Killer Mike is widely considered to be one of the best political voices in hip-hop.

One half of the duo Run the Jewels, the Atlanta-based rapper is known for his outspoken support of progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and policies like Medicare for All, legalization of cannabis, and demilitarizing the police. He has advocated for voters not to let their support be taken for granted—to ask for something in return for their votes. But now he’s coming under fire from Twitter for meeting with Georgia governor Brian Kemp.

The meeting took place on Wednesday in the Governor’s office in the state capitol building, and images were of the two men talking and shaking hands were promptly shared through the governor’s official Twitter account. This prompted a predictable backlash that quickly led “Killer Mike” to be a trending topic on the site.

Various tweets attacked the meeting as just a “photo op” or as “legitimizing” the sitting governor of one of the largest states in the US. Others accused Killer Mike of angling for a media position as the political Black man who will sit down with conservatives.

Maybe there’s some truth to one or both of those complaints. After all, this isn’t the first time Killer Mike has come under fire for meeting with the other side. Back in 2018 the “Ooh La La” rapper filmed a segment with NRATV advocating for black gun ownership as a defense against racist violence.

Killer Mike later apologized and noted that his comments had been deceptively edited and deliberately posted to coincide with the March for Our Lives demonstration (despite having been filmed the week before). But what about this meeting with Brian Kemp? Does Killer Mike owe another apology to his political allies for meeting with “the enemy?”

Killer Mike And Joy Reid Go One-On-One | AM Joy | MSNBC

First of all, it’s important to note that Brian Kemp is, indeed, a bad guy. In 2018, while serving as Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp oversaw the gubernatorial election in which he was competing against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Is it fair to attribute the improper purging of hundreds of thousands of Georgians from the states voter rolls ahead of the election to his desire to win? Absolutely.

Kemp chose not to recuse himself in order to avoid the appearance of corruption and deliberate voter suppression. As a result, he must take ownership for the misconduct that likely led to his narrow victory over Abrams. Everyone saying that he stole that election is right to call him out—whatever his claims of innocence. It’s very possible that Stacey Abrams should be the governor right now. But she’s not.

In addition, Kemp has badly mishandled Georgia’s pandemic response and has done his best to undermine abortion rights in his state. But does any of that mean he’s not in power?

When Kemp’s victory was certified by Georgia’s top election official, that “legitimized” him in a way that no photo op ever could. That legitimized his power over Killer Mike’s community—the power to hurt and also the power to listen to activists like Killer Mike and actually help.

If we believe in speaking truth to power, doesn’t that mean getting into the rooms where power lives? Doesn’t progress require more than having some good ideas?

As Killer Mike himself has said, “only time will tell” whether Governor Kemp will take on board any of what they discussed about how to improve the lives of Georgia’s Black citizens with improved access to education and government contracts. But Killer Mike did what he could to push in that direction, and did not go out of his way to make Brian Kemp look good in the process.

Yes, he posed for some pictures, but he kept an appropriate amount of social distance, wore a shirt laying out the steps of political activism (“Plot, Plan, Strategize, Organize, Mobilize”), and his familiar smile was missing from his face. In its place was a look of stoic conviction. He wants to believe that Governor Kemp might take these issues seriously—even if hope is hard to come by.

As is often the case in this country, a figure from the political left can never do anything right. When they stand firm on policy issues, they are said to be impractical and uncompromising and kept away from the Democratic establishment that makes deals with the other side. Then, when a leftist figure sits down with the other side, they’re treated as a traitor to the Democratic establishment.

There is no winning in this system for someone with Killer Mike’s politics. That’s why he has to keep fighting.

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