Early February was an amazing time – absolutely amazing – to watch the performances from two highly talented African Americans, on the highest profile stages in American culture, that so perfectly captured Black Culture and Black America in 2016. Even better that they took place in the midst of one of the most insane Presidential election cycles America has ever seen.
It all started with Beyonce’s Formation video:
And her performance at the Super Bowl:
Killer Mike, Margaret Cho, and Bill Maher had a great conversation that perfectly dissected that song and performance:
My favorite quotes started with Killer Mike:
White people, it's not always about you.
And then Margaret Cho at the end:
Black Pride doesn't have to take anything away from White Culture. It doesn't have to take anything away -- it can exist on it's own. I think this is what Black America needed. It's what all of us needed. It's really important.
Then a week or so later at the Grammy Awards, Kendrick Lamar delivered a performance that not only stole the show, but was quite possibly the most thought provoking and important live musical performance by an African American that I can remember.
Killer Mike’s quote above is applicable to pretty much everything in life: it’s not always about you. You can get offended at these performances or their anger, live in denial, or nitpick over imagery or words. It’s wasted energy. Just because you don’t understand or want to believe someone’s feelings and/or experiences, doesn’t make it any less true or any less important to that person.
Its an important (and hard) lesson to learn and a key to developing empathy and compassion. We all need to do more to turn that empathy and compassion into change. We need to show more support and stand up to racist bullshit: speak up, write more, vote for equality, vote with our dollars, and vote with our time and attention. After all, Desmond Tutu said it best:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
It’s why I was so excited about Obama and now Bernie Sanders. I would much rather live in a world with less inequality, less hatred, less exploitation, less short-term thinking, and less selfishness. It’s not always about you. We live in a modern, extremely inter-connected society that has the ability to provide a little more and put everyone on a better path – whether it’s on a racial level, gender, sexuality, or economics. Small sacrifices by many can improve our society as a whole and make us a greater nation. (And we are already pretty great, despite Trump’s asinine campaign slogan.)
Let’s all do more in 2016 and beyond.