Entertainment giant Viacom CBS fired television host, comedian and former Atlanta A&T percussionist Nick Cannon on Tuesday for making comments many classified as derogatory, racist and anti-Semitic on his podcast “Cannon’s Class.” Cannon’s show Wild ‘N Out was in its 15th season on Viacom-owned MTV before the white-owned media conglomerate abruptly pulled it off the air.
“When you have a person that has the lack of pigment, the lack of melanin, they know that they will be annihilated,” Cannon explained on his “Cannon’s Class” podcast. “So the people that don’t have [melanin] are—I’mma say this carefully—are a little less...They’re acting out of fear. They’re acting out of low self-esteem. They’re acting out of a deficiency. So, therefore, the only way they can act is evil.”
Cannon’s comments included elements from Yakub’s history—the insane theory that white people were created 6,000 years ago by an evil, cave-dwelling scientist. According to this alternative version of history endorsed by The Nation of Islam, this “genetically engineered tribe of white-skinned albinos” evolved into a “behaviorally aggressive race of rulers—namely, the Caucasians—who then spread into every corner of the world.” He interpolated this with the writings of Dr. Frances Cress Welding’s 1974 essay “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism,” which theorized that racial intolerance exists because of whites’ deep-seated jealousy of people with melanin, which causes white people to embrace white supremacy.
While this canon is as stupid as the theories that produced the mainstream, scientifically accepted beliefs that Black people are less intelligent, more violent and sexually promiscuous, Cannon’s regurgitation of these hypotheses made a lot of white people mad.
Black Twitter, however, had a different reaction.
Were Black people being hypocritical? Does this prove the Black community is anti-Semitic? Does this mean we had to buy tickets to the 85 South Show to see Karlous Miller battle Chico Bean? What would happen to “loose legs?” Why weren’t Black people upset about Cannon’s racism?
Well, while many accused Mariah’s ex of being racist and anti-Semitic, Cannon explained that—while he might have the extra bone that helps Black people run faster (yes, that is an actual thing some white people believe)—he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.
I, however, think Nick Cannon is a motherfucking genius.
Yes, Nick Cannon’s words were bigoted. Yes, I understand why people are infuriated by what he said. Yes, I believe Viacom has the right to fire him for bringing a negative spotlight on their company. But I am elated that Nick Cannon said what he said because...
Nick Cannon is America.
First, check my resume.
Before we embark upon this argument and I am accused of conveniently changing my stance on this subject because I like Nick Cannon, you will see that I have previously expressed four beliefs:
I have never called for the firing of anyone for being racist unless their positions or status materially affects the lives of other people (a teacher, banker, police officer, prosecutor, etc.). I have offered white people the opportunity to “hate me with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns” as long as they treat me as an equal.
When Bill Maher used the words “house nigger” on HBO, I didn’t call for him to be fired. Even though I thought what he said was racist, I expressly said: “I am not mad or outraged by Maher’s use of the n-word,” because...
I believe that a lot of white people think that if they don’t consciously hate Black people, they aren’t racist. Technically, they are correct racism is an outcome and, until Taylor Richardson invents a time machine and sells it to Elon Musk, I don’t know how we fix what people believe. But we can fix the systems that disproportionately harm Black people. As I previously explained:
First, we must agree that racism has nothing to do with “belief,” intent or animosity. It is the result of actions and policies that create and perpetuate racism. The grand delusion that one can only be racist if there is hate in one’s heart is the biggest myth of white supremacy and one of the largest reasons it still exists...
In theory, it might be useful to eliminate hate, intentional bias and anti-black sentiment. But it is impossible to measure the feelings of teachers, landlords, school administrators, judges, juries and employers. What matters is their actions.
While I understand people who contend that Black people can’t be racist because racism requires power, I have repeatedly written (including here, here and here) that the idea of power is subjective. A Black police officer wields as much power as his fellow white officers. Whether they are Black are white, cops are all subject to the same racist notion that Black people are more dangerous, which leads to disproportionate murders of Black people. A powerless white man who stocks the shelves at Home Depot and hates Black people is a racist, even if he can’t materially affect any black person’s day-to-day life.
Two years ago, In “White People Are Cowards,” I explained:
Inequality and racism exist not because of evil but because the unaffected majority put their interests above all others, and their inaction allows inequality to flourish. That is why I believe that silence in the presence of injustice is as bad as injustice itself. White people who are quiet about racism might not plant the seed, but their silence is sunlight.
For years, I have tried to find an apt analogy to illustrate these concepts. I’ve used childhood stories, actual history and fictional medical diagnoses to explain how white supremacy works. But it wasn’t until Nick Cannon stepped on this proverbial land mine of “black supremacy” that I found the perfect metaphor for the difference between systemic racism and individual hate.
Check America’s resume.
America has been racist for a long time.
The Constitution, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the phrase “what about Black-on-Black crime?” all have roots in premises analogous to Cannon’s outrageous claims. There are many others, including Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Tucker Carlson and every third guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast who espouse similar theories.
As soon as Cannon’s comments hit social media, people rightfully trotted out the well-worn “if a white person said that” argument, conveniently forgetting the white people who actually said that. There is a man sitting in the Oval Office at the White House who has similar statements about Mexicans, Muslims, Jews and Black people all the time. Donald Trump’s senior adviser (Stephen Miller), his former Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) and his newest nominee to the National Security Election Board (Sebastian Gorka, among others), all believe in the white supremacist versions of Yakub’s theory.
These people are white supremacists.
Nick Cannon’s words were racist.
Check Nick Cannon’s resume.
Nick Cannon has been a low-key hotep for a while. People who follow him know that he has been preaching this ideology for a while. Most Black people specifically hear this anti-white sentiment every time we visit a barbershop, have a conversation with our cousin who just got out of jail or cross the street whenever we see Hebrew Israelites preaching on the corner.
Black people who read books instead of getting their historical and political information from YouTube know where this information comes from. The overwhelming ubiquity of racism necessitates a search for a logical explanation to answer the age-old question: “Why are white people like this?” Every Black person who ever lived—from Louis Farrakhan to me have tried to figure it out. Some, like Ibram X. Kendi, explain it with history. Harvard-trained psychologist Frances Cress Welding explained it with a version of what Cannon said. And while theorizing that white supremacy exists because of the fear and envy of melanin might seem crazy as fuck, you know what else is crazy as fuck?
But if we gave Nick Cannon the same benefit of the doubt that white people are afforded every day, we could simply dismiss Cannon’s statements as a misstep because, aside from a sincere belief that he is a better rapper than Eminem, we don’t know what’s in Cannon’s heart. While there is an argument to be made that Cannon has a platform that could possibly inspire hate, the Venn diagram of Wild ‘N Out viewers and people who wield influence in America’s power structure probably looks like two separate circles.
Nick Cannon doesn’t have a badge and a gun. Nick Cannon doesn’t vote to give Black school districts $23 billion less than predominately white districts. He doesn’t punish Black students at higher rates. He doesn’t sentence Black defendants to 20 percent longer sentences. Unless you’re sitting in the audience during Wild ‘N Out’s “family reunion” segment or plan on being a contestant on The Masked Singer, Nick Cannon probably has very little influence in your everyday life.
And none of this is to say that Cannon’s words shouldn’t be condemned. Whether you’re sitting in a barbershop or on the set of “Cannon’s Classroom,” you should speak up every single time that someone espouses racist, homophobic, sexist, transphobic or harmful beliefs. That is the only way to beat this stupid bullshit. We have to do it every single time.
And that is also what we have to do about systemic racism. We can’t cancel Nick Cannon and still watch the NFL. Viacom can’t say they fired Nick because they stand against discrimination while continuing to air The NFL on CBS. If you are against systemic racism, you have to call for police reform. If you want to fight white supremacy, you have to stand against all of it.
And, don’t worry, white people. You’ll be fine. Despite what Terry Crews and White Twitter would have you believe, you wanna know why there’s no real danger of systemic “Black supremacy” taking over America?
Because Black people won’t let it.
Black people have fought alongside whites to correct every injustice in our history. Black women were heavily involved in the suffrage movement. But when white women got the right to vote, white women essentially said: “Fuck y’all nigger wenches.” Black people fought in the 19th-century labor movement, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, every battle for immigrants’ rights, the equal rights movement, the right to choose, gun control, income inequality and the battle for universal healthcare.
And every single time white people got what they wanted, they spurned the Black people who stood alongside them and sometimes led the fight.
That’s why a lot of Black people don’t care about canceling Nick Cannon. It’s not because Black people are anti-Semitic. It’s not that they are hypocrites. Even if they know Yakub’s theory is bullshit, they also know America is bullshit. It’s hard to care about Nick’s racist sticks and stones when white supremacy is firing bullets while America keeps pretending not to see the gun smoke.
But, until yesterday, this concept has proven incredibly difficult to explain.
For that, I thank Nick Cannon.