Fellow white Americans who recite rap lyrics and/or have attempted to have their hair braided on a beach during a family vacation in the Caribbean: how many times has another white person shouted at you "HELLO? YOU'RE WHITE!" How many times have you inserted a "Yo" into your everyday jargon, only to be refuted by that same know-it-all white person who reminds you that you're "talking Black." You're not alone. You're me, minus the vacation cornrows because I'm a germaphobe. But we're similar.
I was invited to write about Black culture 15 years ago with my first published byline about hip-hop. It's a badge I wear proudly as a suburban kid who attended school in the inner city and was raised on rap music by my Black friends at school that I would share with my white friends on the block at home once the bell for dismissal rang. I've been called a "wigger" a "n****r lover" and (the best one yet) a white hater for my gravitation toward Black culture. You probably have too. And we fight for that right to love it. We fight to prove we are "soooo hip-hop" we fight the urge to scream "SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK" because we know that sounds even more racist than the chants around us. We overspeak about our allegiance to Black culture, but why are we silent when Black lives are taken?
And it's not just us. Our favorite people (well mine) the Kardashians come through with cornrows and gold teeth and cheeky jokes about their highly publicized preference for Black men, but it took Kim having a Black daughter to finally speak out. We shamefully bump that Justin Bieber, but where are ü now, Biebs? We shamelessly bump Eminem and give him the G.O.A.T. title for being the best out of his borrowed culture, and where is he? Both have dropped N-bombs on camera and survived unscathed but can't use their words to defend the culture that pays them.
Well, this is the culture that pays me. So I'm speaking out. I'm not speaking to Black people, though. This isn't some renewal for my Black card. This isn't for Facebook likes or Instagram hearts or retweets. This is because I'm sickened by the fact that we have to add two more hashtags to the pile: #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile. I'm sickened that people were outraged by Poussey being murdered by a police officer on Orange Is the New Black without correlating her death to real life.
You can speak out about Netflix but can't speak out about this? Maybe as a white person you're intimidated by the #BlackLivesMatter movement because you feel it doesn't include you. If that's the case, then maybe I should resign from BET because the "B" isn't me. Nah. My support is my voice, as it should be yours. You can be against police brutality without being against the police. You can be for Black people without being against white people. And just because you share a random "love all people" meme, it doesn't mean you're #woke. It's still tacit compliance if you're not sharing the reality of your Black friends with the bewildered white people around you. Don't have this conversation with Black people for that seal of approval; have it with the white people who need to hear it. We speak their language. Remove the "yo" if you must.
And to every reality TV star, white rapper, pop star using rap hands and business owner who pushes products influenced by Black culture, you need to come forward now. Because while imitation is the highest form of flattery, you have the privilege not to imitate the death scenes over a broken tail light. Keep that in mind.
(Photo: TEAM/GC Images)