I had an absolutely amazing time in South Africa, if any of my Instagram pictures are anything to go by, I had the best time of my life. However, my trip wasn’t without the casual racism and ignorance of white people. But of course, you’re not surprised you have probably been in the same position yourself at some point.
You have to have been brought up with a certain level of privilege to still insist on using the N word while white, or even as a non-black POC. Especially using it while listening to rap or hip hop songs around a black person that just told you to stop. This is exactly what happened after my trip to Kruger National Park. I had spent an amazing time spotting different animals in the bush for a few days with a brother and sister from the UK. I had to be dropped off in Johannesburg before they continued their journey towards Zimbabwe and Botswana. The brother is a big fan of rap and hip hop, which was already a warning sign. Never trust white people that really, really love those genres of music, they’re always messy as fuck.
Our driver is sitting at the front with the brother playing DJ. I’m at the back with the sister and the songs start, DMX, Drake, Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar and so on. Every one of the songs features the N word with differing levels of frequency. I am a fan of the selected songs and bop along making sure to check myself and not just start rapping along and dropping N bombs around mixed company. I, a black woman, thought to censor myself from using that word. Then a Rick Ross song comes up and the sister just goes in. Leaning into the word, pronouncing it with all the enthusiasm of a child that has just been handed the keys to a toy store.
White people are so goddamn comfortable, like wow. This both blows my mind and doesn’t surprise me in the least. Everybody is aware that when you all listen to songs with “the N word” you just let her rip. Rapping and singing along to your heart’s content, but I would have thought you would not say it so brazenly in front of a black person. My fault for having such high expectations of you, right?
Upon hearing this, I turn to her and tell her that she better not be saying the N word when it comes up in the songs. She looks down sheepishly, she’d be caught and called out. She says she won’t say it and motions a lock and key over her mouth. This lasts for less than a minute, another song comes up and she’s back to singing along, word for word. Noticing me side eyeing her incredulously, she retorts that if a song has the N word in it she will sing it. The defiance is actually amazing, her lily white ass is certainly entitled to rapping along. And how dare I try to question her, this was not up for debate or discussion.
This is the kind of fuckery that goes down when you have been guaranteed the world and all its inhabitants. You’re so fucking brave and vag up, looking me square in the eyes and saying the N word is yours. But insist on assuring me that you would never say this “horrible word” and that you hate it. How do you feel okay rapping the same word you find too taboo to say in conversation? What kind of mental gymnastics do you have to do to justify that?
It should be noted that this is not the first time that a white person has felt confident enough to rap the N word around me. I believe that in both cases they felt at ease because they were not afraid of me beating them up. Had I been a black man that was built like a rugby player, they wouldn’t have been so cocksure. There was no fear whatsoever of bodily harm, so they luxuriated in this safety guarantee. Rapping along to their heart’s content, continuing their day unchecked. Even if I had been “a big black guy” it would still have been a lose-lose situation, any reaction is an overreaction when it comes from a black person.
The issue we have unfortunately is that too many black people, especially the musical artists have made white people feel okay about saying the N word, as though it’s a cool new word that doesn’t have a devastating history behind it. An obvious example is Kanye West and his song “All Day”, apparently he actively encourages the entire crowd to sing along to everything. But even if someone black does give you a “temporary hood pass”, your answer should always be the same as this fella over here: a resounding NO.
There is pretty much nothing to be done about the boldness of white people in everyday life, and now they’re hijacking rap and hip hop music. The only advice I can give is to steer clear of the white folks that just can’t get enough NWA, Wu Tang Clan, Tupac and Notorious BIG. They’ve already ruined enough, don’t let them take down our music too.