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On I'm Not Racist

December 14, 2017

Joyner Lucas put this video out a little while ago and it has since gone viral. Several of my peers and countless across the country have praised the video as deep and inspiring, but I find it to be neither of those things. What I see is a well directed, well written, and well acted video that completely misses the mark on what I believe it set out to do. Let's start by breaking down the white guy's argument.

 

 

There are two main parts; the downfall of the white working class and perceived hypocrisy or disconnects between black culture and black activism.

 

While the struggle of the white working class is an issue of real and dire consequence, the causes of which are largely economic - highlighting the Government's and corporate America's willingness to put profit over livelihood, it does not exist in the same plane as the black struggle in this country. Furthermore, using that as a base for an argument in defense of an accused racist posture is irrelevant to the discussion; it serves as neither an effective explanation of or justification for the charges at hand. 

 

To address the usual points of black on black crime, crudeness of hip hop, and reliance on welfare or other forms of federal aid, these are all reflective of a deep lack of understanding regarding the context in which these issues exist and why some of them aren't really issues at all, just framed as such. This is indicative of a larger trend in these arguments, as quoted in the video, that people "wanna blame it all on everybody but your own race." What happened to the white working class is a product of 1. richer white people using poorer brown people to do more work for less money, 2. richer white people using machines and advances in technology do more work for free, and 3. richer white people deciding it's time to embrace globalization, where other qualified people from other countries can be identified to bring more value to their companies than you can.

 

It goes without saying that almost all negatives attributed to black communities by the white guy are rooted in or related to a history of cruelty, disenfranchisement, and exclusion by white people that ended in us becoming kind of equal in the far away time of the 1960s and then largely left to fend for ourselves. White people's continued denial, lack of understanding, or undermining of all these facts in favor of blaming immigrants, minorities, or high corporate tax rates for their respective problems makes for a completely illegitimate and ill-informed position. With all this considered, and also taking into account blatantly racist lines then qualified with "I'm not racist", I thought that the white guy's verse was almost a parody, ultimately meant to highlight this underlying lack of understanding. I expected this would all lead to a moment of "well, maybe I am racist" during the black guy's response.

 

Wrong, unfortunately. It became clear from the black guy's response that this was meant to be dead even exchange. Two positions, both viable, both reasonable, and both standing on their own merit. This is was further solidified by their embrace at the end of the video, both men hugging it out after laying all their cards on the table. The black guy even says "I'm not racist" a few times throughout the verse, not ironically or facetiously, but as a qualification to his responses. At the end of their respective verses they each say something to the effect of "there are two sides to every story, now you know mine" or "I wish I knew yours" and that's just, I don't know, that's not how this would've gone in real life nor should it happen like that with such a bogus argument.

 

I think I understand where he was trying to go with this. Dialogue is incredibly powerful and serves as a critical tool in us understanding one another, but if you don't have your facts straight first or have them straightened by the end, what have you learned? Joyner Lucas is a talented lyricist and the flow of each verse is pleasant to the ear, to be expected. However, the either intentionally excluded or disappointingly overlooked fact that these arguments are not equal can have negative implications regarding those who watch this, especially those who identify with the white guy's points.

 

But hey, at least he didn't buy a real MAGA hat.

 

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