Everybody wanna be a n****, but don’t nobody wanna be a n**** ~ Paul Mooney
This quote has been sticking on my mind for a few weeks now. It’s not something that is new to me, but hearing it again recently put it into perspective. The idea that it’s cool to be black, unless you have to be black is not new concept; it’s just a system of appropriation. The appropriation of black culture has hit an all-time high. With people like Kim Kardashian, Iggy Azelea, Rachel Dolozal and countless others using their idea of black culture in order to get ahead I have to ask: What is their idea of black culture? Is it just the music? Is the just the fashion? Is it just the abilities we have athletically? What is it? And why is it that those are the only things that are taken from “black culture”? At the end of the day it’s simple “Everybody wanna be a n****, but don’t nobody wanna be a n****.” It’s easier to take the easy stuff and just apply it to your life. It’s easy to get some tanning oil, put some fix a flat in your body, get some Poetic Justice braids, and pretend to be black. Pretend to be “down,” but are you down when the bodies are dropping? Are you down when black men are being racially profiled or when black women are being overly sexualized? What part are you “down” with exactly?
I’m just trying to wrap my head around what you gain? Last time I checked being black in America was not on anyone’s priority list. So what is it? What is the allure of appropriating a culture that many have hated since they got here? Take for instance Rachel Dolezal. This woman blatantly embodied her view of what a black woman is. She attested that she had “gone there with the experience.” Being black isn’t an experience, it isn’t a lifestyle. She stated in an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC “I, from a very young age felt a spiritual, visceral, instinctual connection with black as beautiful, just the black experience, and wanting to celebrate that.” My thing is you can celebrate a culture without pretending to be a part of it. You can appreciate what African Americans have done for this country without arbitrarily placing yourself in the middle of it. That’s where I lose respect. That’s where I say enough is enough because essentially by doing so you are walking around with a modern version of blackface.
Let me just end with this PSA: Black culture is not just dancing, it is not just hairstyles, and it’s not just music. Black culture is centered around the idea of resilience, and the idea of standing up and standing out. But that’s not really the problem at the end of the day. What if those appropriating the culture stopped, just for one second, to look at the people that have made up the culture they “love” so much? What if they redirected their “love for the culture,” and transferred that same love to black people? What if they stopped pretending to be a “n****,” and started caring about what it really means to be African American in America.