Student initiative to give Lil B an honorary degree was right; Lil B may not be perfect, but he’s learning

Last semester, a student initiative authored by Misha R. called for Grinnell to award an honorary degree to the rapper Lil B. To many basedesciple’s chagrin, the student initiative did not pass. Shortly after that sad day, I was working at the Grill and overheard a conversation in which the participants proclaimed their confusion over why Lil B was nominated, given that he “isn’t even a good rapper.” Once I recovered from my initial shock at hearing this legend’s name blasphemed and reminded myself that musical preference is subjective and not absolute, I realized that people had a fundamental misunderstanding about why Lil B was nominated.

When I think of successful Grinnellians, I think of someone who is willing to brave Iowa’s winters (Fuck you Polar Vortex), willing to learn, and willing to question their core beliefs and values. Since he hails from California I doubt the Basedgod would be particularly keen on the winters (Are any of us?), but in his pursuit of knowledge and redefinition of self, Lil B has a better track record than most of us. This Spring Break, Lil B was busy creating music, encouraging based lifestyle choices, and facilitating large-scale discussions on rape culture.

The forum started off rockily, initiated by a tweet from Lil B stating, “Girls and guys and younger friends be aware of agendas with what you watch and also the clothes you wear and whit it could attract to u – Lil B.” Oof. That was victim blame-y. Many of Lil B’s activist fans tweeted at him saying so. At this point, the Basedgod had 3 choices: ignore, contest, or accept the criticism. He could have ignored, which would have been possible given the sheer amount of tweets that he gets daily, or he could have lashed out against the accusations, as happens far too often in the world of on- line feminism. Instead, the humble rapper quietly retweeted the criticism and then invited everyone to participate, asking, “What is rape culture? What does that mean to you?”

In the 24 hours that followed, thousands of people shared their opinions on rape culture–ranging from ignorant to knowledgeable–and, most importantly, survivors of rape shared their stories, in brave, 140-character bits. Lil B created one of the greatest public learning environments possible on Twitter and actively participated while it lasted. His participation included a few more problematic tweets, but every time he gracefully accepted the just criticism. Lil B was mistaken in his beliefs, but willing to grow and learn from his followers’ experiences. He expressed his love and gratitude to all those who participated in the discussion and ensured everyone that their voices were heard.

Lil B has taken up progressive causes before. When Wendy Davis filibustered the Texas state legislature, Lil B voiced his support for the women’s rights movement with one of the first tweets on the matter that I saw and in an op-ed in Rolling Stone Magazine. In June 2011, he released his fifth album, “I’m Gay,” promoting the idea that “same love” encompasses all genders, sexualities, races, and people, a year before Macklemore made it popular for white America.

Lil B is not a perfect human being. He is flawed like the rest of us, but he strives to learn from his mistakes in order to better himself and the world through a refined message of positivity. He believes in equality for all people and stands against oppression in its varied forms. He is an exemplary Grinnellian and deserves an honorary degree.