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Want to keep the peace at Thanksgiving? Don't bring up Meek Mill | Jenice Armstrong

The fate of the rap superstar has exposed deep divisions along the lines of class, education, and life experience, particularly among African Americans. The vitriol has been ugly.

Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.
Rapper Meek Mill arrives at the criminal justice center in Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017.Read moreMatt Rourke

If you want to enjoy a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving with all of the trimmings, take my advice and don't bring up Meek Mill at the dinner table.

A judge's decision to send Mill to jail last week on probation violations has gotten many all riled up. Differences often are split along the usual color lines, but debate surrounding the fate of the rap superstar has been a particularly hot topic in African American circles, exposing deep divisions along the lines of class, education, and life experience. Some of the resulting vitriol has been ugly. And the shade. Oh, the shade!

On one side of the proverbial dining room table are those who are adamant that Mill brought his latest legal woes upon himself by repeatedly disobeying the terms of his probation resulting from a 2008 gun and drug case.

"These folks are cracking me up," said Danyl S. Patterson, a Philly-based lawyer who has been getting hit hard for her Facebook posts on the subject.  "I've been called a house n–, a coon, and a spoon. I don't even know what that is."

Patterson, who ran unsuccessfully for judge this year, said she's even had a friend get mad at her for her views. She's been weighing into online debates to explain the law but becomes frustrated by those who "read, but they are not comprehending. Arguments are not being heard because they're written."

"Somebody actually told me, 'Here you go making me read some long post again,' " she said, laughing.

On the other side are those who see the rapper as the latest example of the unfairness of black mass incarceration and the ills of the criminal justice system.

"There seems to be an undercurrent of white and older black people who just don't like him to the point where the conversation is muddied," said Paul Edward Smith, a corporate sales executive. "They honestly don't want to keep it on the topic of the sentencing. It's more about who he is and what he did or didn't do. I'm about fairness and sentences doled out equally…."

The only thing that both sides agree on is that the sentence imposed last week by Common Pleas Court Judge Genece Brinkley was overly harsh. Mill, whose given name is Robert Williams, was sentenced to two to four years — a sentence his lawyers formally appealed on Tuesday. 

Since then, billboards saying: "Stand With Meek Mill" have popped up around the city and the internet has been buzzing with folks debating Mill's sentence.   A Facebook friend who has been really active on social media over the last several days participating in various debates and arguments sounded weary of it all when I reached out to him Tuesday.

"It's bringing out the worst in us," said Darin Toliver, cofounder of the Black Men at the Penn School of Social Work. "There are blacks who believe, 'You don't get it because you didn't grow up this way,' or [they say], 'You never served time … So you don't understand.' "

"At some point, we have to take a step back from this whole process and figure out why are we hurting each other," he added.  "Why are we degrading each other, and our opinions, and our stances?"

Another Facebook friend was up early Sunday adding to an ongoing debate on my wall about Mill before I had even had coffee.  I let a few days go by before reaching out to him to see why Mill's situation had him all twisted up.

"Meek is not just a celebrity. Meek is a Philadelphia celebrity. You don't see this going on around the country. No one else is having Meek rallies. This is a Philadelphia thing. This is one of us," explained Will Mega, an educator. "He's the one who made it."

Mill's considerable legal troubles only endear him to his fans, many of whom have had their own run-ins with the criminal justice system.

"People are attaching their personal pain with the criminal justice system to this whole issue of Meek Mill," Mega said. "Sentencing Meek is sentencing them unfairly."

People forget that Mill did this to himself by repeatedly violating the terms of his probation. I mean, popping wheelies? Really? Nobody told him to get into a fight at the airport or to abuse Percocet. For some reason, Mill thought he was above the law and that the rules didn't apply to him.

Does this mean that I'm not concerned about mass incarceration? Absolutely not. But this I know for sure: If he'd listened to his legal team and obeyed the judge's stipulations, he would have been done with all of this drama years ago. We know the system is stacked against black people, so that's even more reason to follow the rules. I know my opinion won't make me popular with some folks.

So, this year in my effort to keep my holiday peaceful,  I'll keep my mouth shut and just pass the dressing. Cranberry sauce, anyone?