Dear Tom Hanks,
Never in my life did I think I would be writing Tom Hanks a letter. But, here I am in 2015 writing you, buddy. I hope you don’t mind me calling you “buddy,” but you seem like the sort of father I could have grown up knowing. See, Tom, a good part of my life was growing up around White parents that resembled you and son’s that lookd like you kid Chester. Most of them were good, hard working people that were just looking to raise their kids. It just so happened my family and two other Black families decided to break the color barrier in a certain section of Newark on the outskirts of Delaware back in the day.
Tom, I am going to leap to the present day for a minute before I go back to my rearing in Delaware. I promise there is a rhyme and a reason. Lets get to the rhyme: your son, Chester, aka rapper Chet Haze, aka a white guy that feels strongly he should be able to use the N-Word despite the objections of…anybody. Here is what he said – word for word – on his Instagram account.
If I say the word nigga I say it amongst people I love and who love me. If I say “f**k yall hatin ass n***az” it’s because that’s really how I felt at the time. And I don’t accept society getting to decide what ANYBODY can or can’t say. That’s something we call FREE SPEECH. Now I understand the older generation who grew up in the Jim Crowe era might have strong feelings against this. And that’s understandable… But what I’m saying is this is 2015… And even tho we are still far from where we need to be and black people are still being literally KILLED by a RACIST and fucked up system… We have also reached a point where the word can no longer have a negative connotation if we so choose. And who is to say only black people can use it? The way I see it, it’s a word that unifies the culture of HIP-HOP across ALL RACES, which is actually kind of a beautiful thing. It’s a word that can be used out of camaraderie and love, not just exclusively for black people. What’s the point in putting all these built up “rules” about it. It’s time to let go. You can hate me or love me for it, but can’t nobody tell me what I can or can’t say. It’s got nothing to do with trying to be a thug. It’s about the culture of the music. And that’s all I have to say about that (no pun intended) lol. It’s all love. Some people will get it, some people won’t. Either way, Ima keep living my life however the fuck I want. ALL LOVE.
There is so much wrong in this stupid post that I cannot begin to address it in a single sitting, Tom. I think the fallacies and the foolishness speaks for itself. So, I am going to question you, because you are Chet’s daddy and he, my Hollywood friend, is a reflection of you. Why does your boy want to use the N-Word so bad? Why’s he using it anyway? Did you all use it in the house a lot? Or was it his white, hot lustful burning love of Black people, culture and Hip-Hop music that make him long to spew the word as symbol of his camaraderie? Do you think he would take a bullet for his African American Hip-Hop comrades? Since he mentioned racists and a f**ked up system, is he out here marching to fight the evils that we Black people face daily? Does he want to play in the Black playground a bit without once delving into what life is truly like?
Back to Delaware and me, Tom.
I am bringing it back to my life, because I wonder how many real Black people your boy Chester knows. While growing up, a white boy that looks a lot like your son Chester called my best friend a n***er on the way to school. My friend proceeded to bash his head in on the school bus and they had to pull him off of that kid. They kicked my friend off the bus after that, but he was never called a n***er again. Tom, I too have been called that ugly word too. There’s no need to share all the stories with you, because you can gather that it is still a very sensitive topic and word.
I gotta tell you, bro, you have a problem here. Chester is making you look a bit crazy and we used to wonder what went on in the house of those white kids that said n***er. If Black people tell you not to use a word considered derogatory, who is your boy to say otherwise? Talk to him, Tom. Don’t pin the tail on the donkey of Hip-Hop when you talk and don’t let Chet either. As parents, we have to raise our kids right and check them hard when they are very wrong. If you don’t, somebody else will. I’m a little older and wiser – not Jim Crow era – but the younger me would probably try to turn Chez into a human pretzel or something. OK, I know I wasn’t going to share any more stories, but here is a quick one. In college, some White students from the University of Delaware in a car did a “drive-by” calling me a n***er. Tom, I instinctively picked up this gigantic cobblestone rock and threw it. I missed and that was a good thing. The cops were right there to witness it all. Imagine if I had hit that car or somebody in it.
Sure there are some Black people out here that willingly allow White people to call them n***a or n***er. That does not you we should do it. The great Ice-T once said, “Freedom of Speech…Just watch what you say.” This slogan applies to everybody even though he was talking about Black people under persecution. In Baltimore recently, a Black man was peacefully protesting at a march, but he happened to have a t-shirt that said “F**k The Police.” Don’t you know those cops yanked him by his locks (dreadlocks), pepper sprayed him and cuffed him, seemingly for wearing such a shining example of Freedom of Speech? Check the video, Tom. You gotta see this!
The point is: we don’t just get to do what we we want in life. If you are rich, White and a male you may grow up thinking that. That’s how privilege and White Supremacy tends to work. Perhaps you and Chester aka ill rapper Chet Haze and tell me that. Its bad enough that this sort of appropriation is rampant in the world, but for it to be infiltrating Hip-Hop is a travesty. Hip-Hop music gave Black and Brown people a voice when there was no voice. It made businesses and opportunity where there was none. It yelled a that “RACIST and f***ed up system” that your boy spoke about. It didn’t stop there: it sought to change it. These days, some say Hip-Hop today is all messed up.
The system is still messed up and rap music reflects that. We are still messed up and your son and those like him want to fight for the right to use the word that continues to degrade. Unacceptable, Tom. Talk to you boy before he tries to gain entry into this world of Blackness and Hip-Hop. (Let Chet read this piece from talented white producer songwriter Mike Posner called “We Have No Idea What It’s Like To Be Black In America”) Teach him about the wonder of people of color, if you know. Teach him about the gains and losses Black people deal with. Teach him respect.
If you don’t somebody will. Take it from a guy that’s come across quite a few Chet’s in his life.
P.S. For the record, there are a lot of terms of endearment in the Black community. We call each other king, queen, brother, sister and even god. Tell Chet to use those, especially “god.” 🙂