On November 28th 2017, rapper Joyner Lucas released his music video for ‘I’m Not Racist’, which, post-2017, has caused an understandable stir on the internet. Now sitting at 35+million views, the video has divided people into strongly for and against it. Mostly for on Twitter, mostly against from the general media.
For once, Twitter was quite positive:
This video is so powerful man! This is what we need more of. Music to make us think and not all that mumble rap! #ImNotRacist
— ☁️ (@YvngTrey) December 22, 2017
— Name cannot be blank (@Lanskyzxc) January 6, 2018
I WILL NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS VIDEO (nor ‘im sorry’) UNTIL EVERYONE I KNOW HAS HEARD IT #ImNotRacist
— kiera (@kixramc) January 6, 2018
This is an interesting listen/watch. #imnotracist
— Razzia 🌟 (@littleNASA) January 6, 2018
If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it – we’ll wait.
In my own social group I have seen a strong leaning towards being very much against it. And the points are valid (most of which I will address below in red).
‘…despite the rebuttal I still felt uneasy…’
When I first saw the video it was recommended to me. The general consensus seems to agree with CNN ‘s Doug Criss’ view , seeing it as ‘the brutal race conversation nobody wants to have’.
Upon the first few lines from our (notably) white, male Trump supporter, I had a bad, bad feeling. Like, this is not the sort of opinion we should be validating. But I was told to wait it out, and so I did. But despite the rebuttal I still felt uneasy about the opening verse. To top it off, the plaster-like symbolism of the hug did not allay me.
‘the hug at the end signaled no repercussion’
My initial reaction was that I hated it, I did not like it at all. But after reading up on both views and thinking it through, my opinion of it changed from being feelings-based to a wider perspective. The first half is no doubt aggravating white American stereotypes, as well as validating the general prejudices some hold. And even worse, the hug at the end signaled no repercussion, no apology and no real solution. Furthermore it did not address the biggest current concerns of African Americans (and issues most black people face across the world) focusing on random things like Eminem’s Trump diss at the BET Awards. Oh and fried chicken and Kool-Aid featured as well.
‘[the video] implies that both sides need to be understood’
But I don’t think he meant the hug to be an ending, but more of a beginning of a new will to understand. I also don’t think it’s constructive to pin anyone who tries to speak about race from an artistic point of view, with the responsibility of addressing every single issue, in-depth and in a way that is agreeable to the general public. This is 2018 guys, that will never happen. And when the public places such a high responsibility on artists, it becomes scary for anybody to at least try to talk constructively- and that is self-defeating.
Another big issue about the video for me was that it implies that both sides need to be understood. The first perspective does not need to be understood. Why? Because it is completely ignorant; it neglects to take any fact, history or cause-and-effect relationship into account, drawing conclusions from what he ‘sees’ and accepting that as final because it fits in with his already formed viewpoint.
‘says the things that white people are often too ashamed [to say]’
In summation, I will say that the video does add to the conversation. It says the things that white people are often too ashamed (and rightfully so) to say to black people, and only amongst themselves at braais where it will likely be validated and justified by peers. And by doing so forces people to admit to themselves that they agree. Because as is my experience, most racists do not know they are racist. I hope it leaves them with a second thought, at the very least.
‘It’s exhausting … but it’s necessary.’
Lastly, I refute the claims that the ideas are outdated, that we’ve been having this conversation. You might, but others may have been late to the party. It’s not a one time effort, it is a continuing process. It’s exhausting as Vulture said, but it’s necessary. Judging by the positive feedback from Twitter (always a good indication of public favour) I am glad that people who ordinarily do not engage in, or go out of their way regarding, these topics are forced to get involved – whether by accident or curiosity. So I say, welcome to the party. Let’s talk.
Feature image: Youtube