It seems as if every other week, another black celebrity sits down in front of cameras, microphones and a cunning white interviewer with a disarming smile and nefarious means, and tries to explain to the world the delusion that he or she is living in a post-racial America where inequality and prejudice no longer exist.
On Tuesday, social media exploded with a “N–ga, please” when Lil Wayne revealed that he thought racism was over because he had performed at a concert with an all-white audience.
While the internet, black Twitter and disgusted fans immediately pounced on these proclamations, we have decided to take a different angle by borrowing the “Explain Like I’m 5” method to explain racism. We gathered a group of the most prominent adherents to the “New Black” philosophy and used the “ELI5” approach to teach them the reality of racism in America:
I want to thank you all for coming today. Before we get started, I’m going to ask that you put down your coloring books for a minute and pay attention to what I’m about to tell you. I know it seems a little crowded in here, but we decided to invite the entire Seattle Seahawks team at the last minute. I don’t know why they still have their arms Iinked—but guys, we aren’t going to play the national anthem before we start.
I wanted to talk to all of you today about racism. If you pay attention and listen carefully, you will each get a lollipop when we are finished.
I know, Lil Wayne—or should I call you Weezy?—I know you said you’ve never experienced racism, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You’ve been a rap celebrity since you were a teenager, so you may have been insulated from it, but do you remember Hurricane Katrina? Do you remember how they left people to drown in the aftermath of the flood? No, Tunechi, “aftermath” does not mean the classroom time between long division and English. Do you remember when police lined up on the Danziger Bridge and opened fire on civilians trying to reach the safety of the white neighborhoods across the bridge? That tragedy wasn’t because their mixtapes weren’t fire; it was because of racism.
In fact, racism is all around you, even though you may have crossed a threshold in society where it no longer reaches you. Yes, boys and girls, racism still exists. It’s like playing peekaboo—just because you cover your eyes and can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not still there.
Cam Newton, do you remember when you played against the Tennessee Titans last year and a mom wrote a letter calling you “arrogant” and questioning your family life because you danced in the end zone? Do you think she believes—as you stated you did a few weeks ago—that we’re “all the same color underneath“? When a study revealed that in your home state of North Carolina, police are three times more likely to arrest black drivers for seat belt violations, did you wonder if they saw the “color underneath”? When the Supreme Court overturned a voter-ID law that lawmakers openly admitted was an effort to restrict minority voting, did you wonder why they didn’t concentrate on the “color underneath”?
Those were called “rhetorical questions”—which means you already know the answer to them all. You went to junior college in Texas and received your degree from Auburn University in Alabama. I know you’ve seen racism. If you’ve forgotten what it is like, I’m going to chalk it up to the repeated helmet-to-helmet contact. Or maybe you swallowed some of the blond hair coloring you dyed your goatee with.
Don’t laugh, Raven-Symoné, because I think you’ve been ingesting some, too. As a matter of fact, how’d you even get in here? Didn’t you say that you weren’t an African American, that you were just “American”? You should move your desk over and talk to Jerry Rice, because when he accused Colin Kaepernick of disrespecting the flag and added, “All lives matter,” I immediately thought, “That’s so Raven.”
I just want you “New Blacks” to know that racism is real, regardless of what you say or believe. By the way, you should all thank Pharrell for coining that phrase. We invited him, but he couldn’t attend because his shucking-and-jiving hat wouldn’t fit through the door. Anyway, your delusional reluctance to admit that prejudice and inequality is real means nothing. Even if you aren’t affected by it on a daily basis, your family and friends are still held hostage by America’s second-class treatment. Acting as if you don’t believe in it isn’t just willful ignorance, it is evil. It’s like going up to a family who’s lost brothers, sisters, daughters and sons because of brain tumors and proclaiming that you don’t believe in cancer.
I did not bring you here to ridicule you. I brought you here to warn you that one day, when your throwing arm turns to mush, your television show is canceled or people stop dancing to your music, you will experience it, too. I just hope you recognize it when you see it.
It will be the quizzical look on your black children’s faces when a jittery cop pulls a gun on them because they believed they could talk to policemen the way their white friends do. It will feel like the gut punch when one of your cool Caucasian comrades is comfortable enough to tell a racist joke around you. Like Solange at a Kraftwerk concert. Like NBA star John Henson at a jewelry store. Like Leslie Jones in America.
Racism is neither Santa Claus nor the Easter Bunny. It is not a myth that you can stop believing in once your bank account gets the requisite amount of zeros. It is a monster under your bed. It is a bogeyman hiding in your closet. It will eventually come out of the darkness, but it can devour you only if you are asleep. I’m just trying to wake you up.
And please stay woke, my friends.
Don’t forget your lollipops.