19 October, 2018
I’m Not Racist
If there’s one ironic thing that all Americans can agree on it is that we are currently living in possibly the most divided time in the US since the events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. Many of us will tend to put the blame on a certain person or group, for example in politics Democrats and Republicans, along with their supporters are constantly at war with each other, calling each other names, and pinning all the blame on them. While there’s certainly a root and explanation for this cultural civil war, that is not the topic of this essay. Perhaps it’s time to stop playing the great blame game of our time and learn to be more mature about about some of the personal flaws that we all contain. A music video titled “I’m not racist” by Joyner Lucas portrays a scenario between two men of different racial and ideological backgrounds having a heated debate and saying their brutally honest feelings about each other, but end up coming together by the end. This song tells the audience that there is a right and wrong way to have a conversation like this, but more importantly it suggests a way to heal this divide in America.
The structure and layout of the music video is very simple, as it is even filmed in a warehouse. The video begins with an overweight white man with a tucked in plaid shirt and jeans in a “Make America Great Again” hat, he is meant to be a stereotypical conservative- republican. He is sitting down in front of a young black adult with bleached dreadlocks while in loose, rugged clothing, a stereotypical depiction of a thug. The white man is the first to begin rapping, and throughout his long rant-style rap he goes off at the black man about several issues and annoyances he has with the black race, which range from violence, crime, fatherlessness, drug dealing, welfare exploitation, and several more in an angry fashion. Throughout the verse he raps angrily and boasts about the greatness of his ideology and being “prepared for this type of war,” however despite all of his anger and patronizing remarks, by the end of his verse he shows some sympathy and wishes to hear the black man’s side of the story.
On the flip side the black man’s verse is mostly a response to the criticisms and attacks the white man made against him but also retaliates with his grievances and problems he has with the white race, which include history of slavery, use of the n-word, cultural appropriation, lack of empathy in regards to other races, over policing of blacks, and more. Like the white man, when he is finished rapping the black man calms down and tells him how he now knows his side of the story. While the song presents itself as depicting two opposing viewpoints, it also shows how both men end up being quite similar. Both men had a lot to say about each other, some truth, some baseless attacks, but there are two key takeaways from the song: the first being that while both men are being honest, they are doing it in an inappropriate way. The second is that despite both men being loud and harsh, they still find a way to come together and hug out their differences.
These two points are the main messages of the song. The song is essentially making fun of the loudness and absurdity of modern American politics. Civil discussion and debate is becoming increasingly rare and is only contributing to our great divide, as we have mostly devolved to calling each other names like “nazi,” “bigot,” “libtard,” or “snowflake” rather than hearing out the other side. The second message of the song, the idea of forgiving and coming together, is what Lucas wants to see in society, and to overall stop the yelling and come together as human beings. When you pay close attention to the video you realize that the two men hug after both of them have had their say on each other, and this is because Lucas is presenting not only a message, but also a possible solution to our divide. We must abandon our ignorance about the world we live in, and learn to both be honest about your feelings and fair criticisms about other people’s race, nationality, religion, and politics, as well as learning to listen and accept valid criticisms in regards to our own ingroup. A big problem with doing that, however, is that it is considered very taboo in America to criticize actions of a person’s race and religion at times, so when someone actually does it in a constructive manner, they are usually deemed a racist.
However it doesn’t have to be this way. According to an article by the Huffington Post there are a few specific ways to make the situation better. One way is to “connect with people not media.” This is meant by how we are constantly feeding ourselves information about current times, which is important, but can be overwhelming, and can cause us to behave more negatively than usual. Plus in general on social media, since we are hidden behind a screen we are able to be confrontational in harsher ways than in real life, which over time drains our empathy and kindness. However we forget that we can be kind to one another on the streets, but that may dissolve if we continue to act this way. Another example is when HuffPost suggests “stand up for people no politics.” We have devoured ourselves into so much political drama that we treat it like a sport. Most of us have branded ourselves the blue Democrats or the red Republicans, and we are all rooting for our team to win the midterms, to the point to where we riot on the streets when our teams clash or lose. Politics is important yes, but we forget that our political views have torn us apart from our ideological other, so we need to remember that we should focus on helping our fellow Americans first, not generic (and often corrupt) politicians.
For many viewers this was a powerful but also unsettling video to listen to, because for some viewers some of the critiques mentioned in the lyrics applied to them, and that was exactly what Lucas was trying to achieve. As Lucas said in a CNN interview “It’s a very uncomfortable conversation to have” (Lucas CNN). Lucas believes in an America that can eventually overcome this difficult wall no one wants to climb, and admit to seeing flaws in their own group, but we need to learn that we have to criticize others, and ourselves, when we are causing a problem in this country. Of course it’s not about grouping every individual of said group into one problem maker and creating generalizations, it’s about finding ways to improve ourselves and our communities and being able to get along with other groups that don’t belong to ours. We like to think we are “one race, the human race” but the fact is, since the dawn of time we’ve always segregated ourselves for different reasons. But today in a more diversified culture, it is more important than ever to make peace with our fellow human so we don’t tear each other apart, like we are so used to today and throughout human history.
Lucas, Joyner. 28 November 2017. I’m not racist. Youtube, Google.
In this song rapper Joyner Lucas takes a different approach to the idea of racial and political division in America. Instead of calling out one side he addresses the flaws and nonsense plagued in both sides of the argument. Instead of making a generic statement such as “let’s all just get along” Joyner realizes that in order to begin to heal the divide we must be honest about how we feel about each other in order to find the root of the problem, rather than just saying that one group is innocent while the other is the perpetrator of all this chaos.
Criss, Doug. 30 November 2017. “I’m not racist” is the brutal conversation on race nobody wants to have.” CNN
Most of the articles that are in response to the song miss the point entirely but this CNN articles gives it a more balanced view. Instead of picking a side on who is right and who is racist instead the writer points out that the song is actually rather somewhat stereotyping the statements the men make but to a degree of truth of the arguments of both sides. The key is in the end, where the writer acknowledges the true message.
Singh, Jeff. 06 December 2017. 3 Ways to Heal a Divided Trump America. The Huffington Post.
Offers 3 solutions to healing the divide in America without pointing any fingers at any group in particular, instead offers solutions that can work for all Americans.