Kendrick Lamar And Nigga Neurosis

(The Champ’s latest at Complex on Kendrick Lamar, GQ, and the psychology of dealing with racism)

If you don’t get how (Top Dawg Entertainment CEO) Anthony Tiffith found the racial undertones in the piece to be so problematic that he pulled Kendrick Lamar from performing at a party honoring Kendrick Lamar, you’re likely thinking Tiffith was being sensitive. Maybe you, like me, didn’t see any racial undertones in the profile. Or, maybe you also kinda, sorta, did see them. Either way, you probably don’t see what the big deal was.

You don’t get it.

I do not know Anthony Tiffith. Until two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who he was. I do know, though, that he’s Black. A Black American. I am also a Black American. Since we share this characteristic, I’m going to assume his relationship with America is, like many Black Americans, complex. I’m also going to assume that, like many Black Americans, this complexity influences the way he receives, processes, and assesses information. He, like many of us, sees America differently than you do. Not completely differently. We love ice cream and hate hipsters just like you do. But he, a Black American, sees America differently than you do because America sees him, a Black American, differently than they see you. And an effect of this cynical and neurotic relationship that America has with Black America is that many Black Americans return that cynicism and co-opt that neurosis.

 

This, this “nigga neurosis,” has a way of allowing race to color our interactions with non-Black people and/or institutions. Because we’re aware of the context behind both America’s relationship with race and our own relationships with America’s relationship with race, we have a tendency to question whether things (good or bad) happened (or didn’t happen) because we’re Black. Sometimes these things are (relatively) innocuous. Sometimes they’re not.

A waitress is short with me and fucks up my order. Is she just a shitty waitress, or is she acting shittily because I’m Black? Is my credit history or my Blackness the reason I wasn’t approved for that bank loan? Did I earn that promotion, or are they just filling a quota? Did he just randomly walk up and ask me where he could find black-eyed peas, or did he ask me because I’m Black and I look like I would know where he could find some black-eyed peas? Was I stopped…and searched…and “accidentally” shot because I’m Black, or did the officer just accidentally mistake his pistol for a taser?

After a lifetime of this, of training your ears to detect and distinguish racial dog whistles, you get how someone could read a relatively laudatory piece written by a White journalist and find disturbing racial overtones. Even if other Black people don’t see it, we get it. We get why he’s seeing what he’s seeing. We get why he’s upset about it, even if we might not have been. And, we get how an insistence that nothing is there, that this is all in your head, that you’re playing the race card, that you’re overreacting, that you’re being too sensitive, that “since I don’t see what you say you’re seeing, it must not be there” can make you want to shout.

(Read the rest at Complex)

The Scariest Thing About Chris Dorner? Our (Black People’s) Reaction To Him

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Between her hundreds of pairs of shoes, closets full of clothes, and dressers full of jewelry, to call my mom a fashionista would be an understatement. I’ve teased her about this before—she’s like one White House Black Market bangle away from full-blown Hoarder—but it’s one of the things about her I’ve always appreciated. It’s kinda cool having a mom who’s fly.

Although her illness has made it difficult for her to put the same effort into her appearance, she still relishes the rare opportunities she has to get dressed up. Now, these opportunities usually occur when she’s going to the doctor’s office.

She had one of these opportunities last week, and while speaking to her over the weekend about how her tests went, she brought up something that bothered her a little.

“One of the nurses said something about how dressed up I always am when I come in.”

“Oh? Well you do always look nice. What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know. It just rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes, when White women make those types of statements, they say it with a tone where it feels like they’re just surprised that a Black woman would have nice clothes.”

That the nurse’s statement had a racial undertone is possible. But, as I joked with her, it’s more than likely that my mom was just experiencing a bout of Nigga Neurosis-–my definition for the feeling many of us have when something out of the ordinary (good or bad) happens to us, and we’re not sure whether it only happened because we’re Black.

This (the “Nigga Neurosis”) is one of the more unfortunate byproducts of a lifetime of dealing with America’s neurotic relationship with race. It’s something so ingrained in many of us that we often don’t realize when we’re doing it, and the perpetual mental gymnastics involved in distinguishing between real race-related behavior and perceived can f*ck with a person’s sense of reality.

I was reminded of this yesterday while following the Chris Dorner news and some of our (Black people’s) reactions to it. Not so much the advanced form of Nigga Neurosis displayed by those actually rooting for him, but how messed up things have to be for this to even be possible.

This and other situations like it manages to be both an indictment on America and us at the same time, proving that our experience with race and (real or perceived) racial injustice in this country has left some of us so cynical, so antagonistic, so angry at anything having to to with the “establishment”—police, the government, politics, rich people, etc—that we’ll support any type of comeuppance, regardless of how much evil had to happen for it to occur. This is f*cking scary.

And yes, if the things he’s been accused of are true—and I have no reason to believe that they’re not—Chris Dorner is an evil man. He’s not a hero and he won’t be a martyr. He’s not even a Django. He’s a murderer who killed people in cold blood, a man who might have had a real opportunity to expose the LAPD’s corruption, but instead chose to act on his own selfish need for some type of retribution. At best he’s a movie-of-the-week, a Dateline special, a new Wiki page, a line in a Jadakiss verse. He’s no different than Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, and all the other men who targeted and killed innocent people to avenge some “injustice,” and I will shed no tears when he’s captured and/or killed.

But who Dorner is and what he may have done doesn’t matter. At least to those of us who are rooting for him, it doesn’t. As along as he is Black and getting back at something “White,” it’s a cause worth supporting, regardless of any insignificant collateral damage —like, you know, the murder of a man who could have very easily been your brother, cousin, or boyfriend.

Should America take the blame for this? For making some of us so filled with antipathy and antagonism that it has completely skewed both our sense of right and wrong and our perception of reality? Or, are we just using the nigga neurosis as an convenient excuse to “get back,” to finally unleash our inner Dorners or live vicariously through him as he kills all the White people he can before getting caught?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But, I do know that while reading some of the pro-Dormer tweets, comments, and Facebook statuses yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of the first thing Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) asks Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) in The Departed.

“So…how f*cked up are you?”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)