My Racially Charged Feelings on Chance the Rapper's Performance at American University
Last night I went to go see Chance the Rapper at American University. I was confirmed of three things. 1. Chance is a good performer. 2. A live band makes all the difference. And 3. I can’t enjoy Black music (more specifically rap music) in large crowds of white people.
What first triggered me was when a group of about 4-5 white (probably upperclassmen, probably drunk) guys started chanting “kick her out” and “she pushed me” to this Black freshman girl after accidentally bumping into one of the guys BECAUSE THE SPACE WAS TIGHT AND CROWDED AND WE WERE ALL BUMPING INTO EACH OTHER. I’m sure he was probably pushed and elbowed and bumped into by multiple people that night, but the fact that he chose to single out and then gang up on this girl in particular really enraged me. But what enraged me the most was the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it and at the end of the day, no one really cared. A handful of people witnessed the account, but all everyone could do was glare at the guys, say “wtf”, and then continue to enjoy the show. As for me, I couldn’t physically defend the girl, because the offender was clearly bigger than me, he had a group of friends that were bigger than me, and they were probably all the type of assholes to attack a girl. I couldn’t tell him that was fucked up in a way that maybe he would understand, because he was too drunk and probably too prejudice (even if sober) to care. I couldn’t do anything in that moment to fully address the racial incident that had happened. And it’s that feeling of hopelessness, that those guys will never learn their lesson, that girl will never get the apology she deserves, and no one will fully understand the larger effects of “what if every white guy felt he could treat every Black girl like this, and then he grows up and gets a place in power, then what?” is the most burdensome feeling to carry.
That incident had went down before Chance even came on stage. Once he did though however, I realized it was the first time I had ever seen a Black performance in an audience of predominately white males. But the level of hype they exuded, the way they knew the lyrics and rapped along passionately as if they could relate got me really thinking: How are the relating to this music & what is this music doing for them? Does the feeling of “being right there” with this Black rapper give you some sense of validation? Make you feel less white than you really are? More cool than you really are? More of a man? Does it make you feel power? No, tell me. How does screaming “nigga” with Chance make you feel? Pretty free, huh? No, really tell me. But then, can I or anyone in the audience actually get mad at you for dropping the N-word at his concert, when Chance the Rapper himself, refers to his WHITE trumpet player on stage as “his nigga”? Did he not just validate every white boy’s use of the word, right there?
I know for him, rapping is his profession. I know the music industry is a business. But when a Black rapper gets paid to come to a PWI and performances, I ask, who are you performing for? Who are you making music for? Who is your target audience to generate the most revenue? Because at the end of the day, that’s what is most important to you, right? How much money you make, more than the social and cultural implications of how your music contributes to the disintegration of Black culture and empowers and entitles white youth?
By the end of the concert I asked myself, “So what? What does my opinion matter? What will my opinion do?” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was probably the only individual who was depressed the entire concert contemplating the weight of the racial effects that come out of concerts that go on like this, every single day. I’m also that person who can’t go to a party playing today’s rap and hip hop hits without realizing the degradation of women, the misogyny, violence, and superficialness in our music after the first few songs. So why should I care so much, and how much weight will it carry, if I’m the only one carrying it in the room? I don’t know. Even after last night, I still don’t know what my responsibility is after being conscious of everything that happened, how do I press forward? But for right now, in this very moment, I guess all I can do is share with you how I see the experiences that the rest of you simply and enjoyably live through. And maybe next time, it’ll get you thinking, and if enough of us start realizing the problems that we blissfully are out of tune to every single day, then maybe shit really will get changed.
Until the next time I’m racially charged,
Stay Black, Stay True, Stay You.
And thanks for reading.