It seems as if everything in society has to have a deeper meaning; nothing can simply exist at face value. Whether it be an event, television show, movie, or song, – there will always be two groups contesting the entity, one in favor and one in a crusade against it.
I wholeheartedly acknowledge, respect, and understand the need for and strength of a “question everything” mentality. Especially since we might be significantly more ignorant and foolish as a people if we didn’t question almost everything. What is troubling, however, is the conflict of multiple mediums like movies, music and jokes remaining pure. I remember being younger and watching standup comedy videos on YouTube. In those times, I could sit in front of the computer and laugh unapologetically for hours. I find it much more difficult to have that experience today. I observed videos with comedians like Kat Williams commenting on race, sexuality, and every politically and socially controversial aspect of life in between. Now, with every piece of media I encounter, two distinct sides of me materialize. The first side is a more innocent me, one that just wants to laugh and appreciate a good joke or parody. The other half just has the desire of wanting to slap the other for being so naive and accepting of a piece of media that could easily be perceived as culturally degrading garbage.
I’m not sure how true this is for everyone else, but as a black young man, the two contradicting personalities I mentioned before are in constant battle with each other, every hour of the day. And while arguing with others can be easy, an internal verbal battle with yourself will prove to be quite difficult.
Decades after the struggle for racial equality, we are still very much fighting that war. Ignorance is sweeping the globe. Bigotry is not just black and white racism anymore, as a grey area has formed, building a divide between those that can grasp the concept of white privilege and those who can’t. For me, it gets harder and harder everyday to listen to artists like Chief Keef, watch shows like “Blackish,” and to be unbothered by close friends and their use of the term, “nigga,” without feeling like I’m doing myself and my race a disservice. I love Chief Keef, I moderately like “Blackish,” and I personally don’t feel enflamed when a close non-black friend says “nigga” (most of the time). However, despite my personal feelings on these matters, I feel as if I should be more upset.
So here I am, 20 year old black me, dancing in front of the mirror to songs like 2 Chainz’s Used 2, songs with lyrics that would make my mother’s eyes pop out of their sockets, songs with sexual references and violent imagery that would make her lips wrinkle as she prepared to yell at me to, “Turn that shit off.” But there I am, dancing away because this vulgar song contributed to the wealth of a black artist.
Who’s right and who’s wrong in these types of situations is unimportant. Am I supposed to just enjoy the music that is arguably holding black men like myself back and appreciate it for the catchy melodies and mood-amplifying bass that these songs provide or am I supposed to feel outraged and curse the names of the white record label “owners” of the black music culture, the ones who seem to support this music because it keeps us disadvantaged and ignorant. It’s hard not to listen to Chief Keef’s music and smile because it’s good and it brought him a great deal of success and opportunity. In a perfect world, black people would have control of every industry they’re primarily involved in, but that isn’t going to happen for a while.
I hate feeling as if I’m not as “woke” as the man or woman sitting next to me, the ones who put together eloquent Facebook status, think pieces, and other creative projects together to combat these modern day racial and social injustices. I hate that feeling because my eyes are very much open to the plights that face people of color everyday, I live it. This however, does not mean that I will feel enraged every time I see a vine of a white person doing the “Dougie” or “Milly Rocking” on whatever block they live on, primarily because there are greater more important acts of appropriation or racial degredation to advocate against. There is power in fighting the smaller battles, but maybe we need to broaden our scope of methods for action and understanding. Social media today gives a voice to everyone with the click of a button and it’s a beautiful tragedy. All of our opinions are invaluable (as long as you’re not shooting for it), even the ones we perceive as wrong, until we accept that, progress will be very difficult.