In America, music has always at some point been an outlet for people to voice their concerns about the social issues plaguing the country, especially when it comes to Hip Hop. While some artists manage to hit the nail on the head, such as Jay Z’s “The Story of O.J.”, some tend to miss the point. Whether the nail was hit on the head or the mark was completely missed is the main question behind the highly controversial video for Joyner Lucas’ “I'm Not Racist.”
The video features a white man sporting the stereotypical “white supremacist uniform”, a “Make America Great Again” hat with his shirt tucked into his jeans, having a one on one conversation with a young African American male with dreadlocks. The two are acting out Lucas’ lyrics, with the white character saying lyrics such as “Quit the pitiful stuff/ And then maybe police would stop killin' you f***s”, and the black character saying “You wanna copy our slang and everything that we know/Tryna steal black culture and then make it your own, whoa.”
The lyrics and the video have many people talking, and although the message of it all was to come together, people are extremely divided on whether the message is correct or not. So, is this the dialogue we need to have? Did the video achieve the desired goal?
If the desired goal was to get people talking, then of course it did! With over 5 million views on Youtube, over 28 million views and 776k shares on Facebook, it’s obvious how well that goal was achieved, however, was the dialogue created worth having amongst the people. There have been many songs that have achieved this goal throughout the history of Hip Hop. “I’m Not Racist” is NOT one of these songs.
An example of another song this year that got people talking was Jay Z’s “The Story of O.J.”, which got many black people talking about building credit, investing into their future, and using their money to build up their neighborhoods. This was done with subtle context and lyrics meant to make one think about these things. Lucas’ song does little more than to say “White people are mad because we sag our pants and sell drugs, see their point of view” and “This is why us black folks are mad, please listen to us.”
One must question whether the lyrics are a manifestation of Lucas’ point of view. Of course, he’s speaking from the “point of view” of a white male, but is it solely creative writing, or does Lucas actually share this opinion about Black Lives Matter and the black community. When the subject matter is that polarizing and the social climate is as harsh as it is now-a-days, one doesn’t get to bring it up without addressing it as such.
Secondly, the song creates this polarizing dialogue with no real message to give and no strong point to end on. If you try to break down the lyrics and have a conversation about the song, it’s difficult to get anything out of it other than “White folks are mad because we’re lazy and sag our pants, black folks are angry because of slavery and love Tupac, now let’s all hug it out and be friends again please!” If this is a conversation amongst two rationale people, it may happen, although it won’t sound as dramatic as the song. But considering that the white people whom usually have these strong feelings towards blacks have continuously beaten black protestors who simply wanted to have this dialogue, then it’s HIGHLY unlikely it would ever go down this way.
The truth of the matter is that no matter how deep Lucas thinks his lyrics are, and how much he
thinks the song may bring people together. Even if it’s not the main point of the song, anything that remotely seems to say “Y’know, those white supremacists saying that blacks are *insert stereotype* kind of have a point”, that’s not only politically irresponsible, but disrespectful to those who fight for justice. In a day and age where white nationalists have on multiple occasions put black people in the hospital, or the grave, telling folks that all they need to do is talk it out then hug it out to end the hate is not only politically irresponsible, but down right ignorant at this point.
The main point that I am making here is that if you use a creative outlet to create dialogue, then you have to be consistent enough to make your point clear, something Lucas has failed to do. If you feel that black people have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, then say that. If you feel that racism and white supremacy is a serious issue that must be tackled, then say that. Riding the fence by saying “Well both sides have a point, now let’s all just get along and hug it out.” In America’s current social climate, to make a such a controversial song and video that succeeds in getting widespread attention only to ride the fence without really saying anything is socially, politically, and racially irresponsible.
While this song has caused controversy and got people talking, on a deeper level, it’s almost as difficult to take seriously as people who either begin or end their racist rants with the words of the song…”I’m not racist.”