23 April 2019
There are always two sides to every story; whenever someone states something racially controversial or taboo it comes from experience. Most of the time that experience was negative and didn’t have a positive outcome. Joyner Lucas’ music video to his song “I’m Not Racist” is an example of a specific conversation that must happen in order for our country to progress into an era of racial tolerance. This video depicts a conversation between an African American man with dreads and a white man with a red MAGA, Make America Great Again, hat on. Lucas released the video a year after Donald Trump went into office and the red hat gained notoriety with his campaign and his followers. This is the first image we see even before the video is clicked, so one can already see the irony this video is meant to display. Alyssa Milano suggests they are “the modern-day white hoods of the KKK” because of the belief they both stand for; a prejudiced view against minorities and people of color. That red hat and phrase have been used in headlines that include some sort of hate crime against a minority group, and to which the culprit explains they did what they did in the name of “patriotism”.
Gary Maurice Lucas Jr., known by his stage name Joyner Lucas, is an American rapper-songwriter that is known to write about sensitive and serious topics such as; suicide, racism, inequality, and gang violence. In this song, Lucas aims to tackle the new wave of racism that has been awoken by our president and his followers, and our acceptance towards it. He has the white man with the MAGA hat as the hook to draw people in, no matter what side anyone is on, because that hat will pique the curiosity of those who both love and hate it. In addition, the title, “I’m Not Racist” appeals to logos because it is a clear statement that anyone can declare, but it’s the explanation behind it that will keep the audience watching. We all want to see ourselves as the “good guy”, and the one without prejudice or the one that compares people to their racial stereotypes. Which is the reason why both people in the video say “I’m not racist” after their racist statements. Lucas is targeting is everyone with his song. He wants to spark a conversation with the two sides because at the moment people focus on avoiding anyone who agrees with the President’s ideology or disagrees with theirs. Because Lucas is a rapper, his medium of choice is a rap video that can be seen by anyone who has access to youtube. Since this generation has shifted its center of attention from television to youtube, those in a younger age group are more likely to encounter this video, and this is whom the author aimed to reach out to. The younger people around the world who are not as rooted in their values and beliefs as their parents are, and who are easier to persuade.
The intro to this song commences with the white man stating “With all due respect, I don’t have pity for you black n*****, that’s the way I feel, Screamin’ ‘Black Lives Matter’, All the black guys rather be deadbeats than pay your bills…”. Before declaring racial slurs and insults, he makes sure to include the “respect” he has in mind when telling this to a Black man. “You know that something crazy is going to come after that,” Lucas comments on the lyrics. Similar to saying “no offense” when someone wants to comment on something and they themselves know that it will offend the other person. It is a clear oxymoron in our speech when one shows respect and denies any offense to be taken before they say something both offensive and disrespectful. The BLM movement, founded in 2013 to fight against racism and violence towards people of color, was created to prove that the deaths of people of color are not taken as seriously as they should be in this country, compared to the deaths of white people. The following verse is meant to show hypocrisy as in those who want their lives to matter don’t show it in their actions by being “deadbeats”, and refusing to pay their dues.
In the other half of the song, essentially the Black man’s rebuttal, the opposite side responds, “With all disrespect, I don’t really like you white mother*******, that’s just where I’m at, Screaming ‘All Lives Matter’, Is a protest to my protest, what kind of s*** is that?”. He makes it clear that he does not like the other man, and he means what he says to be disrespectful. The Black man acknowledges that his statements are disrespectful because he intends it to be as such. All Lives Matter was created shortly after the BLM movement as a “refinement” to what it stood for because certain people interpreted it as “Black Lives Matter, but all others don’t,”. Thus, the All Lives Matter protest was seen as a counter-protest against BLM and the equality it was fighting for. The BLM movement was not intended to express that only black lives matter nor black lives matter more but black lives matter too. The acquittal of George Zimmerman ignited the protest. Zimmerman was on trial for the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American boy in Florida who was shot in the chest on his way home from 7-11. This hits home to anyone who has a set of ethics and understanding of what is right and wrong; an unarmed boy was shot in the chest on his way home because his clothing and behavior were interpreted as suspicious. His life mattered and his family deserved justice for it.
The next verse emphasizes the history of African Americans in this country, “Talkin’ about slavery like you was around back then, Like you was pickin’ cotton off the f****’ ground back then, Like you was on the plantation gettin’ down back then…”.The white man, again, illustrates the hypocrisy of those who are outraged by slavery and its history, yet they themselves have not experienced it. He demonstrates that the past is in the past and it should not be relevant for our modern day debates because the U.S. does not enslave Black people anymore. To which the opposite side argues, “And even if I wasn’t picking cotton physically, That don’t mean I’m not affected by the history, My grandmomma was a slave, that s*** gets to me, And you ain’t got no motherf****** sympathy, you p**** n****!”. Despite one’s race, we are affected by our history. Although it does not leave any physical scars on people, the psychological effects and trauma linger with people and on all generations to come. Dr. Wilkins explains that “The impact of this historical trauma on African Americans has included lingering psychological and emotional injuries…”. Consequently, it does not affect us like it did to our ancestors but it does trigger trauma that has been passed down to us; unbeknownst to us who know the history of our ancestors and yet feel the burden of what those before us felt. I come from a family that was, unfortunately, enslaved by those who believed people are to be owned and bought, so I understand the emotional trauma and burden that is transmissioned to each generation.
Therefore, the heated conversation on institutional racism against people of color is portrayed through Lucas’ rap music video “I’m Not Racist”. The white man in a MAGA hat is meant to represent Conservatives and the Black man with dreads is meant to represent Liberals, for both sides explain how they think and why they believe it to be true. Given the recent political events, there has been a clear rise in racial tension between minorities and those who are prejudice against them. Lucas states that he wants to inspire conversation between the two sides in order for our country to come together like he knows we can, and is also portrayed in the video at the end when the two men exchange a hug after their debate. Which is meant to be perceived as metaphorical, hugs will not solve the racism problem in America, but understanding and tolerance is a sturdy foundation for a solution to racial inequality.
Wilkins, Erica, et al. “Residual Effects of Slavery: What Clinicians Need to Know.” Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, vol. 35, no. 1, Mar. 2013, pp. 14–28. EBSCOhost,doi:10.1007/s10591-012-9219-1.
Shamus, Kristen Jordan, and Detroit Free Press. “Analysis: Reactions to Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ Caps Split between Patriotic and Racist.” Herald, 29 Jan. 2019, http://www.register-herald.com/cnhi_network/analysis-reactions-to-trump-s-make-america-great-again-caps/article_d4246602-23fe-11e9-b47c-0fccefc4069f.html.
Lucas, Joyner. “I’m Not Racist.” Genius, 28 Nov. 2017, genius.com/13153828.