We're addicted to sanctimony.
It's become the highest capital on the internet: the business of pandering to our collective self-righteousness. Entertainment writers now postulate as moral watchdogs; a trending topic is treated is fodder for easy Twitter soapboxing within minutes of the subject going viral—we can't wait to wag our finger.
Last week, Hip-Hop mogul Dr. Dre was the subject of heavy discussion online and off, due to some uncomfortable family business becoming the latest grist for the gossip mill. Dr. Dre's eldest daughter, LaTanya Young, spoke to The Daily Mail and she explained that her famous father has essentially cut her off.
"I've been working in a warehouse and doing Uber Eats and DoorDash," LaTanya told The Daily Mail. "My kids are staying with friends — they are not living in the car, it's just me."
The 38-year old shared that her father (born Andre Young) stopped sending her money 18 months ago. LaTanya is the daughter of Dre and Lisa Johnson, who reportedly split when LaTanya was five years old.
Headlines across the web threw the expected slant: "Dr. Dre Is A Billionaire; But His Daughter Is Homeless," "Dr. Dre's Daughter Is Homeless Despite Dad's $800 Fortune." How could one of the richest men in Hip-Hop have a kid that's living on the street?
A single mother of four, LaTanya explained that she hasn't seen Dr. Dre in eighteen years and says she's been communicating with his team. She says that Dre cut off her allowance and stopped paying her rent in early 2020.
“I’m homeless and I’ve been reaching out to my dad for help. His lawyer has said that my dad doesn’t want to help me because I’ve spoken about him in the press,” Young told the Daily Mail. “I feel like I’m damned if I do, I’m damned if I don’t. I’m just trying to communicate with him and see if he wants to talk to his grandkids. My kids are old enough to know who he is. They are in shock that he doesn’t want anything to do with them.”
Part of being a celebrity is having your life hyper-scrutinized; that's obviously not a new development. But in the age of Twitter, it can manifest in a knee-jerk piousness that reflects more about our ego-driven need to criticize than it does our capacity for empathy.
No, it's more about finger-wagging and cold, rigid judgment out here on Al Gore's internet. How much you don't know about any given family matter (or any number of personal matters) takes a backseat to the knee-jerk need to make your feelings known about any and everything. Actual context, specifics, and any information that doesn't validate that first reaction is incidental.
Dre's history with women isn't a secret and it does him no favors in situations like this. But the nature of fame and the complexities of family can be a heady mix; there are any number of examples celebrities and blood relatives have had to remain distant or sever ties. Dre's relationship with his kids isn't something that's been laid out for public consumption; media's insatiable need to speculate doesn't do anyone any good.
Former NFL star and current ESPN commentator Shannon Sharpe had criticisms of LaTanya Young.
"A 38yr old grown woman trying to shame her father into taking care of responsibilities she created," he tweeted alongside a story about Young's predicament. When one of Sharpe's followers replied that they wouldn't let their child be homeless under any circumstances, he had this to say:
“That’s you, but you can’t be upset with Dre. She said assistance stopped in 2020, did you ask yourself, why?”
Within minutes of LaTanya Young's interview hitting social media, people were off to the races. The indictments against Dre could be scathing; his reported estrangement from the three kids he shares with Johnson, as well as his history with domestic abuse, made him an easy villain for many on Twitter. That most of those commenting didn't seem to know much about the specifics of this relationship and its history didn't slow down the judgment train.
I don't know more than most of us about Dr. Dre's history with his daughter or her siblings. But I know that when families fall out, there's usually a long, ugly history leading up to that breaking point. And no one seems to ever want to acknowledge their culpability in how things got to where they are. In March, when the son of gospel superstar Kirk Franklin recorded his legendary dad exploding in an expletive-filled rant, it felt unfair to suddenly brand Kirk Franklin a verbally abusive bully without ever considering how much may have happened between him and his son.
Our need to judge things within minutes of first hearing about them has never been about fairness or even protecting victims. It's about us. It's about us needing to validate our own righteousness by admonishing these famous names we see on our screens every day. Of course there are times when it's warranted: there are actual bastards with big names that have to be shouted down and called out. But sometimes it's really as simple as family business. And when you don't know enough about that business, your judgment says more about who you are than it does the people involved.