I have always been fascinated by American race relations. Ours is a history that has always been colored by race, no pun intended. Being bi-racial probably gives me more objective standpoint than most, but no one can claim pure objectivity. We’re all victim to our upbringing, environment, and even genetic tools of intellect we’re born with.
Barack Obama’s election was supposed to be dawn of the post-racial society, but instead I believe that it has been a powder keg for racial tensions that have been brewing in all of the decades since Civil Rights breakthroughs of the 1960’s. It seems as though race is the backdrop to every other scandalous news story: The Trayvon Martin case, the Donald Sterling debacle, and now the firing of radio show host Anthony Cumia of ” The Opie and Anthony Show” on Sirius/XM.
Someone sent me a link for this video on Twitter, and I have to say it really touched me in a personal way. I am surprised that it was released 5 years ago, and I am just seeing it now. This young lady eloquently tells a story that I relate to very much. I understand what’s it like to never truly fit in; To be caught in between cultures. Being bi-racial tends to put you at odds with uniformity.
I often see many things through the prism of race. I can’t really help it. My favorite Podcast is called The Champs. I identify with the show because it straddles the White and Black experience, but with affection for both equally. It’s hosted by comedians Neal Brennan and Moshe Kasher. You may know Neal Brennan as the co-creator of Chappelle Show and Kasher is a self-described ex “wigger” from Black dominant part of Oakland. Both these guys are white, but have a deep affinity for Black culture. The hook of the show is that they only have non-White, but mainly Black guests. A good deal of the conversation is about race and culture, and tackles many issues that I don’t think are being talked about in main stream outlets. They grew up with “Black” culture which is just another way of saying modern Hip Hop and street culture. I think this is a reflection of America’s evolution. In many ways, Hip Hop culture which was on the fringe in the early 80’s has become the mainstream Pop culture. Ice Cube is the spokesman for Coors Light. Jay Z is besties with the President. Diddy is pretty much the next Donald Trump. I think even the “wigger” category has been marginalized. In general, people, white or not have come to accept Hip Hop culture as mainstream.
Unfortunately, this has not swung the other way in equal effect. Although there have been some strides, say in the Black Hipster movement or the Backpack Hip Hop genre, having a dissenting cultural preference within the urban sect of the black community can be extremely difficult. I grew up in New Brunswick, NJ, which was a mostly poor Black and Latino city. Later, we moved and I went to an upper class private school for High School, which was 95% white. I really got to live in both worlds, in terms of race and class. I like rap and R&B. I’ve seen New Jack City and Menace II Society 9,000 times. I was lucky enough to have a large Black side of my family and would attend big family reunions with the fish fry, collard greens and all the rest. I pretty much quote Chris Rock as if he were Neitzsche. It’s not a secret I love basketball. I say the word “nigger”, a lot. Mainly to my friends.
With all of that said, I like a lot of “White” stuff too. In fact, in many ways I probably identify with White culture more than Black culture or what would be thought of as Hip Hop or Street Culture. Do yourself a favor and check out this website Stuff White People Like. I love pretty much 50% of that list. Well, mainly coffee and all of the TV Shows (The Wire, Mad Men), not all the pretentious liberal posturing bullshit. I’m not trying to keep it real, or keep it hood. I want to live someone where safe. For the most part, I can’t stand the vapid, materialistic elements of Bling Hip Hop. I understand that all of the braggadocio and macho chest thumping exists because strength, money, and power is all that is respected in the inner city where weakness can get you killed. There is very little room for frailty, or neurotic self examination. Perhaps if I stayed in the city, I would have a little more “street” in my blood, but I always wanted out of that type of environment that didn’t fully value nuance or an oddball like myself.
Another great thing about The Champs Podcast is that they also aren’t afraid to criticize the more (self) destructive parts of Street culture, and call out a lot of the “ignorance” that tends to perpetuate in the community. This type of criticism was also detailed heavily in a brilliant cartoon show called The Boondocks. The show satirizes Black culture from the perspective of a young, radical, Black protagonist, who is ultimately the voice of the show’s creator, Aaron McGruder, who is a Black man. It is social commentary at it’s finest. If these criticisms came from a White show runner, than it would probably never make it to the air for fear of being called racist. The show eviscerates BET, Gangsta Rap, unhealthy Black eating habits, and even blind Obama supporters. The show got severe backlash from many prominent figures in the Black community. It pissed people off because it told the truth, at least from McGruder’s perspective.
The Champs and The Boondocks common bond is that they both give the modern Black intelligent counterculture a voice while still showing a deep appreciation and respect for those things considered traditionally Black. Above all, they keep a racial dialogue afloat that pokes at things that are considered politically incorrect, but are altogether necessary for collective progress. Because of our unique history, this is distinctly an American issue, but it’s important to keep talking and being honest.
What is this all leading to, and how does it relate to the video up top? I’ve always been someone whose never really fit in and struggled with identity. That was until I discovered metal and hardcore. The element of those scenes that I gravitated towards was the idea of challenging the systems and domineering paradigms that surround and engulf us. God Forbid didn’t form to buck any trends, but if our impact was that we could make it ok for a few Black kids to follow their hearts, and be who they want to be, than maybe it makes everything we did worth it. I just hope I live long enough to where a Black person speaking English fluently and crisply, is not referred to as talking “White”. No race should have domain over education, and Black culture needs to stop feeding this fire.
You’re race doesn’t define you. The religion you were raised with doesn’t define you. The town you grew up in doesn’t define you. We are lucky enough to live in the most free society that has ever existed. You should try everything out that interests you. You can like Wu Tang and Doctor Who. Be like Russ. Express yourself.