Why white people aren’t allowed to sing along to rap music

The latest invidious and Pecksniffian raid by the Culture Police is this article in HuffPo by Brandi Miller, a columnist described as “a campus minister and justice program director from the Pacific Northwest.” (I presume that the “justice” means social rather than legal justice.) Click on the screenshot if you want to read about the multifarious ways that whites are practicing cultural appropriation by trying to “access” black culture via attending concerts by black musicians.

Miller:

A few years ago, I went to a Chance the Rapper concert in Portland, Oregon. It was his biggest show of the year in one of the whitest cities on the tour. About 12,000 people packed into the stadium, most of them not black, and the majority of the room loudly sang the word “nigger” along with every track that played during the pre-concert and Chance’s performance. The majority-white audience clearly felt the freedom to abandon decorum and fully participate in blackness because they had paid $60 to be there.

. . . Now, as a black person, being in a space with 10,000 or more non-black people yelling/singing “nigger” is not a neutral experience. White people being that free is terrifying. If they feel free enough to yell the N-word as loud as they please, who knows what other things they may feel, believe or do when their inhibitions are gone.

Let’s stop right there. The word “nigger” is in many rap songs, but somehow it’s become taboo for white people to sing that particular word (this isn’t the first time that ludicrous demand has been made). But it’s part of the song. Is singing the words of a rap or hip hop song “fully participating in blackness”? How? And if it is, so what?

Look, if black people want white people to stop using that word, then they need to stop using it themselves. If they want to reserve use of that word for themselves, then they’ll have to put up with other people using it when they sing rap songs. Are we supposed to just hum when we get to that word?  And as for the experience being “terrifying” for Ms. Miller, I simply don’t believe her. She’s making that up to cast herself as a victim.

It’s always puzzled me that a word considered odious when used by whites—and it is odious—is somehow innocuous when blacks use it. As a secular Jew, I don’t call other Jews “kikes”, “sheenies” and “Hebes”; this is not customary, and it would be seen as offensive if were used to greet fellow Jews. So if black people want to call each other by a slur, and use that word in songs, I really can’t see anything wrong with singing along. After all, you’re not being a racist if you’re singing along with a lively rap song: you are appreciating the music.  This kind of Pecksniffery need not be countenanced, nor would I feel I was a racist by singing that wordI suppose it’s a good thing, then, that I’m not a fan of rap and hip hop!

I’ve about had it with this desire to build border walls around cultures. Yes, black people have been terribly oppressed historically, and still are, but they can’t demarcate their culture as their exclusive territory, by implying, as Miller does, that jazz can’t be be played by whites because “it’s participating in black culture”.  Is she aware that jazz bands were one of the earliest forms of artistic racial integration in America? Liking black music is almost always a vehicle for mutual understanding, not hatred. So when Miller says something like the following, she’s trying to cast herself simultaneously as a victim and also claim that her culture must remain off limits for that reason:

This [cultural] experience is not unique or new. It has long been the operating posture of white people, particularly at festivals and concerts, to assume that minority culture itself is up for grabs. Blackness, though, is not something that can be sojourned into for the price of concert or festival ticket. With the approach of Afropunk, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, all featuring prominent black artists, it may be time for a refresher course on the implications of loving and mimicking black culture while still operating in rampant anti-blackness.

I find that paragraph both risible and offensive, especially the claim that white people who like black music are “operating in rampant anti-blackness.” Really—we’re all racists? But I guess Miller thinks we all are, and so her hyperbole knows no bounds:

Outside of concert arenas in the real world, black people cannot have a bbq, mow a lawn, sell water or have a pool party without a white person feeling threatened. The reality is this: White people love to participate in black culture, but seem to feel threatened by black people who they don’t pay to perform for them.

Concerts and festivals become training grounds for this sort of problematic behavior and a place to practice defensiveness. They are freewheeling spaces, where, in the busyness and hype of everything going on, cultural appropriation gets a special pass.

Here she conflates real racism—calling the cops on people just because they’re black—with cultural appropriation, which is at worst neutral and at best an appreciation of another culture.  The mutual interchange of cultures has been a good thing, and, as I’ve written before, I can think of very few examples where cultural appropriation has really been damaging. In the main, we’re all better for it. Each culture appropriates the others, and it’s simply not possible to devise a hierarchy of cultures and say that “appropriating upward” is okay but “appropriating downward” is not. Is a Chinese businessman who wears a suit appropriating Western culture? Or is that okay because Chinese are “appropriating up”?

You can’t get more divisive, or more engaged in maladaptive identity politics, than this:

Proximity to black people seems to transfer blackness for a few nights, but at the end of the day, it is the highest mark of privilege to systematically oppress people for hundreds of years and then to mimic, perform and market everything within their culture. Racial propriety is ejected in the name of letting loose and being free.

Some might try to argue that because black art is now mainstream, the culture belongs to everyone. The mainstream popularity of black art and life doesn’t transfer to the highest bidder, nor does it mean the end of oppression for black people. Black people are the authority on what should and can be done with our culture. [JAC: Really? Did Benny Goodman need permission to play jazz?] In 2018, white people cannot seem to fathom that there are limits to what they can do. They act as though, through small acts of claiming black culture, they are exempt from the harmful implications of racism on black people.

The cultural appropriation trope is simply divisive and xenophobic, and almost never a sign of racism. Yes, of course there’s still racism, and we need to root it out, but the hill you want to die on is not named “Mount Dreadlocks.”

85 Comments

  1. Linda Calhoun
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I have a suggestion about attendance at cultural festivals.

    Stay home.

    Maybe if they’re boycotted by everyone, except perhaps members of whatever culture is being featured, they will collapse.

    Then, when all of the vendors who hoped to make some money, and all of the people who hoped to foster understanding see that they’re failing, we can start over again, remembering what the original purpose was.

    L

  2. Dave
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure “Chance the Rapper” would have been delighted to perform his Portland gig in front of a virtually empty stadium. He’d go home happy in the knowledge that 12,000 horrid white people weren’t appropriating his culture.

    • Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Ms. Miller doesn’t even consider that Chance the Rapper should avoid doing concerts in mostly white cities or putting “For Blacks Only” on the tickets.

  3. W.T. Effingham
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    “It was his biggest show of the year in one of the whitest cities on the tour. About 12,000 people…” The performer appears to have broad appeal.

  4. Joe Dickinson
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I was going to suggest that the commentator ask some of the performers whether they resent non-black audience members enjoying black culture.

  5. James
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I think there’s some justification for black folks using “nigger” among each other. It’s in the American tradition–“Yankee” started off as a slur against us, as did the donkey/elephant of the political parties. We have a long history of saying “Our enemies want to call us that? Fine–that’s what we’re called!” and wearing those labels as badges of honor. That said, no one pretended that the British or the Confederates had no right to use the term. We just made it irrelevant.

    What disturbs me most, however, is that this woman seems to genuinely believe that white people are inherently violent and bloodthirsty. Note that she talks about being afraid of what these people would do if they were “uninhibited”. She’s afraid of white people “being that free”. She genuinely seems to think that white people are dangerous and must be restrained in some way–in a way that she doesn’t think black people are. That’s frankly terrifying. Someone who thinks like that would see no problem with nearly ANY actions taken to protect them from the Other.

    • Ty Gardner
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      True, she seems to have the same level of hysteria as those white people who keep calling the cops because there is a person of color in their neighborhood. What in the hell is wrong with people?

      • James
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        The cynic in me says that the attempts to segregate cultures has created an Us vs. Them mentality. The hysteria we’re seeing was common in cultures where such a mentality dominated–including various areas and eras of USA culture. Once you see another race as Other, you see nearly any action by a member of that race as hostile. Cultural appropriation, microagressions, and the like only make matters worse because they amount to teaching people to view the Other in the worst possible light.

      • Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, it sucks to be stereotyped, right?

    • Laurance
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Time was when “queer” was a bigoted and abusive word. We LGBT types used it among ourselves, but it was hurtful when straight people used it against us.

      That said, I remember a time when a woman “straightsplained” (does this word exist yet?) to me why queer people could not use that word.

      But nowadays I see “queer” being used as a non-abusive term for a particular bunch of people. Like “Yankee”…

      That said, I remember when I went to Texas and got called a Yankee. It didn’t feel abusive, but I did feel that my difference was being pointed out.

      • Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Reminds me of when I moved to Salt Lake City for 3 months to take a job. Some of my straitlaced coworkers called me a “Hollywood type”. I never knew whether they were serious or not.

      • James
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        There’s at least one example of this going the other way that deserves to be pointed out: retarded. It started out as a clinical term, an attempt to discuss mental health issues absent the normal stigma. When it got into the vernacular, it….did not go well.

        I’m a Northerner that transplanted to the Deep South. My differences are obvious when I open my mouth–I make no attempt at a Southern accent (because I’m horrible with accents other than “Small Town Ohio”). Can’t say it’s ever had much affect on my life, though. I’ve never felt like people looked down on me or anything. Most are mildly curious about where I grew up, the way that I may be mildly curious if someone wore a hat with a marine or army symbol on it.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I remember many good years of MoTown music but fortunately there was no Huff Post to screw it up.

    • Richard
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 3:28 am | Permalink

      I suppose now I’m not allowed to listen to my Motown greatest hits CDs. Damn! Or is it OK just as long as I don’t sing along with them? This gets so confusing…

  7. Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    At least you’re protected by the First Amdendment. In the UK it has been deemed a criminal offence for a white person to quote rap lyrics containing the word “nigga”, even if you have no intention whatsoever of causing offence by doing so.

    Yes, really, it actually has, I’m not making this up!

    • Richard
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 3:30 am | Permalink

      And we wonder why the police no longer have the time to investigate burglaries.

    • Richard
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      And people wonder why the police say they no longer have the time to investigate burglaries.

  8. Ty Gardner
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure you don’t use the word heeb to refer to other Jews (on side note, I didn’t even know that kike referred to Jews, but I grew up on the west coast and don’t understand many racist words that don’t refer to blacks or hispanics).
    It might be interesting to note that there is at least one instance of such behavior from Jews, though it is self-referential and may be similar in some ways to blacks using the n-word amongst themselves. NOFX, an irreverent band with no boundaries, has an album called: White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean. I guess they avoided controversy to some extent because the have no black members.

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Twas ever thus.

    I remember watching Blackboard Jungle on the late show as a kid when Glenn Ford broke it down for Sidney Poitier and Vic Marrow and the other juvenile delinquents, how one Irishman can call another “Mic” or one Pole another “Polack,” but let an outsider try it, you got a street fight on your hands:

    http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/239183/Blackboard-Jungle-Movie-Clip-We-Want-Morales-.html

  10. bbenzon
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I rather suspect that the white audience for hip hop is considerably larger than the black audience, and has been so for two if not three decades. Which means that most of the money black hip hop performers make comes from the pockets of white fans. What would happen to hip hop economics if white people boycotted it?

  11. Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Eh, count me as a white guy who sometimes sings along to rap music but never repeats the word “nigger” even if I’m 100% sure that no one can hear me and even though I know I’m just being a parrot spouting song lyrics.

    I know it sucks that words have power and that sometimes we white folk get preached at (*eye roll*), but I’m gonna let them have this one.

    I went to see the movie “Blindspotting” which is largely about the relationship between a black man and a white man who grew up in the same neighborhood in Oakland as good friends. The black man often refers to his white friend as “nigger”, but the white man never says the word to his friend. This comes up at a crucial moment in the film when they both realize that the word implies something different depending on whose mouth it comes from.

    When the black guy says it, it is a sign of respect to his white friend (“you are like me”), but if the white man were to use it, it would only highlight the differences between them.

    • Cicely berglund
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Right on.
      Can we not revel in and appreciate the complexities of communication? Rather than regarding words like little bullets that have only a single meaning or function. We revel in the absurd variety of species and mimicry in the natural world. Communication could be understood the same way. Otherwise we might all walk along the street with explanatory descriptions of ourselves- boundaries not to be messed with; a culture of micro laws.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        “Right on” — whaddya figure is the etymology on that one, sister? 🙂

        • Cicely berglund
          Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

          Makes my point-eh? Words change in meaning, impact, depending upon what you make of them. I have come to the conclusion that there is no cure for being human and you might as well relax and have a good time and try to be kind.🇧🇹 (what flag is this anyway?)

    • Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      If I recall correctly, Eminem never uses the word. He’s probably as immersed in hip-hop culture more than any other white man.

      • Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        Eminem is undoubtedly considering his bottom line, just as Chance the Rapper is when booking a show in Portland.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    We can be sure that the author of the HuffPo column allows herself to appropriate the whole of white European medical science when she visits a physician or a dentist. But she without doubt assumes that everything in her environment, the medicine, the electricity, the cars, the tap water, the cellphones, the HuffPo…it all just happened, like rain or sun. She is of course free to reject it all, because of its origin in the wrong culture, but then we won’t read about that.

    • John Gibson
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      She might, however consider the idea that medical science is inherently white to be problematic.
      Are there no black scientists or physicians in your world?

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Of course there are, NOW. But the basic discoveries underlying the whole structure were, without exception, made in a culture Brandi Miller pretends to reject.

        • ladyatheist
          Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          There were in the past, too. The fact that most people assume there weren’t is part of why there needs to be a Black History Month.

          • JP415
            Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

            a non-white person using the Internet is a form of cultural appropriation.

    • JP415
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      Amen!

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Look, if black people want white people to stop using that word, then they need to stop using it themselves.

    Which is why Richard Pryor (who probably did more than anyone to popularize the word as a matter of black argot) famously quit using it after his trip to Africa. Not all black comedians agreed, however, including Pryor’s former writing partner, Paul Mooney. Whole thing got comicsplained in this interview on NPR (which is, I gotta say, about the whitest place ever on my tuning dial). 🙂

    • Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      As someone once pointed out, Richard Pryor made that decision at the same time he thought Superman III was a good career move.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and he made The Toy after deciding that crack-smokin’ & rum 151 would make a nice pairing. 🙂

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    About the only thing I disagree with in this post is that I suspect Ms. Miller may really have felt scared at the concert.
    I can think of a few cases where cultural appropriation has been damaging (such as Pat Boone singing black songs so they can get played on Southern radio stations- his rendition of Little Richard’s “Good golly Miss Molly” must be heard to be believed), but they are generally a minority, albeit damaging.

    That said, I think culturally appropriation like sex is a matter of individual but not social justice commentator consent, so if Chance is cool (or ‘down’) with his mainly white audience singing along with his lyrics, then that is his call.

    I suppose I may be operating to a degree in rampant anti-blackness, but that aspect of our culture does not inform me individually at all. (Like Christians who say they are in the world but not of it, I consider myself to be in a semi-racist culture but not of it.)

    The one sentence of Ms. Miller I find the expecially troubling is
    “They act as though, through small acts of claiming black culture, they are exempt from the harmful implications of racism on black people.”
    Now, if she means that some folks appreciate black art but do little or not enough to address the moral problem of American racism, then I suppose she is correct. But surely there are also people very engaged deeply in anti-race work who also appreciate black music.

    Ironically, I just yesterday saw one of the better productions I have witnessed of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” by African-American Shakespeare. Their use of an all black cast often enhances their productions. I’ll concede to Ms. Miller that this often works more constructively when appropriating up than the other way, but not universally.
    But let’s look at three examples that seem to me to be different.

    1) It would be an obscene disaster to stage a white production of “For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the Rainbow is Enuf”!!
    2) It is profoundly problematic to have a gifted white actor like Laurence Olivier play Othello, but it isn’t quite the obscenity as my first example. The current ban on such productions is IMO wise. (Olivier went on to do a similar but absurd performance as a black Muslim warrior-chief in the film “Khartoum” as the nemesis of Charlton Heston’s character in the same movie.)
    3) However, Benny Goodman’s jazz remains one of the great contributions to American culture (and race relations) of the 20th century and is a superbly chosen example by JAC.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      “I think culturally appropriation like sex …”

      You mean that, like pizza, even when they’re bad, they’re still kinda good?

    • James
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Regarding your discussion of permission to use certain words/phrases: How do you imagine that working out? For example–if I’m listening to his music on the radio, having heard it a few times but not looking into it in any depth, am I allowed to sing along?

      The problem is that there are times when you don’t know what the artist wants, because the communication happens from the artist to the listener but is usually initiated by the listener. There is no reason to presume that I know anything about any musician I listen to, other than that they are the authors for these songs. So how do I get permission from the artist?

      This is broader than this one case, by the way. YouTube and Heather Dale have continuously fought over this issue. She has openly stated, on at least one CD (Perpetual Gift) and in at least one video on YouTube, that she is fine with people making music videos from her songs–she considers it advertisement. YouTube, on the other hand, considers it copyright infringement (HD owns the sole copyright to her music, producing it herself) and has a nasty habit of removing her music. This is a similar issue: YouTube needed to make a judgment call regarding what the musician wanted, but had no data with which to do so (at least until they started ignoring it).

      What is the cultural default?

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        Excellent points!
        I guess I would be addressing mainly the issue of publicly singing along with an artist at a paid-for concert. In the privacy of your home, do as you please.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      “It is profoundly problematic to have a gifted white actor like Laurence Olivier play Othello,”

      Why?

      Othello was a Moor. The Moors were north African, berbers, from (I think) the mediterranean fringes. Probably what we’d call ‘arabs’.

      But most certainly not ‘black’.

      If you want to be purist then only someone of ‘arabic’ descent should play Othello. A ‘black’ person would be just as ‘problematic’ as a northern European like Olivier.

      Umm, Googling produces an interesting article from, amazingly, PuffHo:
      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-arogundade/othello-shakespeare-ethnicity_b_1444790.html

      It seems the actual ethnicity of Othello – as intended by Shakespeare – has long been a matter of debate.

      So if someone wants to have Othello played by a transvestite Korean – what of it?

      cr

      • ladyatheist
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Europeans called all black people moorish, if I recall correctly.

      • Posted July 31, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        I doubt if any Moors played Othello back in Shakespeares day. Mind you, there werent any women in the theatre either. Purism can lead people to odd places

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 31, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        There was a period of time in the mid-19th century when performances of Othello interpreted him as Arabic, but before and after that he was generally presupposed to be sub-Saharan black regardless of the ambiguities of the text.

        (Othello is referred to as black a fewtimes in the play, although this is acknowledged as inadequate evidence for a clear racial classification.

        However, the strongest evidence for Othello being really black is when Brabantio accuses Othello of witchcraft to make Desdemona love him, saying it is “unnatural” for Desdemona to desire Othello’s “sooty bosom”.)

        Either way, Olivier is definitely playing him as a black sub-Saharan African regardless of the ambiguities of the text or earlier interpretations!!

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

          Okay, in that case I modify my criticism. If Olivier was playing ‘Othello’ as black African, I was unaware of that.

          The original Othello, on which Shakespeare based his play, was apparently a Moorish general in the Venetian army, so almost certainly Arab rather than ‘black’ African. In other words, if Shakespeare meant ‘black African’ then he got it wrong, historically speaking.

          cr

    • Taz
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      About the only thing I disagree with in this post is that I suspect Ms. Miller may really have felt scared at the concert.

      At a Chance concert in Portland? I doubt it.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 31, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I’ve known lots of people with fears that are quite hard to explain or justify from another point of view.

        I could be wrong.

    • revelator60
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      The role of Othello was originally written for a white actor and was predominantly played by them for hundreds of years afterwards. Nowadays for an actor of one race to play another is “problematic,” though surely the essence of acting is playing something different from yourself.

      Olivier’s Othello was a profoundly daring performance—an attempt to seriously play someone of another race, not to give a minstrel show turn. Though the performance may seem stagy on DVD, it is still a searing and powerful acting job of embodying racial otherness.

      The best argument against a white actor playing Othello—that it deprives a black actor of doing so—was not relevant in this case. Olivier had no interest in the role until Kenneth Tynan, the National Theatre’s dramaturge, persuaded him to do so. It was the last major Shakespearean role Olivier hadn’t played and Tynan wanted to see him in it. To prohibit a great actor from playing a Shakespearean stage role because of his race would be discrimination from any angle, not to mention stupid.

  15. Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Bless me, dear Culture Police, for I have sinned and continue to sin. I love jazz music. All this woke cultural appropriation stuff is above my pay grade. I will have to burn in Hades for my sins.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      My version of Pascal’s Wager is that — on the off chance I’m wrong about the ultimate nature of the universe — I still try to live a life that’ll get me to the bottom rung of Purgatory. 🙂

  16. dd
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    What if it were Asians or Hispanic saying that word, Would it be ok?

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      They also have a history of racism but were never slave holders or lynch mob members, so it’s a toss-up.

      • Posted July 31, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Sorry to disagree with you. Asians and the
        American ancestors of hispanics had slaves.
        I would also suspect that there were lynch mobs or their equivalent. I do know that ritual warfare and sacrifices took place in great numbers in the Americas. Remember the shock the Spanish encountered in what later became Mexico City when they saw the priests sacrificing victims, cutting out their hearts, blood running down the stones of the pyramids and the decorative skull racks (one of which was recently found in Mexico City.)

        We must remember that black slaves are not the only slaves there have been. Slavery has been part of human “culture” almost forever.
        There are rules for it in the Koran and the Bible. Probably other religious documents too.

  17. Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Is it racist for white people to use the n-word?

    What white people should do is pay black people money to entertain us by using the n-word for our pleasure and amusement

    Nothing racist about that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      A return to minstrelsy was the premise of Spike Lee’s (much underappreciated) film Bamboozled.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      A big reason why I won’t listen to rap.

      • Taz
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        My reasons have more to do with being old.

  18. Posted July 30, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I take it white people are allowed to sing Stephen Foster songs.

    His songs are the most famous American songs of all time, and they were written by a white man for white people to sing.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      … in blackface. They were called “coon songs” in their time. Those songs?

      • Taz
        Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        That’s a pretty big generalization. Stephen Foster did not just write songs for minstrel shows.

  19. Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Ellington,who knew a thing or two about Jazz, called it a synthesis of Black rhythms and White theory. And it was integrated from the get-go.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      The people weren’t integrated in jazz, especially big bands. Benny Goodman’s band was 100% white. Ellington & Basie had 100% black bands. Even in the beginning there were white bands and black bands. Paul Whiteman’s band was indeed all white men.

      • revelator60
        Posted July 31, 2018 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Paul Whiteman tried bringing African American musicians into his band in the late 1920s but was prevented from doing so by his management, who said that would cause immense problems in the south. He compensated by commissioning arrangements from African American musicians.

        I learned all that from Gary Giddins’s introduction to the Criterion Blu-Ray of “King of Jazz,” a dazzling film revue starring Whiteman and his band (including a very young Bing Crosby). A highly recommended movie!

  20. Paul S
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m not into hip hop but if they try to take away Stevie Wonder we’re going to have a problem.

  21. Posted July 30, 2018 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I am a big fan of various groups (countries, races, faiths, etc.) doing “business” with each other as the best, and perhaps only, way to defuse tension and eliminate racism. A bunch of white people going to rap concert is a great example of such a unifier. Of course, one concert is not going to erase hundreds of years of oppression and racism but it’s a step in the right direction.

    On the other hand, governments like the current US one, by seeking regime change in Iran over a peace agreement, are taking the opposite tack by using confrontation. This is ironic since the Iranian people seek democracy and strong ties with the US.

    Perhaps there’s an analogy here. Brandi Miller and people like her are dividers like Trump. It’s a failed and wrong approach to bringing people together and solving problems.

  22. CAS
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Cooperation and cultural appropriation have driven the rise of civilization. Maybe only Jews should be allowed to use GPS since it requires the use of both Special and General relativity! Over use of social media has given rise to a new destructive culture of shame that inhibits the freedom of individuals.

  23. Posted July 30, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    “Why white people aren’t allowed to sing along to rap music” – I consider that a kindness…

    rz

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Is that a kindness to rappers or a kindness to white people? (vbeg)

      Or, possibly, both.

      cr

  24. Posted July 30, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    About a year ago I had paid a rare visit to a record store. At the time the music playing was one of the coolest, hippest rap songs I had ever heard. I asked the cashier what it was, and they said ‘Tupac Shakur, California Love‘. I bought the song on iTunes, and I have it on one of my favorite play lists. The layers of music are pretty amazing. A lot of debate can be had, back and forth, about white cultural appropriation. But in the end Art will leak out of its boundaries and be absorbed by other peoples and cultures. The process simply cannot be stopped. Pushing ‘thou shalt nots’ about it is pointless.

  25. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    “Look, if black people want white people to stop using that word, then they need to stop using it themselves. If they want to reserve use of that word for themselves, then they’ll have to put up with other people using it when they sing rap songs. Are we supposed to just hum when we get to that word?”

    I quite agree. If a word is in common usage by some people, then other people are going to use it too.

    Otherwise you get absurdities like “Jehovah” so beautifully lampooned by the Pythons **
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYkbqzWVHZI

    Anyway, apropos of “n*****”, years ago I went to see a performance of ‘Vagina Monologues’ which includes the ‘cunt’ song – that is, a sing-along song to the tune of Frere Jacques, but it only had a one-word lyric. I must say I found myself unexpectedly inhibited singing that word in public (though Jehovah knows, I use it often enough when working on my car).

    cr

    (** It has just occurred to me that Life of Brian had a cast of (probably) non-Jews and hundreds of Tunisian – so probably Muslim – extras posing as Jews, and doubtless most of the ‘Romans’ weren’t of Italian descent either. Shocking cultural appropriation.)

    • James
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      “…and doubtless most of the ‘Romans’ weren’t of Italian descent either.”

      Not in this case. “Roman” merely meant a citizen of Rome. This was a bit more complex than, say, whether someone is a citizen of the USA or not, but it ended up meaning that folks of all kinds of different races became Roman. And Rome knew this, and knew that joining the legions was the best way to get citizenship. Since Rome was constantly either warring with or hiring folks from the boardering nations they tended to take newly-joined soldiers, split them up into multiple legions, and send those legions into new and exciting places. Remember, Rome stretched from Gibraltar and Scotland to Jerusalem and Egypt.

      Oh, and Romans respected other cultures. There are stories of Roman legions praying to the gods of their enemies for victory. And as long as you were willing to pay taxes and pay lip service to the Roman gods, they generally didn’t care after you were conquered. They let trade and the general mixing that occurs once an area the size of Europe opens up for trade destroy your culture.

      A proper Roman legion of this time period would be a SJW wet dream, honestly. With, of course, some horrifically notable exceptions.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 31, 2018 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        I stand corrected about the Romans. I must admit I’m not entirely surprised about that. Interestingly, the French Foreign Legion is/was a recent counterpart to that.

        But I think my point still stands about the ‘Jews’ in the movie, who were almost entirely played by people who weren’t Jewish.

        cr

  26. max blancke
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    It is not really about hurt or real offense. It is about getting off on policing the behavior of others. Clearly, anyone who pays to attend the concert, and knows the words to the song, is a fan, and not doing anything in a mean spirited way, or intending to cause offense.
    Reacting to the scolding and demands of submission with appeasement will always lead to increasingly absurd demands.
    Refusing to submit might encourage the scolds to find personal fulfillment through other means.
    Really, do you think this sort of thing increases or decreases racial harmony?

  27. JB
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Last May Kenrick Lamar performed in front of a mostly-white audience, and actually _invited a white fan_ on to the stage to sing one of his songs with “nigger” in the lyrics. Once she said the word, he stopped her and chastised her. Felt kind of like a set-up so he could make a point…

    What a silly world we live in.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      That is inexcusable. Setting someone up and then publicly shaming them for going along with it. That would be a good reason for boycotting Lamar permanently.

      cr

  28. JP415
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a solution to the problem: white people can simply stop listening to rap music altogether. I’m white and I have no interest in rap at all — I think it’s harsh, repetitive, and ugly. I don’t go to rap concerts or buy rap albums, so therefore there’s no risk of cultural appropriation of any kind.

    I hope my solution makes Brandi Miller happy.

  29. Christopher
    Posted July 30, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Guess I can’t sing along to Hurricane. Bob Dylan is such a cultural appropriationist!

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Half the credit (or appropriation blame, as the case may be 🙂 ) for “Hurricane” goes to Jacques Levy.

  30. Posted July 31, 2018 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Where does Eminem fit into all this I wonder????

  31. Deodand
    Posted July 31, 2018 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    Of course it depends on just whose culture you are appropriating. It seems that Afrocentric notions about just who the Native Americans are descended from (Hint: It wasn’t Asians…) have finally left the African Studies departments and moved into the general education sphere.

    This article by a ‘woke’ archaeologist whose spent much digital ink slamming Whites for saying dumb things about the origins of Native Americans, but not one word about Afrocentrist nonsense says it all.

    https://www.andywhiteanthropology.com/blog/nations-4th-largest-metropolitan-school-district-teaching-kids-that-olmecs-were-africans

  32. Posted July 31, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Who counts as “white”?

    • Posted July 31, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Who counts as “black”? Or “yellow”? Or “brown”? Why should skin color be used as a determinant of what is culturally appropriate vs. appropriated? A great many “white” people probably have more “black” ancestry than they realize or know about. A great many “black” people aren’t by genetic heredity exclusively “black”. Are we going to go back to the 1/16th rule to determine who’s “black”. Maybe the rule now is whether or not you can use the word “nigger”.

      I was an exceptionally white, sickly looking asthmatic kid who looked even whiter in a classroom containing many hispanic and asian kids. My veins showed through my skin like blue highways on a map. My blue highways are still visible, but as an ancient, I now have enough sun damage to be amply polka dotted by freckles; not a sickly white any more.

      None of the colors matter if we can learn to be more loving and inclusive of differences.

    • James
      Posted July 31, 2018 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      If the pencil falls out of your hair, you’re white.

  33. Posted August 31, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    This whole argument is utter bullshit. “Don’t repeat offensive racial slurs” is not the same as “you’re not allowed in hip-hop culture.” Music is diverse and inclusive. It always will be. It shares culture with the world, and it welcomes people in. If you’re trying to use music and art to exclude, then you’re doing it wrong.


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