Posted by: greercn | September 4, 2015

Straight Outta Compton

Black people talk about race, often. They have to do so. White preconceptions have negative effects. The controversy around the reaction to the simplicity and clarity of the #blacklivesmatter campaign shows this.

White people talk about race when a black person joins them. Then, the conversation switches to how non-racist/anti-racist the white person is.

Both previous paragraphs are too general to be fully true. But they are mostly true.

I am aware of the privilege of being white and older. I don’t get stopped by the police. It’s pointless for me to ramble on about being a woman, an outsider and creative. I am absolutely certain I would face much more terrible challenges if I were a young and black man living in Compton, Los Angeles.

Many years ago I wrote an ill-advised piece dismissing the then-new Grandmaster Flash album and extolling the virtues of Prince and UB40. I got slapped down, in print by a young black man named Ancel Martinez. He and I met and I had a light bulb moment when he insisted I listen to “The Message” and “White Lines” again. I love to learn and I got the lesson.

Truly, I had no idea why rap mattered. By the time N.W.A. and Public Enemy came along, I got it, loud and clear. I was even an early adopter of Eminem.

It must have been very strange for the people who sold me records. It must have been even odder for the mostly-black audience at the Stratford East Picturehouse to have this white woman knowing all the words to all the N.W.A. songs, while we were watching “Straight Outta Compton”, which is the story of N.W.A.. (I sang quietly and at the very back).

I wish that the Rodney King incident was isolated and in the past. But events this summer have proved that institutional racism has a profound effect, even now.

“Straight Outta Compton” glosses over the misogyny, violence and angry words of N.W.A. But it tells a story you have to see, especially if you are white.

These guys got out of the ghetto. They made it, as entertainers. Some of their lyrics make me wince, but they rage with a truth so bright and fierce, you’ll have to get the message.

White people have to start caring and talking about race. It’s the only way change will happen. See this movie. It’s relevant. We are all products of the challenges we face, when we are very young.

There can be no equality of the powerful do not fight for the rights of the powerless. Yes, if you are white, this story will make you uncomfortable.

Good. We should all be furious about the situations black people deal with.


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