If you have to ask, the answer is no.
Recently LA’s Brentwood School made the news for a video that leaked. It featured of a bunch of high school kids who were partying on a yacht while singing along to A$AP Ferg’s “Dump Dump”. The kids appear to be mostly white and are singing along to the lyrics which include the N word (with an 'a' at the end).
The video clip got out on social media and former baseball player Barry Bonds, whose daughter attends the school, posted it on his Twitter page.
There are a lot of people who don’t think the kids did anything wrong, since they are “just singing along to a song” [insert eye roll]. Let me just stop those people right now.
Yes A$AP Ferg can say the N word. Yes Beyonce can say the N word. Yes Kendrick Lamar can say the N word.
They are artists. African American artists. They convey THEIR experience, THEIR story, through THEIR art. The N word, no matter how ugly and disturbing, is part of African American history. Current day some individuals choose to embrace taking ownership of the word and use it to express themselves. But unless you are African American that right is not available to you.
Permission is not granted.
This is a conversation I have had with my own daughter (who is half black) more than a few times. The most recent example was after we watched the movie on Jesse Owens' life, Race. The word was used throughout the film, so it prompted another conversation about what it meant and how it is used current day. After I heard about what happened with the Brentwood students we had the talk again.
We have also talked about why even though I sing Beyonce's new song "Sorry" at the top of my lungs at least once a day, she will hear a distinct pause during certain parts of the song because I, as a white woman, do not have permission to sing that particular lyric. Will she sing along to that someday? Maybe, her blackness gives her that choice. She hears male friends of ours use it in casual conversation, she hears it in songs, she is not shielded from it. Because shielding does not educate, conversation does.
THE OTHER SIDE
As I was researching this story, I came across Mark Dice’s YouTube page with a video that shared his thoughts. I hesitate to even share this video because as I listened I had a similar feeling to when I watch anything Trump related, I wanted to crawl through the screen and punch him in the face. So watch this with that warning in mind:)
The comments are awful. This guy saying the N word is awful. I don’t agree with anything he is saying. But I also know many Brentwood parents probably share his sentiments that it is "no big deal". But I will respectfully let them know that they are WRONG.
LET'S TEACH SOME ACCOUNTABILITY
The kids on this yacht are well educated, at least in the traditional classroom sense. They should know better. Their parents, their school and their community need to hold them accountable. I am POSITIVE if this same group of kids were enthusiastically singing along to a song with homophobic lyrics or anti-Semitic lyrics the community as a whole would be outraged.
These kids are beyond privileged and they have access to everything the world has to offer. An education worth 40k a year is a beautiful thing to be able to give your child however, the learning needs to extend beyond the classroom if these students are going to become adults with integrity. Excusing this behavior, or laughing it off, is not going to do them any favors in the future.
I hope these kids, their parents and their school learn 3 lessons from all of this negative attention:
- Kids need to be engaging in conversations about race in school and at home from a young age. Diversity and cultural understanding needs to always be top of mind. Schools and parents often avoid these conversations for fear they can sometimes be uncomfortable but they are vital and need to be addressed early and often.
- Expose these kids to the real world. Not the privileged world of 5 star hotels in glamorous locales, but the real world. Give them the opportunity to see life through others' eyes. If you have never been marginalized because of race (or gender) it can be hard to understand that experience. The only way to do that is to surround yourself with people who have had that experience and to hear their perspectives.
- Teach these kids RESPECT. Respect for everyone. Children model behavior. Behavior they see at home and behavior they see on screens. It is up to the parents to "check" these kids. That means being an upstanding human being yourself and if you witness people making comments or disrespecting another individual you must speak up and model that behavior for your child.
Oh and as a bonus suggestion... 15 year olds alone on a yacht with alcohol is not a great idea.