Hip Hop in Climbing: Part VI

This article also available as a podcast here.

Part VI: Non-Black People of Color and Hip Hop

   There are more people involved in Hip Hop than only Black and white folks. What about Hip Hop and non-black people of color? If the negative aspect of appropriation has to do with privilege and power, is it negative when non-black people of color take Hip Hop and capitalize off of it?

   Long roads that involve self actualization and discovery often lead people to Hip Hop who are non-black. Is it a different dynamic when non-black people of color appropriate black culture? Anti-blackness lives in non-black/non-white cultures as well. If used in a demeaning way or in a way disconnected from the Black community, it can be harmful. In looking at privilege in conjunction with appropriation, it may become more clear.

   Examining the privilege of non-black people of color in general, there are two major items to consider: skin color and connection to a homeland.

   Lighter skin has always historically been held in higher regard, as is being non-black. When it comes to connection to a homeland, this is something African Americans have been long denied. Although originally from Africa, African Americans were unable to return to their homeland for a variety of reasons: not speaking any Native African languages, monetary resources, education, family support in the US, the promise of opportunity in the United States, and rejection by some Africans. The largest reason, of course, being the complete obliteration of any ancestral connection to Africa. This intentional erasure by human traffickers and slave owners violently denied enslaved people to practice their religion, cultural traditions, language, family names/family trees, and anything remotely African. It cannot be stressed enough how much identity was brutally and forcibly taken from enslaved people from the Diaspora. All African Americans had was an imagination to create new identities and customs around the rigorous policies that suffocated their Africanness.

    Many immigrants came to the United States of their own volition. They were never enslaved en masse like the Africans. Although non-black/non-white people do have privileges, they also have some disadvantages as well. Although a colonized homeland, identity of self and connection to a home are powerful to communities.

    On the flip side, immigrant communities also suffer from micro-aggressions such as the perpetual foreigner, fetishization, exoticism, colonization in their homeland, and erasure of their culture.

   It’s fine to like and appreciate Hip Hop. But boundaries should be observed when using a culture that has been so hard fought to shape out of liberation. Hip Hop artist Dakota Camacho with CHamoru ancestry had some insight.

   “That’s the power of black music: Black music all has history, culture deeply embedded in it. And so that’s what makes me ask that question for me: what’s the predecessor in my culture? How do we, without devaluing the contributions that have been made by black people, add to our liberation, how do we come to value our knowledge systems knowing that there are vibrations of our land and our experiences that are unique that we can also add to the continuum? We have this value Tåno’ Uchan and that’s the piece that I am trying to get to and it’s what can we offer back that’s not taking; knowing that non-black CHamoru people (because there are black CHamoru people) are in a position of power in the current society. How are we using our cultural work in service of collective liberation rather than erasing and taking?” Dakota mused.

   Dakota’s question of collective liberation will live on as our world becomes more globalized and thus complicated. As time moves on, one can only hope the deep disparities between white mainstream society and Black culture will be on a level playing field when the Black people who make up the culture are truly respected and valued. In the meantime, where do the guidelines lie? Respecting boundaries of other cultures is a start. Not everything is for everybody. 

17 Dec 2020

Author: Crystal Rose H.

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