I had brought this video up in class a week or two ago and I thought I would share it now. It’s definitely worth watching even if you don’t want to read the rest of the post. Some background: The rapper Trinidad James was invited to CNN tonight after video surfaced online of a white SAE frat mom using the n-word multiple times while singing along to James’ music. What happened next was ridiculous, and at times, comical. Conservative Ben Ferguson really digs himself into a hole. My personal favorite part is 1:57 – “Did you just say that the n-word has become racially divisive?!?!”
While this video may cause some of you to laugh, I think it also carries significance. We recently read The Classic Slave Narratives, and I think we would all agree that the origin of this word was horrendous. The greater point that I would like to highlight is the one raised by Marc Lamont Hill in the video. The only white correspondent on the show (Ferguson) is trying to tell the other (black) correspondents what they should/shouldn’t say. In a covert way, he could be seen as trying to maintain a monopoly on a word that white people have used to yield power over blacks for years. Hill confronts him when says, “Listen. Listen for a minute. This is the problem, when we start talking about issues about race and racism, sometimes white people need to just listen.” This is a very powerful statement but one that I agree with.
When it comes to any marginalized group, they are always going to be the experts on what it means to be a part of that marginalized group. When you fail to check your privilege what you’re doing is you’re saying “I don’t feel included” or “I feel left out.” I’m going to insert myself into something that I (probably) know nothing about. I am going to make this about myself, and belittle your pain, and make a joke out of your lived experience. It’s simple really, Black Lives > White Feelings (or replace this with whatever tickles your fancy – Women’s Safety > Men’s Feelings, Muslim’s Lives> American’s Feelings, etc.) While I think a lot of the students in our class can agree that our ultimate goal should be equality for EVERYONE, I feel that first and foremost it needs to be about equality for the marginalized. If you want to support social justice or a particular social movement, you don’t turn it into a contest – you don’t assess it’s value based on what you can get out of it.
I think I misspoke in class so I want my position to be clear: I’m not saying that not belonging to a particular group means that you deserve to be excluded from a movement, or that you don’t get to be a part of the conversation. I’m saying that there is something very wrong with inserting yourself in and trying to mandate what the goals of a particular movement should be that you previously didn’t belong to. You need to realize that while you have been granted inclusion to the movement, the group to which it seeks to serve has most likely historically been excluded. Realize that making everything about yourself is insulting. Realize that you are not the victim here (or at least not the primary one). Saying that “black lives matter” does not imply that “white lives don’t.” Saying that women deserve to be respected does not entail disrespecting men.
With that I leave you with a quote from Russell Brand (someone I would’ve never expected to hear this from). Brand has garnered a bit of a reputation among women for being sexist/misogynistic, and he was asked if he would admit he only sees women in sexual terms to which he answered: “I don’t think I’m sexist- but like, I don’t know if I have some cultural hangover. I certainly don’t want to be sexist. If women think I’m sexist, then they’re in a better position to judge than I am. So I’d have to go ‘Oh alright. I’m sorry…I’ve work on that.'”