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“I’m Not Racist”

2,564 words [1]

One of the more arresting things coming out of the hip hop world just these past few days is a video from black rapper Joyner Lucas. It’s called “I’m Not Racist [2]” and, since its November 28 release, it has gone viral, racking up tens of millions of views on Facebook and millions more on YouTube. It’s more spoken word material than rap per se, given its minimal instrumentation and virtual lack of an explicit beat or percussion. A person who knows nothing of English would probably not be able to distinguish it from countless freestyle performances at poetry slams across the country. That is, it’s a narrative told in desperate earnest with solid rhythm, clever wordplay, and cheating rhyme. At best, the people who weave such yarns have little more to offer than attitude, a tolerable control of the English language, and a mastery of the litany of things black people like to complain about in America.

As a result, the genre suffers. Every once in a while, however, someone comes around to shake things up, as if to keep whitey from getting too complacent about popular music. The result, in the case of “I’m Not Racist,” is something truly interesting and worthy of further consideration.

The scene takes place in a warehouse in which a stereotypical white and a stereotypical black engage in a nasty, profanity-ridden dialogue. In the first half of the song, the white chews out the black. And in the second half of the song, the black chews out the white. The white guy comes equipped with his workman jeans, rolled-up sleeves, and MAGA hat. He’s bearded and tubby and looks like he grew up on a steady diet of country music and classic rock, and has a copious supply of beer in the fridge in his garage right next to the car he’s always working on. The brother, on the other hand, is very dark-skinned and has the bling, the dreds, the sporting jersey, and the all the attitude one would expect from a person who chooses to look like that.

See the video now [2] before reading further. Truly, you must see it.

What first struck me about the video was that it wasn’t the white guy who was rapping. He was moving his lips and synching well. His facial expressions and hand and body mannerisms were perfect. Perhaps he’s an actor or a rapper himself, or just someone who really identifies with the subject matter. In any case, it took me about ten seconds to realize that no Caucasian can sound like that. Joyner Lucas intends to rap from both perspectives and play them against each other. A little “negative capability [3].” Nice.

I next realized that, on the white side at least, Lucas did not intend to hold back. Indeed, he puts into the mouth of his white interlocutor many of things I’ve been wanting to say to black people for over twenty years, but with more rhyme and syncopation and fewer references to The Bell Curve. And all those glorious F-bombs and N-bombs? Yeah, about that much. Here’s how it starts:

With all due respect I don’t have pity for you black niggas
That’s the way I feel
Screamin’ “Black Lives Matter”
All the black guys rather be deadbeats than pay your bills
Yellin’ nigga this and nigga that
Call everybody nigga and get a nigga mad
As soon as I say nigga then everyone react
And want to swing at me and call me racist ‘cuz I ain’t black!

You pound that then
Talkin’ ‘bout slavery like you was around back then
Like you was pickin’ cotton off the fuckin’ ground back then
Like you was on the plantation getting’ down back then!
I see a black man aimin’ his gun
But I’d rather see a black man claimin’ his son
And I don’t mean just for one day and you done
I mean you still trapped in a rut
I work my ass off to pay my taxes for what?
So you can keep living off free government assistance
Food stamps for your children
But you still tryin’ to sell it for some weed or some liquor
Or a fuckin’ babysitter
While you party on the road ‘cuz you ain’t got no fuckin’ goals?
You already late
You motherfuckers need to get ya damn’ priorities straight
It’s like you proud to be fake
But you lazy as fuck
And you rather sell drugs than get a job and be straight
And then you turn around and complain about the poverty rate?
Fuck outta my face!

It goes on, and it only gets better. What we have here is something pretty rare in our mainstream society these days. This isn’t a gentle tut-tut about the behavior of black people. Nor is it sanitized newscaster criticism of their misbehavior. Nor is it tough love, the kind dished out so often by what I call the Jock Right [4].

No, no. This is something else entirely. This is what we call contempt. And it’s real. Seriously, how often in our mainstream society do we see such bald, ugly, and candid contempt for what blacks do to themselves and everyone else unlucky enough to be around them?

As the white rap moves to its crescendo, Lucas skewers black people for the racist and childish blame game they always play, for clinging to stupid, deceased-rapper role models, and for willfully remaining in the vicious cycle of drugs, crime, and poverty which is currently eating them alive in our formerly great cities. At one point (and I am speechless in gratitude for this) the white rapper says:

Buncha class clowns.
Niggas kneelin’ on the field, that’s a flag down
How dare you try to make demands for this money
You gonna show us some respect
You gonna stand for this country, nigger!

That last line? Yeah, the white dude gets in the brother’s face when he says it. Or, shouts it, really. And it ain’t “nigga.” It’s “nigger,” said the way the word is supposed to be said.

Do you know how many fucking times I have wanted to say that? I think my systolic blood pressure count has gone down a point or two after hearing that line about a couple dozen times now.

It’s clear Joyner Lucas doesn’t have mere familiarity with white frustration with blacks. He also has respect for it. (Shocking, I know.) Interspersed among all the well-placed barbs is the throwaway line, “I’m not racist.” Is it believable? Is “be the reality of seem” here? Or is Lucas alluding to the fact that Americans—especially the white ones—are forced these days to provide such a humiliating caveat before uttering anything about race in public? Even if it rings as hollow as a tin bell?

There’s something else about this song that craves comment. (I know I should just let you watch the video and judge it for yourselves, but there is so much good stuff here I can’t help myself.) In referencing Eminem’s recent anti-Trump rant, the white guy says:

I heard Eminem’s rap at the awards
Who’s he fightin’ for?
Y’all can take that motherfucker too
He ain’t white no more!

It makes me sad to think it takes a black man to remind white people to have racial pride. Yes, evict Eminem from the ranks of the whites. He doesn’t deserve to be with us.

When the white rap finishes, a glance at the time at the bottom of the screen reveals we are about halfway through the song. Okay, so the black guy will soon have his rejoinder. But can he, or anyone, rejoin against that?

The answer is, he cannot. The black perspective in this song is, quite frankly, weak and unconvincing. It’s full of self-pity and childish anger, signifying nothing. Here’s how it starts:

With all disrespect I don’t really like you white motherfuckers
That’s just where I’m at
Screamin’ all lives matter is a protest to my protest
What kind of shit is that?
And that’s one war you’ll never win
The power in the word nigger is a different sin
We shouldn’t say it but we do and that’s just what it is
But that don’t mean you can say it just ‘cuz you got nigger friends!
That was originated for you to keep us under
But when we use it when know that’s just how we greet each other
But when you use it we know there’s a double meaning under
And even if I wasn’t pickin’ cotton physically
That don’t mean I’m not affected by the history
My grandmamma was a slave, that shit gets to me
And you ain’t got no motherfucking sympathy, you pussy nigga!

He’s right, you know. We don’t have any sympathy, nor should we. Whites and people of other races have endured far worse than what American blacks have in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and have rarely if ever resorted to the kind of stupid and savage behavior you find in black neighborhoods, cities, and countries every day. Is Joyner really trying to make lack of sympathy into an excuse for this sort of thing?

It’s hard to elevate when this country is ran by whites
Judging me by my skin color and my blackness
Trying to find a job and ain’t nobody call me back yet
Now, I gotta sell drugs to put food in my cabinet
You crackas ain’t slick
This is a part of your tactics
Don’t talk about no motherfuckin’ taxes.

There is so much stupid in this soliloquy, one does not know where to begin. First of all, if being in countries run by whites is so bad, why do black people keep coming to them? Is Joyner Lucas completely ignorant of the boatloads of African blacks that keep washing up on the shores of Europe, or the lines of them continually applying for citizenship in America? Would he prefer to live in Haiti? Ain’t nothin’ but bruthas there. Please, go. And take your family with you if you hate whitey so much.

Oh, and “ran by whites,” Mr. Lucas? Ever heard of a man named Barack Obama? How about Eric Holder, Valerie Jarrett, Jeh Johnson, Loretta Lynch, and Susan Rice? Any of these names ringin’ a bell for ya? Or are you blowing a gasket because these are light-skinned blacks instead of dark-skinned ones? Hey, I got a great idea! Recently deposed Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe is black. He’s black as the ace of spades. And, from what I hear, he’s got a lot of time on his hands these days. Why don’t we bring him to America and install him as our new monarch and populate the entire government with expat black Zimbabweans? It worked out so well in Africa, it’s bound to succeed here, too! And if it doesn’t, well, at least we won’t be a country run by whites anymore.

Then Lucas brings up the canard that whites pre-judge blacks by their skin color, but conveniently fails to mention how often this judgment is actually positive. Apparently, Joyner Lucas is completely oblivious to something called affirmative action, which awards blacks status, admits them to colleges, and gets them jobs simply because of their race. And this has been going on for some forty-five years now. Most of us cannot even remember a time without affirmative action, and this crybaby is complaining about racial prejudice? He only tells half the story because the other half is inconvenient for his agenda.

And nobody will call you back after a job interview? And that’s why you sell drugs? Poor baby. Like white people have never endured unemployment before (oh, and when we do, we always sell drugs, of course!). Finally, this is all part of a grand, white conspiracy. It’s part of our “tactics” to keep blacks down. Does he really believe this? Does anyone? Can he prove it?

The black rapper then goes on a typical tirade about historic oppression, cultural appropriation, systematic racism, police brutality, and negative black stereotypes, as if these can excuse high rates of murder, crime, violence, illegitimacy, corruption, and drug abuse. This is all Leftist cant, and it is all easily disproven or refuted. Meanwhile, the white guy, after delivering such a devastating condemnation of everything black, sits there and takes it. He nods sympathetically and ultimately seems somewhat mollified by his swarthy opponent, even when said swarthy opponent slaps the MAGA hat off his head and tosses a table on its end. See? Even in a balanced effort to deal with race, violence from blacks remains acceptable behavior.

Towards the end of his diatribe, the black guy says one thing surprising, one thing that is both interesting and revealing: “I love you, but I fuckin’ hate you at the same time!” I can buy that. It reveals the utter irrationality of the black position in this debate. I’m sure a spoiled child getting spanked after a violent outburst feels the same way towards his parents or his “good” older sibling. It’s what happens when you put anger, envy, immaturity, and poor impulse control in a single package. Perhaps some of these people deserve sympathy, but not when they so viciously blame their greatest benefactors for their own faults and failings. And yes, even with slavery, whites are the best friends blacks ever had. By any objective measure, we have treated them better than they have treated themselves. And if you don’t believe me, just count up the five or six million black corpses resulting from the civil wars in the Congo which raged from 1996 to 2003. That’s more than double the number of blacks who died during centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And that’s just for starters.

The video ends, really, the only way it could: with the two men reconciling and hugging each other. After rending such deep rifts in the culture these two share, and after casting such bitter aspersions upon the cultures they don’t share, such an ending is hardly believable. Yet after six minutes of trauma, the audience craves some kind of peaceful closure. From an aesthetic standpoint, a brawl or an acrimonious split would not have been appropriate.

“I’m Not Racist” is the first widely-heard rap song that I am aware of that honestly deals with racial problems in America. I call it honest because it places an unfiltered white perspective alongside the black one, which rarely gets air time, and when it does, is usually filtered. And after hearing the song and viewing the video, I think I can see why that unfiltered white perspective appears so rarely in our mainstream culture. When placed alongside the black one, the white perspective will always overpower it. It contains too much truth not to do so. The white perspective, in effect, offers evidence of black intellectual and moral inferiority, while the black perspective can only offer theories to explain why he has no evidence with which to rebut the white perspective. All he has is violence and anger, which, as Confucius say, loses the argument.

Whether Joyner Lucas realizes it or not, he has done a service to white people, especially those of us who identify as white. Maybe we are racist after all, despite the title of his brilliant new song. But if “I’m Not Racist” demonstrates anything, it’s that we are also right.