“Everybody wanna be a nigga but nobody wanna be a nigga”
– Paul Mooney
Sooooo J. Cole just dropped the video for his new single, “MIDDLE CHILD,” and of course that MF is fuego. As always, Cole never disappoints when it comes to putting on for the culture, so hats off to him for not letting the culture down with this one.
First, if you haven’t seen the video, go do that shit right now.
The video is exactly what you’d expect from Cole. I’ve always been a fan of music videos especially the ones that draw parallels to real life experiences. Which brings us back to this piece, and more importantly, why it’s titled, “Culture Vultures.” Pretty much towards the end of the video, there’s a scene where a white woman freezes in awe when she notices a black women’s hairstyle.
The very next scene of the music video is the scene I wanted to examine a little further. In the next scene, that same white woman is seen in what appears to be a grocery store buying the black hairstyle that caught her attention in the previous scene.
The name of this piece is called “Culture Vultures,” for a specific reason. Buuuut, if you would just bear with me for a quick second as I map this whole thing out so you can get the entire picture… I started this piece off with a quote from Pual Mooney. “Everybody wanna be a nigga but nobody wanna be a nigga.”
Why, because it’s the God honest truth. Childish Gambino hinted at this when he dropped his video, “This is America.” You know, the video that recently won a Grammy for Best Music Video of 2018. It never ceases to amaze me how fascinated white America & pop-culture is with certain aspects of black culture, but willingly turns a blind eye to our oppression. I mean, the willingness for some wypipo to examine (almost with scientific precision) black dances, black fashion, all the so-called “entertaining” aspects of black culture while simultaneously ignoring the harsh realities that created those very same areas of black expression is astonishing to me bruh.
The music video for “This is America” had a shit ton of powerful imagery and symbolism about life, & more specifically, black life here in America. The underlining message I got from the video after watching it (thousands of times) was that the great majority of this nation is willing to overlook our violent oppression in exchange to only focus on the things that entertain them most.
What entertains them most? You know, shit like, our latest dance moves or using the latest buzzwords they saw on Black Twitter. Meanwhile, their fellow brothers and sisters (cause we’re all in this race of life together) are currently living in a very real police-state & circle of violence.
A political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.
Everybody and they momma dabbing but who’s willing to tell their aunty it’s time to stop calling the cops on black kids who “look” suspicious? A few, but not enough… I mean, “This is America,” a music video about this selective-possessive oppression, won a f*cking Grammy for “Best Music Video” the same year Stephon Clark was gunned down by police in his grandmother’s backyard… Of course, the cops involved won’t even be charged, so the green light to carry out extrajudicial killings continue with the blessings of the great majority.
“I’m terrified at the moral apathy — the death of the heart which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long, that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say, and this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters. It’s a terrible indictment — I mean every word I say.”
Since I kind of took it here, I gotta hit pause to give an S/O to Jordan Peele as well for hinting at this strange (somewhat possessive obsession) wypipo have with black culture in his first film “Get Out.” So “obsessed” one would be willing to somewhat start life over as a black person themselves…
Black life in America is currently and has always been, surrounded by violence and racial trauma. Rather the violence is physical or verbal, so-called self-inflicted or “cultural” is beside the point. The fact that violence and life in America as a black person is institutionally intertwined can’t be denied.
This fact of violence institutionally intertwining with black life was established with this nation’s original sin of slavery and has been maintained through racially motivated legislation like Jim Crow, & legal segregation, and currently lives on through the police-state that oppresses black & brown communities today.
Knowing this, and living through these realities can cause one to have serious trauma. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not list racial trauma or race-based stress as a disorder or mental illness, but please believe it’s a serious issue. Racial trauma or race-based stress can come from dealing with racial harassment, racial violence, &/or institutional racism.
Racial Trauma or Race-Based Stress is often compared to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as the symptoms are similar with irritability, hypervigilance, and depression. If we’re keeping it 100, the lack of recognition of the trauma that black people and other people of color suffer from in this country is really highlighted by the lack of recognition these realities receive from the DSM-5…
F*ck it, let’s keep it 1000, PTSD caused by racism, or racial trauma, is underrecognized due to a lack of awareness among clinicians, sure. It could also be because of a lack of validated measures for its assessment… But since we’re keeping it 1000, I think it’s because of the discomfort surrounding conversations about race in therapeutic settings, and in the medical field in general… And they wonder why we chant, “Black Lives Matter…”
Before we move forward, I want to make sure I’m clear about something. I’m not saying that every person of color that deals with racial issues will develop racial trauma or race-based stress. More importantly, what I am saying is that even though we’re all black or POC, we deal with trauma differently.
Black Expression IS Black Culture
Some of us deal with this trauma through physical therapy or activity (sports). Others might us more holistic remedies like meditation, and some turn to the arts, like music and dancing to help manage the harsh realities and trauma they deal with on a daily basis. It’s through these forms of black expression, and self-treatment we have things like Rap, R&B, Blues, Jazz, I mean you name it.
If you take the time to research how all these areas of expression or “entertainment” came about, you’ll be shocked to find their roots deeply embedded in black culture. Which leads us back to the main reason this piece is called “Culture Vultures…”
Culture Vulture |
a person or an organization making a profit using unhonorable practices from a culture they do not care for.
Throughout American history, black culture has arguably been the number one Influence on American pop-culture. Which is fine and all, because imitation is the greatest compliment.
My problem comes when mfs do one of two things:
If you do one of the two or both, your ass is a culture vulture. Below is a nice list of MFs who are winners of my honorary, “Da Fuck? Stop It,” award for their outstanding work in the field of vulturism…
I know some of these names might seem “controversial,” but trust me… ALL these mfs made millions by “riding the wave” while simultaneously, consciously or subconsciously enforcing negative stereotypes that often affect black and brown lives.
*Sidenote | I might’ve triggered some folks calling Elvis the King of Vultures… If that’s you. If you were triggered by me calling Elvis the King of Vultures then I’ll let you take that up to Ray Charles…
“He was doing our kind of music. He was doing the Willie Mae Thornton Jailhouse Rock. That’s black music. So what am I supposed to get so excited about, man? I think all that stuff about saying he’s the king, that’s a piece of bunk.”
– Ray Charles thoughts on Elvis Presley
A new term used for someone accused of pretending to be black or mixed-race on social media. Over the past few months, Black Twitter has been publicly accusing a number of white female influencers & celebrities of “blackfishing”: some using dark facial makeup, some wearing their hair in cornrows and other traditionally black hairstyles, and others allegedly enhancing their bodies, seemingly to look like black women.
Don’t get shit twisted, there is nothing wrong with wearing makeup, but if you’re out here using a foundation that’s 3x’s darker than your skin tone… Not only are you Blackfhising, but you’re a culture vulture… How? It’s simple.
White influencers using blackfishing to gain more exposure & collaborations are essentially pushing real black influencers out of the market. By changing the shade of their natural skin complexion &/or physical features, these women are knowingly, or unknowingly exploiting black culture for actual profit… Which by definition, is acts of a culture vulture.
*Sidenote* I’ve worked in the field of Influencer Marketing for about 4 years now (on both the brand side & influencer side) so I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the matter.
I wanted to end this piece with this small clip from Cole’s video we dissected earlier… In this clip we see Cole riding in a grocery cart rapping and shit. Nothing out the norm. But what I want to focus on is what’s happening in the background. Next, to Cole, we can see a chick vigorously looking for something. If you pay close enough attention you’ll notice she’s in the juice section, essentially looking for the juice. The scene fades out with shorty ultimately not finding the juice, which is the main take away from this piece.
No matter how hard mfs like Ariana Grande try to fool us into believing she has the juice, she’ll never really have it. We’ve seen this movie before, and to be honest, it’s getting played out. There is an argument to be made between recognizing the difference between appropriation & showing respect, but I’ll save that another piece.
Until then, stay off the wave unless you plan on riding that mf til the wheels fall off.