Can I just say, in the midst of the racial divide between this year’s Grammy nominations and the passing of the celebrated Oscars, which was hosted by one of the funniest black men to ever grace this planet, Chris Rock – there is a question that remains unanswered. Will black people ever be genuinely recognized for their talents in a world where 96.3â„… of the voting Academy is white, or will we only be nominated in attempt to stop any complaints and boycotting? We live in a country where a black man was caught on tape being beaten by white police officers, a twelve-year-old child was shot to death for playing with a toy gun byÂ a Â white police officer, and the hashtag #blacklivesmatter is a growing epidemic. I understand that every situation cannot be painted with the idea that it’s all about color, but let’s face it, folks, race is one of the hottest topics in America right now and often times situations are based on race. As I am typing this article and as you will be reading it, there is a white man harassing a black man for no other reason but the fact that he is black. Simultaneously there is a white woman rolling her eyes at talk of Beyonce’s “Formation” record because she doesn’t understand how it is so iconic, and she doesn’t understand why many black people connect with it so deeply. It is not about the fancy beat, the fierceness of the lyrics, or the extravagant performance of the song, instead it is about the ethics and principlesÂ that the song holds. It relays a certain message to black people that matters so much. When I watched Kendrick Lamar’s one of a kind Grammy Performance, I cried because I felt a connection to what he was saying. I watched the jail premise of the performance, the African dancers, the Compton sign at the end of his display and I was in complete awe. I was amazed that this black man had so much strength to perform these racially charged songs in front of a crowd that was predominantly white. As I watched the performance, my eyes couldn’t help but to tear up in the beautiful moment.
Kendrick spoke to my soul but it seems that white people just did notÂ get the performance at all.
Some stared with confusion, others had faces that were painted in stone, while the rest seemed uninterested and looked away, to talk to other patrons in the crowd. Lamar finished his iconic performance with the Black Power hand sign on full display. His dark brown hand was clenched in a fist and raised above his head. The sight paints a picture that blatantly states, ‘I am black without apology.” I felt a wave of emotions after seeing him do that. I felt thankful; I felt happy; I was honored and ultimately; I was touched. On the flip side, I was confused, anxious and had a sense of anger due to the poor reception that the white audience gave Lamar. My question is why the uneasiness?
Is it his harsh but surreal lyrics, (“And we hate Po-Po/ Wanna kill us dead in the street for sho'”), the force in which he utters, “Black man takin’ no losses!” or is it the way that he is speaking about the black man’s desire to elevate his place in America that makes white people cringe in their seats? I thought to myself, “White People cannot be this clueless to the message Kendrick Lamar was trying to give. It’s common sense!” The crazy thing is, I wondered to myself, is it common sense because I am a young black woman who connects with K. Dot’s lyrics, or is it common sense because I actually give a damn about the senseless killings that happen in America? One does not have to be black to get songs such as ‘Institutionalized’ and ‘Momma.’ One does not have to have dark skin to understand the power the lyrics, “Every n**** is a star” (taken from ‘Wesley’s Theory’) has. Lastly, one does not have to be black in order to get the theme of Lamar’s performance and why it matters so much in this generation.
So that leads me back to my original topic, why don’t white people get Kendrick Lamar’s performance? Why did they look puzzled at a black man rapping about his people being sentenced to prison and how he wants better for the black community? The white audience was confused at his eccentric display, but jumped out of their seats and cheered, hollered, and screamed when the cast of Hamilton won a Grammy. Hamilton is a musical about Alexander Hamilton, with a white cast that features them rapping every musical score. Do you know what the creator of that play did in order to getÂ anÂ applause from the crowd? He rapped their acceptance speech. They won for best musical directly after Lamar’s performance and decided to display their ‘creative’ rap after Lamar’s racially charged one. Their cheesy raps garnered more support than Lamar did in the 8-10 minutes he was on stage.
Were white people scared of King Kendrick’s palaver, or just not interested? Are they scared to face the racial tension that America currently holds, or are they just so disconnected from it that they’ll lazily acknowledge it and then move on with their day? Hear me out and then you make your final decision.
In the words of the famous Doughboy, “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.’ This immortal line is taken from John Singleton’s, ‘Boyz N The Hood’ (1990), one of Lamar’s favorite movies. I agree with this quote, as I feel that white people simply don’t care about what’s going on in the ghettos and the hood. They love to emulate and attempt to duplicate black culture but rid themselves and disconnect from the actual problems. I know I cannot group every white person in a section that does not care. I know there will be readers that will tell me, “There are White people who support the movements and protests!” Â If you are Caucasian and completely mean that, then you are truly amazing and I commend you for acknowledging reality, your privilege and the oppression and inequality that Blacks face daily. However, for the majority of the Grammy audience, for the people calling Kendrick Lamar and BeyoncÃ© ‘menaces’ for their Black Power songs, and for the white people saying the Grammy performance and Lamar’s album, “To Pimp A Butterfly” are harmful to the sanity of the country, have you ever stopped to ask whyÂ black people feel the need to make songs and albums of this caliber?
Newsflash! We riot and protest because we are not being heard. The newer generation of black people are taking Malcolm X tendencies in a world that rather we have MLK Jr. attitudes. Some of us don’t have any more march in us. I am a person who honestly believes that with enough talking, understanding, and moments of experience, a simple problem can be solved. People like Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce shedding light on racial issues at hand can certainly help as well. Understanding is key. One must work towards understanding the troubles that black people go through on a daily but to date, that’s been a challenge for many white people or an area of resistance and denial. Black culture is more valued than theÂ lives of the people who started it and embody it. Hip hop is fun, rapping is cool, throwing up gang signs and getting gold grills for your mouth is now trendy and the thing to do. Compare this to my point above; Kendrick’s rap performance was met with confusion and a cold shoulder. Hamilton’s rap acceptance speech gathered smiles, louder cheering and more interaction from the crowd. It comes down to two points. Either people are genuinely bemused by these situations or they are using confusion and misunderstanding as a front for uncaring feelings. Which one does it seem to be? How can a person blatantly tell another of the problems they face on a day-to-day basis and still be met with bewilderment? At this point, it’s not even about having to be in that situation. People are enabled with a sense of sympathy for various situations and people. If I, a young black woman, tell a white woman of the racial profiling and discreet discrimination I’ve faced in clothing stores, she should be able to sympathize with what I’m saying as a human being. However, if she acknowledges it for a quick moment, quickly moves on like I didn’t say anything, and bobs her head to a new Fetty Wap or Future song, then what does that tell you? She heard my problems but she didn’t listenÂ or care about them.
Hearing is the ability for the nerves in our ears to pick up sound waves. Listening requires a connection between the heard words and the brain’s ability to create understanding. My problems are not interesting enough for her to hear, just as Kendrick’s performance is not interesting enough for white people to delve into for more understanding. At some points, black people want to be listened to by white America. We want our struggles, hurt, and pain to be realized and not shoved under the rug as if we are the race always crying wolf. We want change, maybe the change that President Obama campaigned about 8 years ago. White people just seem to not care or realize that every day represents a new struggle for black people in America. With the ever growing stereotypes, separation of race, and the inconspicuous racism that we go through in order to avoid lawsuits and riots, black people are looking for voices to represent us. We are no longer in a generation that supplies numerous civil rights leaders instead we welcome our entertainers to use their voices for good and leadership. We use our expressions the best way that we know how, rather that’s through music, sports, hashtags or social media’s does not really matter.
Â White people are not supplying any type of relation or care to our pain. This is why there was utter confusion during Lamar’s performance. There is a lack of care to black people’s place in America. It seems because Caucasians are not in a place where they face oppression solely because of melanin in their skin, and naps in their hair, that they have developed a, “Oh, that’s so sad. Gosh. Anyway, let’s talk about something else!”Â type of attitude. How arrogant, delusional and insensitive. When will black people be cared for in America? When will we get the same protection that whites are offered? Are we ever going to be understood? Will our country’s criminal justice system ever lose its racial biases? Black people have inhabited this country for 397 years; when will we ever be treated like they citizens we so rightfully are? If Trump gets into office, I think that our chances will become worse than they already are.
“You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture. You’re f****** evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey.’ ~ Kendrick Lamar
These are lines taken from Kendrick’s track, “The Blacker the Berry.” They are obvious portrayals of black pride and not being afraid to realize that some white people do not have care for blacks in America. I discussed in previous paragraphs that black people want understanding in this country and we want the same rights that whites are privileged to. However, what choices are we left with when that care is not being given to us? We rebel! We embrace our dark skin, the nappiness of our hair, the curves of our bodies and the powerful stance we hold. We take back the things that whites have made us ashamed of, but have later adapted as ‘fashionable’ and ‘innovative.’ We rebel not because it’s something that we think is cool, but because this is the only thing that we have left to do. We rebel in terms of education, in terms of bettering ourselves, and we rebel in a sense of showing white America the dangers we face everyday. We make them uncomfortable. We make them cringe. Just as Lamar had done previously with his BET performance of ‘Alright’ we will show the harshness that blacks face. His BET performance consisted of him standing on a battered police car. The battering shows a sign of blacks rebelling against the very system that is supposed to protect us, but has failed us countless times. Can the battering also symbolize the trounces blacks have faced in America over the years? Lamar in both his BET and Grammy’s performances have brought the racial discrimination in the country to a forefront for all audiences to see. Performing it on television has given it life to live forever. It’s now immortal. Repeatedly, the talk of race and signs of inequality has made whites defensive and scared. They bring up the points, “I have black neighbors! My manager at work is black!” or my favorite one, “It’s not like I’m racist! You can’t blame me for the actions of my ancestors!” It’s amazing how people can calmly utter this phrase, but not realize their ancestors actions have propelled centuries of hate and ignorance against a race who have blatantly built this country on their backs and hands of hard work. Not to mention many white people are still benefiting from the hate and inequalities that their ancestors planted. Blacks our comfortable talking about race. We’re okay with having people such as Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, and the under-acknowledged Talib KweliÂ speak for us. We are okay with expressing that we want more and we are not scared of acknowledging the disadvantages that our dark skin holds in America. When will white people develop these notions so we can finally get to an understanding that is long overdue?
So with all the controversy that Lamar’s performance has given our country, and the questions it’s brought up, I ask every white reader, what is it? Why do you not understand Lamar’s politically charged performance? Is it the points I mentioned above? Do you simply not care about the issues blacks face in America or are you too scared and sheltered to acknowledge that race is a deep issue in this country? I challenge every right reader to remove themselves from themselves temporarily and be objective. This article is not meant to attack the white race. I do not intend to suggest black dominance over any culture in this country, I just want equality. I wrote this article to represent a black perspective on Lamar’s performance and to raise self-awareness and questioning to any whites who stumbled upon Kendrick and do not understand him.
The performance holds a key point in not only musical history but a general one for black people. Our voice was heard, broadcasted, and shown in front of a white crowd that did not get us. They didn’t get him or our people for various reasons, but it boils down to a lack of understanding and fear to address the topic. The black power movement is in full effect. Lamar proudly announces in Blacker the Berry, “My hair is nappy, my d*** is big/My nose is round and wide!” White people cannot run away from the elevation blacks have shown in recent years. They have to learn to adapt to it and grow with our movement if we are going to experience the slightest amount of peace. Black power is not a threat to Caucasians in this country. Please understand that! It is an introduction for education on our oppression and discussions to better understand the black race. If this is not a better beginning for change, then what on earth is? Lamar’s performance and lyrics represent years of emotions that African Americans have felt. We are proud of this man for delivering the message and making whites uncomfortable. A sense of discomfort can begin a lifetime of deep relations between whites and black. The only question is, will Whites continue to run away from it, or finally succumb to the pressure we are giving them and begin their long overdue education of our people? It’s never too late for a reality check.