A historically black college in Alabama has apologized for a speech by rapper and activist David Banner that inspired and motivated students while leaving other people feeling marginalized.
Those “other people” were white.
Lavell William Crump, better known as rapper David Banner, has made headlines for his inspirational speeches that tiptoe the line between being uplifting and Umar Johnson-ish. Before making hits such as “Like a Pimp” and that other song that’s not “Like a Pimp,” Banner graduated from Southern University, where he served as student government president and went on to pursue a Master’s degree in business. Although many people believe Banner made a terrible mistake by not naming himself “Billy Crump” (I mean come on! How could he miss that?), his background and popularity made him an obvious choice to speak Talladega College’s convocation on Thursday.
Located in Talladega, Ala., Talladega College was founded when two former slaves met with a group of freedmen and committed themselves to the education of black children. The small four-year liberal arts college made headlines in 2017 when its marching band agreed to perform at President Trump’s inauguration, much to the dismay of many of its alumni. The president of Talladega reportedly banned students from publicly criticizing the school’s decision to celebrate a man whose base would slit the throats of Talladega’s student body if they had their way.
But I’m sure Banner wouldn’t mention that.
Before the speech, Banner told media outlets like WBRC that he was going to speak about the “importance of self” and “piss some people off,” which would have raised some red flags if those outlets had black people working in their newsrooms. “Importance of self” sounds a lot like “knowledge of self,” and if you hear that phrase outside of a KRS-One concert, you’re either passing by a group of Hebrew Israelites or listening to someone talk about the all-too-true history of oppression in America. Either way, white people are going to get uncomfortable.
He did not disappoint.
Deep in the “Heart of Dixie,” Banner called out Donald Trump, racism and even singled out a white student in the crowd during the impassioned speech. While you can almost guarantee that at least four people yelled out “Amen!” or “Preach!,” some people did not like his speech.
Banner, walking through the audience at the college’s gym, questioned President Trump’s campaign slogan, asking when America was ever great for African Americans.
“Do Jewish people send their children to go to work for Nazis? Then why do HBCU’s send you all to go to work for your oppressor?” he asked a somewhat stunned crowd of mostly students.
In an interview before the service, Banner gave a much tamer version of his remarks, saying young people of today want real answers and often look to people who don’t have them.
“I think they want real answers. You know, you tell kids not to do illegal things, but there’s no Boys’ or Girls’ Clubs, they’re closing down libraries, no funding for bands, there’s nowhere for them to go and then you get mad at them because they joined a gang,” he told reporters. “There’s no jobs, but then you get mad because they sell dope.”
“What they come in here, saying all this about sex and drugs, we’re in college! What the hell do they think we’re doing?” he asked the crowd, to applause.
Some students appreciated the message:
But of course, some people felt as if Banner “went a bit too far,” AL.com reports. One can’t imagine why Banner would make white people feel as if they were a minority. Perhaps it was an exercise in history…or truth. Although black people don’t typically wear pearls, or prefer to clutch them, a round of hand-wringing ensued.
In a statement on Friday, Talladega College issued a “sincere apology to all of those who were hurt by Mr. Banner’s divisive commentary,” explaining that the address “does not reflect the views of the College,” adding:
We, the Administration, respect difference in perspectives; however, we will not tolerate disrespect of any kind directed at members of this campus community. Our institutional mission is grounded in the understanding and appreciation of diversity—for we are committed to cultivating free-thinking and confident students who will positively impact the world.
Moving forward, we will revisit the process for identifying and inviting future speakers to campus. We all work hard to ensure Talladega College is an inclusive, safe community for all students, staff, faculty and campus visitors. While we aim for honest engagement and critical conversation, we outright reject attacks against individuals in our community.
Still, David Banner taught the students of Talladega College a valuable lesson:
Banner showed them that the only way to achieve true freedom is when you march to the beat of your own drum. No matter what people say, you must dance to your own rhythm. Forget the criticism and do what’s best for you and your people.
Unless, of course, white people don’t like it, in which case, they will immediately demand an apology...
Like a pimp.