Kanye West’s Confederate Flag: Mainstreaming Racism
Last month, I was walking with my daughter to the New York Comic Con, which is an annual event where thousands of geeks and nerds convene around all things related to comics, graphics novels, toys, anime, etc. What’s cool about Comic Con is the strong presence of Black women, who I’m assuming are trying to scoop the next Bill Gates – just kidding.
As my daughter and I made our way through the crowd, my little one said, “I hope nobody calls us the N-Word.”
My heart skipped a beat. A rush of thoughts went through my head. Around my daughter, I try my best not to use the N-Word and I don’t let her listen to any music which may promote the term. And as far as I know, she has not experienced overt racism among her peers. (Oddly, she’s been called a b***ch by some lunatic little kid, but not n***er.)
Sadly, I cannot say the same thing has not happened to me. Growing up, I heard the ‘N-Word’ plenty, and I don’t mean n****a, the so-called term of endearment that Black Americans use.
So, “What’s the N-Word?,” I said, suddenly.
Her N-Word was nerds. Sheeeesh!
Back in the day, there was a show called “The Dukes of Hazard.” The lead character was actually a car that had the Confederate Flag on top. My dad hated that show, because, to him, it was a slap in the face as well as an overt representation of America’s legacy of institutionalized racism. He never stopped us from watching it, but he made it clear that he was disgusted by the theme.
Fast forward – we have Kanye West looking to reclaim the flag from the racist South. He reasoned:
“You know, the Confederate flag represented slavery, in a way – that’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I made the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now! Now what are you gonna do?”
Mind you…no racists were around when Kanye stated his bold dare.
And there is a reason why he didn’t say this in front of the Grand Wizard, because it is highly possible that Kanye West in all his glamour could get shot, stabbed or strung up if he was walking around in the free world. And, more disturbing is that there just might be a law to protect his killer!
I’m a fan, but as it relates to my daughter, I’m cool on Yeezy.
The only song of ‘Ye’s that my daughter knows (to my knowledge) is “Run This Down” with Jay Z and Rihanna, so she hasn’t asked a lot of questions about the rapper’s most recent moves. But she asks questions about race relations often. The last thing I hope to do is oversimplify matters the way Kanye has, all in the name of ticket sales and commerce.
So, education is key, but not like before. For me, its much more complex, particularly for the very young. A great part of my youth was spent harboring rage. Pissed that my people were enslaved. Angry that we were still suffering from the affects of overt racism. Upset that supposed good people still didn’t comprehend the plight. Disappointed that African Americans still had not formed a unified, nation plan of action. For God’s sake, I was reading “Die Nigger Die!,” the seminal book by political activist H. Rap Brown and “Soul On Ice” by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver in my most formative years. I’d go so far as to say that racism poisoned me for years, but these guys put a battery in my back. Despite this systemic scoundrel still being so prevalent, I’m not interested in poisoning my kid with the evil that racist do.
But, the conversation must be had, and I’ve learned that kids are a resilient. So, back to where this all started.
“What’s a racist,” she queried.
This questions popped up as we were talking about the legacy of Medgar Evers, the 60’s Civil Rights leader that was killed at the young age of 37. Right before her question was asked, I told her, “racists killed him.” I kept it simple, racists are people that don’t like Black people. Now, this is a rudimentary definition at best, but for her, right now, its more than sufficient. (She looked at me, turned her thumbs down and made some more disapproving gestures to the idea of racists.) But, I didn’t realize until that moment that she didn’t know what a racist was.
We’ve discussed how Trayvon Martin died and why Zimmerman was wrong. But she often forms an opinion based on what she’s seen, not told. More significantly, she’s gradually understanding race who and not the symbol of White Supremacy like Kanye West is trying to showcase. The Kanye West in front of us now isn’t the same person that proclaimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” during a nationally televised fund raiser for Hurricane Katrina victims.
Nah. Kanye’s evolution is Kanye’s evolution and that’s neither here nor there, for me. He’s going to do him, but trivializing the historical significance of the rebel flag simply won’t do. I gotta filter the brother until he fits into my agenda.
I am mostly interested that my daughter know that she’s the decedent of African Kings and Queens, not slaves as is taught in school. She needs to understand that the slaves that got to America were the absolute strongest breed of human being that endured some of the worst conditions known to humankind. We’re already teaching true power comes from independence, fiscal freedom and knowing she’s capable of great things.
For now, the N-Word can be a demeaning term for very intelligent people that dress up like Batman, Robin or the Hulk. That’s cute.
And Yeezy? I hope he can refine the racial conversation into something that doesn’t lead people to his e-commerce.