White hip-hop fans: don’t change the song, listen and adapt

I’m white.

For almost the entirety of my life, I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of things in life because of that fact.

I’ve been allowed to listen to loud music in my car with the windows rolled down.

I’ve been able to buy and sell cigarettes,

I’ve even been able to run around my neighborhood with my brothers while holding airsoft guns without being murdered by police because of a misunderstanding.

For most of my life, I’ve also been a hip-hop fan. The first two rappers I ever fell in love with were Kanye West and Biggie Smalls. For me, it was the smooth rhythm of their flow that commanded my admiration as the beats they rapped over that drew me in.

I could still hear “Jesus Walks,” playing in my iPod as I walked to my next class in high school.

“Getting choked by detectives yeah, yeah, now check the method. They be asking us questions, harass, and arrest us Saying “We eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast!” Huh! Y’all eat pieces of shit? What’s the basis?”

To me, this offered a form of escapism from whatever dumb thing I was worried about back then. I thought the lyrics and the lifestyle were cool so I tried to emulate it by becoming a rapper with my best friend Shawn K.

But the thing is, these lyrics weren’t real to me.

My skin color allowed me the luxury of not having to deal with police brutality and it still lets me get away with it. As a white lover of rap music, we need to acknowledge this privilege and we need to use it for something good.

George Floyd was murdered by police

For eight minutes he pleaded with them to ease up.

They refused.

Now, days after a white woman threatened to a black man in New York, months after Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by two white men who thought he looked suspicious and years after Eric Garner was choked to death, the African community has come together in protest and sometimes riot.

This is not the cause of the violence/tension with the police and the community. This is a symptom.

People are hurt, scared and angry.

If you are a white person who loves rap music and claims to support the culture you can help begin the healing. The lyrics written above aren’t just words on a piece of paper. It could happen to any person of color at any time. This is the reality that your favorite artist is living through — now it’s time to show how much you really support them and get involved.

We have to use our platforms to boost minorities trying to be heard by a government that otherwise ignores them. We have to have conversations with our friends who say that their anger is silly or that they’re “thugs.” We need to do something other than listen to the songs our favorite artists write about as a result of these protests.

We can help these cries for help be heard.

Simply put: we can’t hide behind the wall of our privilege anymore. Otherwise, we’re cowards and hypocrites who don’t deserve the music that African Americans have given us. If you turn your back, if you don’t say something — you’re letting George Floyd’s murder mean nothing and the cycle will continue again in another four years.

Here’s a quote that’s being passed around that perfectly sums up what I am trying to say: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. — Desmond Tutu a human rights activist in South Africa during apartheid.

If you don’t understand what’s going on, why there are protests, why there are riots. Then ask. Educate yourself so that you may improve and make it better for the future.

This won’t go away by pressing skip.

You won’t be able to change the playlist when you’re done with it.

This time it’s different.

This time their voices will be heard and we need to help them.

This story was originally published at TheDailyHamilton.blogspot.com

Alex Kamczyc is an award winning journalist covering politics and culture in Cleveland. He studied at Kent State University under Connie Schultz.