“There’s two sides to every story,” Joyner Lucas raps, as he concludes a verse in his new song “I’m Not Racist.” He speaks from two opposite perspectives: a Trump supporter and a presumably teenage Black boy. His seven-minute music video depicts the two sitting at a table airing grievances and expressing views about each other and what they stand for.
The Trump supporter begins by saying a slew of verifiably racist things. There’s no short way to explain it. He calls Black parents “deadbeats,” expresses his desire to say the n-word, blames the disportionate killing of Black people on the way we dress, calls us lazy, says we sell and use drugs (bonus points for this one) and throws out every easily explainable stereotype there could be about Black people. The Black boy then responds to all his nonsense with reasonable answers — essentially relaying a laundry list of reasons that Black people deserve to be viewed as multifaceted human beings.
On top of it being a seven-minute video and song about racism (which is boring on principle), it’s also generally a disappointing and incorrect approach to disputing racist points of view. Here’s a full how-to about arguing with racists: don’t.
I will never be able to grasp the need to try to reason with white supremacists. Frankly, I don’t possess that kind of patience. There is nothing helpful about trying to reason with fully grown adult human beings who are determined to misunderstand you. At the point in life where one is old enough to vote, people should have a degree of self-awareness and awareness of the world enough to dispel the possibility of them holding white supremacist ideals. There are too many resources Americans have to educate themselves on how the United States has been built against Black people — quite literally on the backs of Black people — for us to continue trying to explain the hatred out of others. It should not be our job. It is not our job.
It is this refusal to condemn those who openly hate us and those who support people who hate us that leads to media attempts to normalize people who live as “white nationalists” and “far right extremists.” Normalization is just a step toward accepting violent ideology as a part of a society that cannot seem to achieve cohesivity at any level. This refusal to condemn those who are overt about their opposition to fully integrating society leads to cutesy New York Times profiles about white nationalists — they express how Nazi sympathizers are really normal people living normal lives. They grocery shop and get married and have families, just like the rest of us normal people! Understanding everyone’s point of view is not always conducive to change. Understanding bigoted points of view is not at all necessary. The coddling of dangerous white people does not contribute to society in a positive way.
Situations are often far more transparent than they are treated. Things need to be called by their real names. We live in a world where we are spoon-fed phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts” in order to sugarcoat negativity and corruption. The word that is being replaced is “lying.” Lies shouldn’t be protected. Bigotry should not be protected. White nationalists are white supremacists. The alt-right are white supremacists. Nazis are white supremacists. And there is no such thing as being innocently adjacent to these groups. If you are white supremacist-adjacent, you are a white supremacist. It’s simple math. There is no absolving yourself from not rejecting them. Silence is complicity.
The ending of Joyner Lucas’s video is perhaps the most perplexing part. The white man and Black boy get up, stare into each other’s eyes, and then hug. Upon seeing it, I immediately wondered what the hug was meant to solve. I had to ask myself, “Is that where racism ends? Did he finally do it?”
No. That’s not how it works. There has never been a time in history when any oppressed people have achieved equality through hugging. It is a worthless symbol. Unfortunately, love does not trump hate. It was an adorable clothing slogan — something to chant and paint on signs next to rainbows — but it isn’t real life. You cannot hug the racism out of anyone.
There are things that embracing others can’t solve — most things, in fact. There are universal truths that must be accepted to effect change: White supremacy is bad. White nationalism is bad. Nazism is bad. Bigotry is bad. There are no such things as white supremacist/nazi “sympathizers.” These people are all human and they are wrong to think how they do.
Joyner Lucas was right about one thing (and it’s very likely that Joyner Lucas was only right about one thing in video): There are two sides to every story.
Yes, there are always two sides. But, sometimes there is no gray area. There are two sides to every story. But sometimes, there is simply a right side and a wrong side. There are two sides to every story. But that does not mean that some things are not black and white.