Prologue: Don’t get me wrong – this is absolutely not a personal attack on DJ Chuck T (he’s one of a few people that is actually willing to speak their mind on this and he should be respected for that). Nor is this even directed at him – it’s more directed at anyone with a similar opinion on the subject. What I am doing here, here though, for sale is using this as an opportunity to bring something up because Chuck brings up something that serves as a counterpoint to something that has been in my head for a minute.
Like anyone who is even somewhat involved in the music world, I get a lot of e-mail. Demos from people hoping for some airtime (can you say airtime for a podcast?), mail from people who hate/like the show, promos from major labels, promos from indie labels, and general “blasts”.
Last week, I got an email blast from DJ Chuck T, who most of you will recognize as being a ridiculously prolific (as in drops two tapes a week) North Carolina mixtape DJ, the man behind the Down South Slangin’ and Sexxplicit R&B series. And yes, this is the same dude that aired Lil Wayne out after badmouthing mixtape DJs.
What doesn’t come out in the video, though, is this (excerpt from the email sent out):
“[...]the self-proclaimed “Malcolm X of Hip-Hop” DJ Chuck T has unleashed his fury on the Presidential Candidate! “He’s not black, he’s bi-racial! And he wasn’t even raised by black people…” DJ Chuck T stated to MTV’s Shaheem Reid on the Red Carpet of the 2008 Ozone Magazine Awards. Chuck T went even further and said “Barak doesn’t embody the values and characteristics we as black people are raised with…”
That “bi-racial” section definitely didn’t sit right with me, so…I wrote dude an email.
And as expected, I got a pretty thought out (considering the dude is preparing for a speech in DC) and respectful email, where Chuck elaborated and stood by his opinion. No issue in particular with that.
And I was about to leave it at that, until:
So compare that to the original email I wrote a few days before this article came out. Obviously I’m not claiming that Spike Lee jacked what I’m saying – this is just for comparison. Also, I’m posting the full unedited text of this mainly because I don’t feel like paraphrasing, but I’d appreciate it if you took it as a token of my honesty and openness.
My original response to the original email blast:
Peace DJ Chuck T -
I’m sure your email inbox is flooded on a daily basis, and you may well not be able to get to all of your mail directly, but I just read this and felt like I should respond.
As far as lashing out at Barack Obama the politician, I don’t really have much beef with that. To me, the dude is a politician. Maybe a good one, maybe a bad one, but a major league politician who plays by major league rules, which means he is going to pretend that certain people don’t exist, go back on his word when it is convenient, etc – that is what politicians do. He is just another politician, scheming for votes, because that is what politicians do. I’m not sure about being the biggest Uncle Tom in the history of Black America – but I don’t think you meant that literally. I did an episode about the primaries a long time ago but refrained from outright supporting Obama because I didn’t feel it was appropriate given my mixed feelings on him. I personally will probably vote for the man – not because I am terribly excited about him bringing some sort of change to society because I don’t think change comes from the top – if you look at our history, particularly Black history, it never has – but because McCain is a scary dude and I do not want him bombing anyone else.
What I do have a problem with, though, is how you referred to Barack Obama – “He’s not black, he’s bi-racial! And he wasn’t even raised by black people…”
That, to me, doesn’t make any sense, no matter how you look at it. If you want to look at things from a historical angle, then you’ll remember the “one drop” rule. Beyond that, before Obama was all over the TV, I’m pretty sure that when he walked into a 7-11, just like when you or I walk into a 7-11, the person behind the counter did not see a “biracial” man or a “guy who wasn’t even raised by Black parents”, they saw a Black man, and they acted accordingly.
And it makes even less sense to say something like that considering that exactly one sentence prior, you referred to yourself as the Malcolm X of Hip-Hop. I’m sure you know this, but Malcolm X himself was ‘biracial’. One half African-American, one quarter Grenadian, and one quarter white. So maybe you are making a distinction between 25% white and 50% white, with the former being “black” and the latter being “not black”. If not, then maybe picking another historical persona would make your argument more coherent.
That said, though, unless your family came to the US independently, if you look at your own family tree (and I know that this is hard for the descendants of the slave system to trace back more than a few generations – if you’re able to do this, then count yourself as being very fortunate – on my side, we have no idea what went on beyond 1900 or so), I’m pretty sure you’ll find that you are not “100% Black”. I’m not sure what the statistics are, but there are very few African American individuals who are not mixed with something or other – including me, yourself, and Ludacris.
For me, trying to slander someone by saying that they aren’t “Black”, or “Black enough”, is about as counterproductive as you can get. If you have beef with someone’s actions, particularly another Black man’s actions, address his actions. If you feel that he has turned his back on his people, that’s fine. But when you try to exclude him from the population based on some illogical, fuzzy numbers game, you also start to exclude some very important historical figures – and you start to fragment the Black population and cause friction and fighting where there should be cooperation and positive movement.
As you know, most kids, particularly minorities, do not listen to what politicians have to say – but they will listen to what people like you and me (you, obviously, much more than me) – people who either make or distribute music, have to say. That’s why I was concerned. And I realize some of this may have been a “publicity stunt”, and it seems that the “he’s not even black” statement didn’t go on the air anywhere, but the approach is what worried me.
Anyway, I’m sure you have other mail to get to, so I will end this here. Peace.
First, while I respect their individual opinions, I don’t agree with either DJ Chuck T or Spike Lee. I think Spike is going awfully easy on Obama. And on the other side, I think the whole “bi-racial” thing is a mass oversimplification.
What does get me worried is this whole “Black enough” argument. This isn’t a recent development, and I don’t expect it to die out any time soon, but with the fact that we are currently facing the very real possibility of a Black man sitting in the Oval Office, this issue takes on a new kind of urgency.
Classifying someone as simply “biracial” is next to useless. Where’s the line between “monoracial” and “biracial”? 25% “mixed”? 12.5% “mixed”? Same thing with offering a “biracial” bubble on an application form – do you mean to tell me that there is no difference between a kid with Black American and white parents and a kid with Korean and Indian parents? Sure, there is a possible common experience of “Jesus Christ what am I” for the kid’s childhood (or their whole life, who knows), but you can’t tell me that our Black/white and Korean/Indian kid have any inherent cultural commonality. Excluding Barack Obama from the “Black” category because of 50% of his bloodline or the complexion of the people that brought him up is a scary notion.
What’s Blackness? Is it the music you listen to (rap)? Is it your IQ (low)? Is it your economic background (poor)? Is it how many gold chains you can fit on your wrist (a lot)?
And yes, any Black person knows that the above have nothing to do with your being Black. Unfortunately, though, there are plenty of non-Black people out there that don’t get this. I’m not just talking about white kids here. The whole “Barack is not Black” line is not limited to the US, kids. Dig this topic from popular Japanese social site Kotonoha:
So somewhere, ladies and gentlemen, we have shown the rest of the world that being smart/well-spoken/successful is the antithesis of Blackness. It’s not just the police in LA and Atlanta that think this, it’s not your middle school principal, it’s the general, global populace (remember when Davey D said something similar?) (bonus points: Same Japanese website, different topic: “ 目の前に黒人がいると怖い / I’m Afraid of Black People“)
I’ve said this before, and I still believe it – America has one of the most uniquely screwed up race complexes I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve traveled that much, but still). This isn’t helping anybody. And the further that this thing goes, the more that this is going to come out into the open. I can’t say that that’s a bad thing.
Enough of me, though – what do you think?
Bonus closing joke – I don’t know any Black people that use words like “bamboozled” or “hornswoggled”. I hereby call Spike Lee’s Blackness into question. Can I get an amen?
okay, okay, a funky drummer?