Racism. Is it a problem? Perhaps. Should I be allowed to speak about racism? Um, probably not. My small Minnesotan town is as white as the snow that covers our streets for four months of the year. According to Wikipedia, our small town of only 1,300 people is 97% white. Only 0.7% of our citizens are black. Our town is so predominantly white that we call an italian boy in our school black (he is olive-skinned and clearly not black). We actually call people who are darker than the rest of us pale-skinned Norwegians black. So it is pretty safe to say that I don’t have many actual black friends (aside from the olive-skinned kid).
So what do I know about black people? Stereotypes. I know every bad stereotype of black people in the book: sagging pants, inarticulate speech, big dicks and big booties. And I can’t forget to mention that most people around here are scared of black people. The only time people around here see or hear anything about black people, it is some kind of riot or gang related killing that is plastered all over the news.
Our town is quite conservative and rooted in the past (which is somewhat odd, as Minnesota is considered to be one of the most liberal states in the country). This is especially of the elderly population that makes up 29% of our population. These people have never grown up around any black people and have come to despise them for some reason. This was made very clear to my by my grandpa. A while back, people were trespassing on my grandpa’s land and dumping garbage. They had made quite a mess of his land. I went with him to help clean it up. While we were cleaning, he looked at me and said “Devon. I think I know who did this.” I had ideas of my own, but simply asked him who he thought it was. He looked at me with eyes filled with rage and said, “That damned nigger family that just moved in.” I had met this family. I didn’t particularly like them, but they were nice enough people, and they definitely weren’t dumb enough to do such an awful thing to his land. I shrugged his comment off and kept cleaning.
People around my age have a completely different view of black people. We don’t vehemently hate them, or even hate them at all. We respect them and think of them as equals. But this respect comes with an element of fear. In a situation where my grandpa would fight a black person because he hates them, me and my friends would run away because we fear them so much. This fear is caused by two things: our parents and the media. Clearly the media doesn’t paint the greatest picture of black people. But it is growing up with our conservative parents and grandparents and hearing these horror stories of what that “fucking nigger” down the street did, or what that “damned coon” said about something. We have no choice but to believe what they are telling us about black people because they are our elders and we have to respect them.
The fear that our elders have instilled in our minds is really quite comical. Without trying to sound arrogant, I’ve come to a conclusion that while all races and peoples have their own unique traits that differentiate them from other races. But I can’t say the same about some of the other people my age. The funniest thing is at a basketball game. We’ll be warming up and the other team will enter the gym. Most of the teams we play are all-white teams. When these teams enter the gym, only a fleeting glance is passed their way. But when we play a team with one or more black players, these glances turn into stares. Jaws are agape. Beads of sweat start to form on their brow. Suddenly, a game we will go on to win by thirty seems daunting.
But my generation also loves black culture, and that is most clearly shown by the music that we listen to. Sure, I listen to some pretty white music at times (I’ll even admit that I’ve jammed out to some Taylor Swift; Shake it Off is one hell of a song) but my favorite genre of music is rap. My generation is absolutely enamored by rap. My favorite rapper is Kendrick Lamar. If there is one artist that has made me love black culture, it is him. He is very socially conscious in his raps, touching on topics such as police brutality, gang violence, alcoholism, and racism in general. If you ever want to listen to a song that truly portrays the frustrations of racism, listen to Lamar’s song The Blacker the Berry. In it he talks about the “race war” between black people and white people, but also points out hypocrisy in the black community, stating “So why did I cry when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hippocrite!” It is an amazing song. Another great song is Jesus Walks by Kanye West. It splits its time talking about religion and police brutality, but it portrays its message well (and Kanye’s production on the song is phenomenal).
One other way that my generation has learned to embrace black culture is through Key and Peele. Key and Peele is a comedy Central sketch comedy show. It deals with race, racism, and black stereotypes. Me and my friends have seen every single video on YouTube and could quote them all day long.
I might not be from Baltimore or Ferguson, where this is more of a problem. But maybe the issue needed an outsider looking in. I honestly think that when my generation takes over and is running the world we wont have issues with race relations. We idolize black culture; rappers and athletes like LeBron James are our generations heroes. We might have issues now, and we need to find a way past these issues to make way for the more accepting people coming up.