, they all responded, including Tory himself, with some variation of “wait until the trial, the truth will come out at trial, you’ll all be sorry when Tory’s found innocent.”
I highlighted they to emphasize this point: it was Tory’s supporters who chose the outcome of the trial as the benchmark here. They announced to us that they would treat the outcome of the trial as the arbiter of truth, as the final word. Abolitionists know, women know, domestic violence survivors know, Black people know, that the criminal system is not about justice; that trials rarely provide clarity as to the facts; that judges and juries are just human beings with biases and blind spots and can get it wrong; that you could be guilty of a crime and still neither you, the victim, or society are made whole or better by convicting and/or incarcerating you. We know that, but the people championing Tory drew that line in the sand anyway.
They are the reason I was happy for Meg, and why I was relieved Tory was convicted. Because if he hadn’t been, the mercenaries of misogyny had made it crystal clear that they not only would’ve tortured Meg, they’d have tortured every woman whose ever been in her position and those who have yet to be, but may feel too afraid of being met with the same response to speak up.
While that’s why I was relieved, it’s also precisely why I believe in abolition. Because we live in a society that has taught us that the only metric for justice is a system that we know doesn’t bring it about, we still relied on it to be the decision maker. Further, just its existence prevented the parties involved from pursuing another path.
It’s quite possible that Tory, who’d already apologized in private to Meg and multiple parties involved, would have felt comfortable taking responsibility for his actions and atoning some other way, had taking responsibility not come at the cost of his freedom. It’s just as possible that in a world where Tory’s team wasn’t worried the district attorney’s office could and would press charges regardless of the victim’s wants and silence, they wouldn’t have felt compelled to leak the counter-narratives that antagonized Meg into cooperating with the district attorney’s case against Tory.
Imagine a world where Tory could’ve owned what he did, addressed what caused him to act that way, and corrected that behavior. Imagine a world where we, as a society, addressed those issues and the shared issues of those that seek to excuse him, because we had alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. Instead of feeling forced to rely on and weaponize the criminal system against each other despite knowing that the system itself is a weapon formed against us all. In that world, where Tory is able to take accountability without the threat of incarceration, maybe he and droves of people don’t decide to spend two years gaslighting and abusing a woman who’d been shot. In that world, they don’t choose to depend on a criminal system that routinely fails women like Meg, to acquit Tory of a crime they know he committed—and we’re not forced to feel relieved and happy when that system surprises them.
But that’s not what happened, because in addition to the limitations imposed by the criminal system, reality is and has always been, that whenever a Black woman is the victim of abuse at the hands of a man, no matter what the circumstances, she will be made to answer for her own pain and turned into either the butt of the joke or a villain. People become contortionists to hold trial against Black women for the harm they suffered to determine the myriad of ways they were both to blame and deserving. Ask Tina Turner, ask Anita Hill, ask Michel’le, ask Karrueche Tran, ask Keke Palmer, ask me.
Regardless of where I am, what I’m doing or the topic, as soon as I get a notification from you, I read. I’ve never been disappointed.