Blame It on Hip-Hop: Why Morning Joe Came to SAE’s Rescue

MSNBC screenshot
MSNBC screenshot

As MSNBC continues its obvious attempts to draw conservatives away from Fox News, Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski have fully embraced their roles as the Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin of the network.


Mocking rapper Waka Flocka Flame for canceling a scheduled performance at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat house at the University of Oklahoma, Brzezinski said, “If you look at every single song, I guess you call these, that he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage. It’s full of n-words, it’s full of f-words. It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with [the fraternity]; he should be disgusted with himself.”

Of course, Brzezinski was suggesting that Waka Flocka shouldn’t be disgusted by these words: “There will never be a n—ger SAE/There will never be a n—ger SAE/You can hang ’em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n—ger SAE.”

Because, hip-hop.

Scarborough even went so far as to insinuate that SAE became familiar with the n-word through hip-hop—as opposed to, say, the generations of redneck ratchetry passed down to them through their Confederacy-loving brotherhood. But it was Brzezinski—with her snide comments about Waka Flocka’s music and side eyes at his stage name—who was given the role of bigot-in-residence, and it has been left to her to clean up the mess.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s The Cycle, Brzezinski backpedaled as furiously as Amy Pascal did after her hacked emails at Sony were exposed. She denied drawing a link between use of the n-word in hip-hop and SAE’s little party-bus jam session, saying, “Lyrics have nothing to do with the actions that happened on the bus.”

“Having said that,” Brzezinski said to the Rev. Al Sharpton (because, of course, where else would he be?), “[Waka Flocka’s] lyrics are inflammatory. They use the n-word and the f-bomb … but that, again, is a separate conversation. It is sort of like the big picture in terms of where we are moving in terms of our society, and also how we view art and what is art and what is dangerous, or what is art and what perhaps could be disturbing to people. But that is a completely different and fascinating conversation.”


Oh, now it’s a different conversation? Now it’s fascinating? What a difference a day makes when black viewership is on the line.

No, Brzezinski did not blame hip-hop for the ease with which SAE members sang that song, nor for some white people’s casual use of the n-word in general. Scarborough and guest Bill Kristol, however, did. And she should be embarrassed that she’s ducking and dodging that issue on their behalf.


Let’s be clear: The misogynoir and violence that permeate hip-hop are not something to be dismissed, but that is not the conversation that was being had. And despite Brzezinski’s assertion otherwise, the only reason that she brought it up was to race-bait and switch the conversation from SAE to hi-hop—the black scapegoat in every single conversation about racism in this country, along with “irresponsible,” young black mothers and “absent” black fathers. She brought it up as if to say, “If you think these SAE kids are bad, you should check out this rapper.”

Bill O’Reilly must be so proud.

There is speech, moving one’s mouth to form words, and there is language, a “symbolic, rule-governed system used to convey a message.” And the speech on that frat bus, the juvenile use of the word “n—ger,” is of much less concern than the language that the Morning Joe panel is trying to minimize.


The joy, the smug superiority, the frenzied, good-ole’-boy excitement of being among other white people who get it, who find humor in nooses squeezing the life from another human being—that is the language of racialized, state-sanctioned terrorism that taunts black America in 2015 as much as it did in 1856, when SAE was founded. So, trying to shift the blame to a culture born from that terror, a culture that exposes and at times reflects white supremacy, instead of keeping it squarely at the feet of privileged little white frat boys—and the antebellum Southern system that spawned them—is what’s disgusting here.

I don’t believe Brzezinski’s faux outrage over lyrics she probably Googled right before the show just to have something to say. I don’t believe that Scarborough is ignorant enough to believe that hip-hop is the inspiration for a hundred-year-old song that these frat boys reportedly had to learn upon initiation. Those attempts to shame those of us outraged into silence won’t work, and I would have more respect for them if they had cut through the bulls—t and said what they really felt:

Black people: Stop teaching white people to hate you.

Hip-hop isn’t the system of oppression that the Morning Joe panel needs to dismantle. The thugs of Sigma Alpha Epsilon are just the rotten fruit of trees stained with the blood of black people who built this country on their backs.


And let’s be clear: When their white ancestors were holding lynching parties and hanging us from trees, they weren’t bumping Biggie.