Ice Cube Isn’t Winning at Chess — He’s Losing at Poker
Mortgaging 30 years of reputation for an unredeemable promise is an all-in sucker’s bet
For all of the armchair grandmasters out there who think Ice Cube is playing political chess with Trump by cutting a deal on the rapper’s Contract With Black America (CWBA), the only thing I’m sure of is that most of his fans don’t actually know how to play chess.
Chess is a perfect game, but here it’s imperfectly applied. The game’s allure as a representation of complex deals and big money moves is understandable: Chess involves long-range strategies, frequently requiring players to predict their opponents’ moves. It is both infinitely graceful and stunning in its brutality. But the more you unpack the game as a metaphor for a deal like this, the more you realize that not only is Ice Cube no Bobby Fischer, he’s not playing chess at all. He’s playing poker, and poorly.
If you take him at his word, Ice Cube is attempting to do something very noble: He wants concrete political change for Black people in real time, in exchange for Black support at the polls in (checks watch) two weeks. According to him, he offered his plan to both parties, but only the Republicans took the bait — and then rebranded it as Trump’s “Platinum Plan.” Now he supposedly has them on the hook for $500 billion toward what’s basically a reparations platform with some respectability politics sprinkled on top.
And yet criticism of the contract is unnecessary because the real problem is the deal. This is where all my chess heads are about to discover a little game called poker.
In a report released in September, Citigroup researchers determined that systemic racism has cost this country $800 billion since 2000. Wait, sorry, that’s $800 billion per year. In other words, not only does this imaginary check come up short, but it’s a one-shot deal. Cube is promising votes he can’t deliver for money he’s unlikely to get for change it can’t cover. In poker, that means someone called your bluff.