Was Common’s Idea to End Racism a Bad One?
Life’s been good to rapper/actor Common this last year, as he’s won an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for the song “Glory” in the movie Selma and he recently co-starred in the film Run All Night with Liam Neeson. He also recently made an appearance on “The Daily Show”, where Jon Stewart threw in his two cents on the controversial SAE fraternity chant that’s been all over the news lately. Common, who was a guest on the show, also discussed with Stewart on how he thinks we should work on ending racism by basically putting the past behind us and that the blacks should “extend a ‘helping hand’ to whites.” Umm… what?
He elaborates, “If we’ve been bullied. We’ve been beat down and we don’t want it anymore. We are not extending a fist and we are not saying you did us wrong. It’s more like, hey I’m extending my hand in love. Lets forget about the past as much as we can and lets move from where we are now. How can we help each other? Can you try to help us because we are going to try to help ourselves, too.”
Well… no, it really doesn’t work like that. I think maybe Common (who’s in a really good point in his career) might be playing it a bit too safe, as not to potentially start any controversy, or he just didn’t have a strong enough opinion on the subject and just bullshitted the answer (we’ve all been there before). But I find it really hard to believe that Common, who one, wrote a song for a film that reminds us of the struggles in African American society/history, and two, the SAE fraternity news would certainly make a black guest on a pretty political show the perfect person to open up a dialogue about racism and we can solve the problem. He had to have known that he’d be asked something like that, and probably had time to think about his answer, so with all this considered, this is likely his genuine opinion which worries me.
Ending racism is definitely going to take a lot more than “extending a helping hand to white people” since racism is a lot more than just feelings like “I hate black people.” He’s clearly aware that racism is still happening in America, as he mentions in the interview, “I’m not sitting there like ‘white people y’all did us wrong.’ I mean we know that that existed. I don’t need to keep bringing that up. It’s like being in a relationship and continue to bring up the person’s issues,” Common said. “Now I’m saying ‘Hey, I love you. Let’s move past this. Come on baby lets get past this.'” I get what he’s trying to say, but relationships are simply a different dynamic than systematic oppression, and that’s not the way to make progress happen. Racism is built on power and relationships are built on trust, it’s not the same thing.
Comedian Amanda Seales also had something to say about it on Twitter, where she summed up Common’s problem pretty nicely (and with the help of Jay-Z):