I want to make something very clear: No rap albums ever directly contributed to the institution of slavery. This bold hashtag was created by black Twitter users in response to “Morning Joe” talk show hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who in turn were responding to Juaquin Malphurs’ (a.k.a Waka Flocka Flame) disgust over a racist Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity video. In the egregious video, SAE members from the University of Oklahoma can be seen singing song lyrics like, “There will never be a nigger in SAE. There will never be a n-gger in SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me. There will never be a n-gger in SAE.” Upon viewing the video, Waka Flocka Flame cancelled his scheduled appearance at the University of Oklahoma in early 2015.
Malphurs later described himself as “disgusted because I knew those kids, I performed for those kids.” (He performed at the University of Oklahoma in 2014.) The hosts of “Morning Joe” went on to suggest that rappers are in fact “to blame” for the fraternity’s racist behavior, which is entirely false and incredibly problematic. Their statement also supports the detrimental misconception from other racial groups that issues within the black community are self-inflicted and would “go away” if black people learned how to act right in this society.
Brzezinski was the first to comment on Malphurs’ disgust by dissecting his music in which she said, “If you look at every single song, I guess you call these, that he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage … And he (Juaquin Malphurs) shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.” The real issue is the idea that Malphurs should be disgusted “at himself” for the actions of others. Although Brzezinski clarifies her comments later on a separate show by stating, “The students in the video are responsible for their behavior” the damage was already done.
The sole fact that in the 21st century, public sentiment toward black issues is still so negative is not surprising, but it is definitely sickening. Joe Scarborough, in response to Malphurs’ disgust, said “The kids that are buying hip-hop or gangster rap, it’s a white audience and they hear this over and over again … they heard a lot of this from guys who are now acting shocked.” With their biased opinions and invalidation of Malphurs’ disgust over the video, Brzezinski and Scarborough are directly ignoring the overarching narrative in American history of black emotions being silenced by white people and how legal oppression of blacks for centuries in America have caused many of the issues within the black community.
The hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery is effective at pointing to a salient aspect in this entire situation, which is the fact that the white racist fraternity brothers should not be excused for their actions or have excuses made for them by sympathetic, white talk show hosts who are clearly desensitized from the issue of racism in America. In addition, this hashtag poses the question of which rap album, specifically, caused the forced journey of millions of Africans to America through the Middle Passage and then exploited their labor and gave them no rights?
Furthermore, which rap album, specifically, made whites commit some of the most abominable and hateful crimes in human history toward black human beings, such as lynching, raping, dismembering and killing them? By changing the names of famous rap albums and including reference to slavery in their new titles, these expressive black Twitter users demonstrated the baselessness of the “Morning Joe” talk show hosts’ argument by proving that rap albums, and in a larger context rap music, cannot be blamed for the lack of cultural sensitivity and prominent ignorance that still exists in America in the 21st century.
It is very ironic that black people are entitled to their own feelings and emotions most of the time, unless white people do not agree. In a historical context in America, black people could do as they pleased until white people did not agree. Whether it was voting rights, integrated schools or equal opportunities, black people could only do what white people agreed they should do. As blacks fought for their basic human rights and were subjected to the brutality and violence of white people, white people’s excuse for their actions was that blacks needed to know their place. Whether or not I ever find my supposed “place” in society, white people have to be held accountable for their actions in our society.
There is no more room for excuses or hypocrisy for when white people commit terrible actions. As a society, we must have the same standards for every single racial group and not allow one group to have a free pass.
*Negative responses via Yik Yak toward an anti-police brutality protest organized on UCR’s campus on April 21st, 2016.