News broke this week that media brand Revolt TV (owned by Sean “Diddy” Combs) is being sued by a production team of older white men for racial discrimination. The team, led by Douglas Goodstein, claims that they were criticized for not putting up with “unprofessional behavior” by guests on the well-known The Breakfast Club tv show, and that Revolt TV executives had animosity toward their team because they are white.
This idea that a white person is being mistreated based on their race has been termed “reverse racism” because it is supposedly the equivalent of anti-Black racism, just going the opposite direction. But the HUGE flaw in this concept is that it requires looking at racial discrimination as something that exists in a vacuum. Believing in reverse racism requires ignorance of the very real history of race in America (and the world). For a painfully funny and accurate re-cap of this history, check out this Aamer Rahman stand-up clip from “Fear of a Brown Planet”:
Hip-hop has been bringing the realness that should have more of us at a high level of racial consciousness, but some of our white sisters and brothers (including some who say they “love” rap music) haven’t really understood it. Like every American subculture, hip-hop is sometimes subjected to the social norms of America. And no matter how those of us who love and respect the culture may try, it’s impossible to prevent the destructive forces of that broader context from seeping in.
The biases and privileges of Goldstein’s team are very clear in the accusations of their lawsuit. Their labeling of certain behaviors as “unprofessional” shows an obvious belief that typical white definitions of professionalism should be the norm for everyone’s behavior. Even though their team worked on a show that is popular largely because of the distinct personalities and behaviors of entertainers of color, they expected everyone to act how they would act. When the white privilege they are accustomed to wasn’t being applied and they were expected to follow the cues of a different environment, they tried to bully their way into cultural dominance and got fired. It was the unacknowledged anti-Black bias of these employees that was a problem, not their white skin.
It’s time to stop people from calling justified (and necessary) critiques of white people “racism.” If you’re white and you can’t check your biases and adjust your behavior within a Black-owned company, you shouldn’t be working there. If you can’t see rap music (at least partly) through the eyes of its originators, you shouldn’t be writing about it, producing shows about it, or making claims to your authority within the culture. White people who don’t understand Black people really just need to stay the fuck away from Black creations, and those of us who realize this must call out this lawsuit for what it is: an attempt to maintain white privilege in a space created by people of color.