Writes Jeremy Helligar: "Is it really fair to have actually one collection of rule for black color fans and another because that white fans?"


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In every the year I’ve been debating race and racism with white people, the many common an answer some have available in their own defense hinges on black color people’s use of the N-word.

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“If they can say it, why can’t we?”

It’s a question Kendrick Lamar could be listening a lot following an occurrence onstage may 20 at the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper, that headlined the three-day fest together with The Chainsmokers and The Killers, invited a team of people from the crowd for a rap-along come his 2012 single “m.A.A.d. City.” things were going an excellent until one young fan, a white female who introduced herself together Delaney, acquired the lyrics a little too right.


After she yielded the lines in i beg your pardon the N-word is repeated several times, Lamar ended up being visibly angry, told the pan that a “bleep” was in order (suggesting that, really, she should have known better) and ultimately booted her from the stage.

“It’s over,” that said, finishing her much less than 15 minutes of fame. (Watch video captured from the audience below.)

rip delaney
kendricklamar pic.twitter.com/GATaVPli5F

— taylor (
taylormprince11) may 21, 2018

Response has been mixed. Some have actually accused the young girl of being insensitive and foolishly failing to understand the potential ramifications of a white human being using the N-word. Meanwhile, others have wondered why Lamar didn’t use a much more lyrically neutral tune for the rap-along when branding that a hypocrite for practicing what the preaches against.

I think both sides have valid points. As I shot to describe whenever white people an obstacle me ~ above black use of the N-word, particularly in the rap and hip hop community, it’s all around context. It’s like the difference between a guy using the B-word versus a woman and another woman doing the same.

The heritage of racism in the United states revolves about the N-word and how plenty of in the white ar have historically provided it as a linguistic weapon against black Americans. It’s together bracing a reminder as cotton, chains and Confederacy memorabilia that what our ancestors withstood for centuries.

Even today, for plenty of of us, as soon as a white human utters the N-word, it’s like the sound that a whip slapping the earlier of a slave. Since of its invited history, it will never ever be OK because that white civilization to usage the N-word (not also if it’s Eminem, despite he inexplicably seems to obtain a pass from the hip hop community), no issue what the circumstance.

In current decades, part blacks have actually co-opted the word that some whites tho use versus them together an almost term of endearment because that their fellow African-Americans, often editing and enhancing it come “nigga,” presumably to dilute it defeating effect. It’s a way of taking a weapon that retained African-Americans beaten under mentally for generations and also embracing it, hence robbing the of its terrible power.

While I understand the psychology behind this, clearly it hasn’t worked. There’s no gaining past the devastating power that the N-word, and Lamar’s reaction to Delaney and also the round of boos she obtained underscore just just how hurtful it continues to be today. But are blacks partially to blame because that its continued dominance in the American vernacular?


The existing widespread success the rappers prefer Lamar and also J Cole, whose latest album KOD is peppered through the N-word, wouldn’t be feasible without the assistance of white fans. And as any chart-watcher knows, the advertisement viability that music counts on the capacity of listener to recreate the melody and mimic the lyrics.

If you room going to accept royalties from album sales and also concert revenue native both black and also white fans, you can’t legitimately suppose them to consume your music differently. Would certainly Lamar have reacted the same way to a black color fan? walk he yes, really think a starstruck teenage girl who probably has never been in front of together a huge crowd would certainly instinctively understand that she was supposed to censor herself once he doesn’t? Is it yes, really fair to have one set of rule for black fans and another for white fans?

Teens space impressionable, even if it is they’re white or black. As rap and hip hop continue to acquire in popularity, white children have significantly co-opted the style and mannerisms as well as the syntax and speech trends of its stars, in a sort of mass cultural appropriation. Delaney also referred to Lamar onstage as “bro,” which i personally find just together cringe-worthy as her nailing his lyrics.

It’s time because that rappers to rethink exactly how they provide their message. It wouldn’t lose any kind of of that lyrical might if castle dropped the N-word altogether. Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” would be just as potent with every one of the N-words removed. What do they add to the song’s article anyway?

If anything, lock detract indigenous it. Whites who don’t necessarily relate to the messages that socially mindful rap it is provided may acquire the impression the if Lamar is yes with dispersing the N-word, if Cole is cool with it, then possibly racism isn’t as much of an concern as blacks speak it is. Maybe the N-word is yes sir for everyone to use, after ~ all.

As Delaney found out the humiliating way at Hangout, nothing could be further from the truth. The N-word is as harmful and also hurtful together ever, and also it won’t be going far anytime soon.

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For that, the kings and also queens of rap and also hip hop have to accept several of the blame. It’s not also late to rotate things around, however if a change is gonna come, it could have to start with them.