As I first listened to "The Blacker the Berry," I was amazed. Kendrick succinctly comments on white supremacy, the hate for black bodies, prison labor, the violence of slavery, and genocide of black and African people all within a few verses. The realness of it was enough to make my head spin, and the anger of the young black character Kendrick embodies was speaking his truth. With lyrics like:
My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide
You hate me don't you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You're fuckin' evil I want you to recognize that I'm a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can't take style from me
Throughout the song, Kendrick's character refers to himself as a hypocrite, without revealing the meaning behind those words. But surely, nothing could take back the power claimed through the rest of the song? Kendrick finishes with:
So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?
Even that idea still indulges the "hypocrite" argument too much. Gang activity and situations in the black community that lead to desperation and poverty, and in turn violence, all can find their root in racism and white supremacy. When we mourn victims of gang violence, when we mourn our own participation in cycles of violence, when we mourn men and women gunned down in the street by rogue racists and by state-sanctioned racist police, we are all mourning the same damn thing: black death and degradation as a result of centuries of systemic racism, oppression, and violence against black people in this country. To imply anything other is a waltz of respectability for the white gaze, a dance that never ends, that distracts us from the ultimate goal of dismantling racism. Kendrick, for all his knowledge and good intentions, has been caught in a seductive trap designed to tell black people that they are the problem. Black people and communities are not hypocrites or problems to be solved.