Over the weekend news site ATTN published my reaction to Jay Z’s recent statements that he thought Hip Hop music did more for Civil Rights than some Civil Rights activists. While I agreed that Hip Hop has been influential, let’s not pretend that racists can enjoy black art while despising black people.
By reducing progress to an “I Have A Dream” speech and Obama’s historic election discounts the decades of work conducted by multitudes of activists and everyday people who stood up against discrimination. He also forgets that hip hop is not the first musical genre that integrated clubs. One could actually credit 1970s disco with that, as disco was a genre performed by both black and white artists in integrated clubs. And before disco, rock n’ roll – while still marked at times by segregation – was immensely popular with white Americans whether performed by black or white artists.
Which brings us to the even bigger issue with Jay Z’s statements. He’s confusing “liking” black music and black artists with “liking” African Americans as a people and seeing them as human beings when history demonstrates it is pretty easy to enjoy the art one creates while actually caring nothing for the artist.