At this year’s Oscars, the producers made adjustments to win over a larger and younger audience. Among them was the move to invite Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater and Shaun White to grace the stage as presenters. The next day, of course, no one was talking about that ratings grab, mostly because Will Smith decided to slap the taste out of Chris Rock’s mouth. But there was one moment from the Oscars after-parties that wasn’t missed by Black Twitter: Tony Hawk met Wesley Snipes, and they took a pic together in which Hawk later referenced the race war meme.
In case you’ve never seen the meme, in 2018, Twitter user SilentHooper tweeted an image from New Jack City that featured Snipes as his character Nino Brown when he was poised to shoot his boy in the head. Snipes holds the gun menacingly as he stands above the unseen man. SilentHooper joked that when the race war comes, Black people will be all messed-up by the fact that we’ll have to kill Tony Hawk.
When Hawk saw the tweet, being the online legend that he is, he responded perfectly:
The Oscars tweet only made the decision all that much harder.
For some, it may come as a surprise that Tony Hawk exists in that rarefied air of celebrities like Betty White, Dolly Parton and Dick Van Dyke –– white people that just about all Black people love. But he very much does, and he’s been there for decades, since the days of the Bones Brigade and their Search for Animal Chin. Not to mention Gleaming the Cube.
Setting aside who he is as a man, we get him as a skater. After all, it’s a sport about exploring an urban environment and making the most out of it — something we can very much relate to. Not to mention, skaters also get bullied by cops and authorities. They get hassled and asked to leave public places, which is something we understand as well.
Now, add in his iconic video game. Do you know how many Black musical artists got a huge bump in their fanbase due to being featured in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Hands-down, in all its iterations, it features the greatest video game song playlists ever put to 0s and 1s. The Tony Hawk game was where a lot of people first heard rappers and groups they’d come to love.
Most of all, though, it’s clear that he loves us. Sure, other celebrities like Miley Cyrus love us, too. But they love as symbols and so that they can do all of our shit for clout and profit. It’s not like that with Hawk. If one Black person says they’d hate to have to kill him in the race war, he doesn’t make a joke about the race part, he jokes about that personal act of hesitation. He gets the joke precisely because he doesn’t treat us as “Black people.” Instead, Hawk sees us as people who are Black. This is why Tony Hawk has a lifetime invite to the cookout — because he never tries to get an invite.
We like a white man who understands that cops can be assholes, that Wesley Snipes gets to decide if you live or die and why being able to laugh at yourself is probably the best way to survive in America. Because otherwise, these streets can kill you.