[Ed. Note—The opinions expressed during this conversation reflect the opinions of the participants and the participants only. This conversation does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Complex Media.]
City Guide's Lauretta Charlton and Julian Kimble tackle the most controversial headlines about race that made the news. This month's discussion includes Lord Jamar, Kobe Bryant on Trayvon Martin, interracial dating and Kanye West's Vogue cover story.
[NBA star Kobe Bryant told the New Yorker that he "won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm an African-American," referring to the Trayvon Martin case. Critics argue his comments are out of touch with reality and downplay the existence of racism.]
Lauretta: Okay. One thing: If you are going to chime in about people making judgements too quickly, you'd do well to at LEAST spell the kid's name correctly. I'm referring to his follow-up tweet, in which he misspelled Trayvon's name. Really, Kobe?
Julian: That shows you how much of a shit he gives. Cue "These Are Our Heroes."
Lauretta: I mean, it's not like he's known for being the most empathetic person. I did not know he once said during a Newsweek interview that he doesn't believe in happiness. Maybe he's not human?
Julian: You know, I take that back. Kobe Bryant is an interesting case. I met him when he was a teenager, and he exhibited no signs of self-loathing, though there's something dark beneath the surface with him. He's experienced racism, though.
Lauretta: I'm guessing that was a long time ago when his ego wasn't the size of a small nation.
Julian: Yeah, he was cool back then. But, like I said, he has a dark side that's always been there.
Lauretta: Now everybody loves to hate him.
Julian: He just embraced it following the sexual assault allegations. I started hating him in 2000 purely off of basketball shit.
Lauretta: I feel like I started hating him when I realized that Phil Jackson had to go to therapy.
Julian: I hated how he was exalted as this "Golden Boy" while everyone talked about Allen Iverson like the Devil's Son. When people started to hate Kobe and realize he wasn't a saint, I actually started to like him better. Once he just embraced the dark side, he didn't really bother me. Don't get me wrong, I still think he's an asshole, I'm just OK with it. However, I wasn't OK with his comments in the New Yorker.
Lauretta: Right. And I think that speaks to the fact that he feels he's above all of us.
Julian: In some respect, he's right—we shouldn't just defend someone because we're black and they're black without all of the facts. I just wonder if he'd say that to the people who rushed to his defense when he caught a case.
Lauretta: But that is not what this is.
Julian: Exactly. Now, he's come out and said that Trayvon Martin was wronged and that the system didn't work.
Lauretta: You mean "Travon."
Julian: LOL. You're an asshole for that.
Lauretta: Part of the reason why his comments bothered me so much is because the subtext is "we live in a post-racial world," when we don't.
Julian: But saying "I won't react to something I'm supposed to because I'm an African-American" suggests that he knows he's supposed to react. That part also bothered me. Trayvon Martin was dead at 17, whereas Kobe was taking Brandy to the prom and on his way to the NBA, but Kobe Bryant was eventually treated just as Trayvon Martin was—even as a celebrity. He should know he's not above the microscope.
Lauretta: Part of me thinks the editors at the New Yorker are rubbing their hands together, like, "YES, let's get black folks riled up over this one. CHA-CHING."
[Outspoken rap artist Lord Jamar is a self-proclaimed "conservative." His goal is to preserve the culture of hip-hop, which he argued in a recent interview is being diluted by artists such as Kanye West and Macklemore.]
Julian: Speaking of the New Yorker. They ran a piece on Lord Jamar that was, um, talked about to say the least.
Lauretta: Yo, that dude. I cannot lie, I agree with him on some points. I feel very strongly about jazz and rock and roll having African-American roots that are often overshadowed. This guy is saying the same thing is happening with hip-hop.
Julian: Right, I was with him in regard to jazz and rock, but then he got reckless.
Lauretta: My issue is, NO, it's not okay to bash on gay people. NOT okay to be homophobic. Newsflash, Lord Jamar, being gay isn't a WHITE thing. Like, how does Kanye wearing a skirt make rap more palatable for white people? Come on, son. No one made Kanye wear the damn skirt.
Julian: But you're acting like homophobes are rational people.
Lauretta: Good call. Julian: Of course he's going to come off ridiculous there.
Lauretta: Lord Jamar is not rational?
Julian: Overall, I'd say he is, but I'd also say he's impeded by his convictions. Hung up on his beliefs and ideals.
Lauretta: Do you think this is grandstanding? He's no longer relevant and this is the only way for him to be relevant again.
Lauretta: My issue with that is, you're old, let go. Don't try and front like you're working to preserve the "culture." You are trying to preserve your bank account.
Julian: No, you're right, and here's my thing about "preserving the culture": He acts like "weird" rappers are some new phenomenon. Like, go back to when Brand Nubian was popular. Consider groups like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, even P.M. Dawn and Arrested Development—they were considered "weird" and not the traditional "alpha male" that Lord Jamar feels is a requirement in hip-hop today. So this alternative existed in his era.
Lauretta: Ugh. Alpha male. GTFO with that shit.
Julian: Look, some people are just bound by mental obstacles and the limitation of their minds. Going back to Kanye in his skirt, it was puzzling, but I don't think it lacked being "alpha male" or masculinity. This is the same dude who said "But with my ego, I can stand there in a speedo and be looked at like a fuckin' hero." Kanye West is still a black man and, even in a fuckin' skirt, he's treated that way by society, lamestream media and the law. You bring his name up around some people, and they'll act like you just mentioned Louis Farrakhan. Some people really think Kanye is a menace to society, skirt and all.
Lauretta: "Bitch, I'm on my own dick." Kanye to Lord Jamar.
Julian: Kanye ran up on some kid who dropped the n-bomb and disrespected his fiancé—the mother of his child. That doesn't really strike me as a beta male action. It's what Lord Jamar would've done.
Lauretta: Yeah, something tells me we won't have a Kenny G of rap music any time soon.
Julian: Get the fuck out of here with that.
Lauretta: I think he's using his own paranoia as a scare tactic.
Lauretta: What about his Macklemore comment?
Julian: Look, I'll be honest and say that I'm not a Macklemore fan at all, but it's not because he's "watering down the whiskey" of hip-hop. People act like they didn't know he was going to clean up at the Grammys. All of that fake mad bullshit was a waste of energy to me, as if the Academy is really the authority on hip-hop.
Lauretta: Yeah. Sometimes I feel very protective of our history, heritage, culture and for that I get where Lord Jamar is coming from.
Julian: As do I, but Macklemore's success is not a threat to that.
Lauretta: The reality is, things are changing so quickly that it's hard to adjust and know the best way to be a "cultural conservative." As far as I'm concerned, bashing gay people, white people or women is definitely not the way to do it.
Julian: You can look at Spike Lee's comments about gentrification in Brooklyn, then look at Lord Jamar's comments about whites in hip-hop and see how one argument is valid, and the other is flawed. Listen, hip-hop is its own culture at this point. Its roots are in African-American culture, but that doesn't mean people outside of that culture aren't allowed to appreciate it.
Lauretta: Yeah. We can't afford to be precious about this stuff.
Julian: You can be white and be part of hip-hop culture if you respect the origins. End of discussion.
Lauretta: And to your point, yes, Spike Lee's comments have an urgency that Lord Jamar's do not.
Julian: Kanye wearing a skirt isn't ruining hip-hop, nor is Macklemore because really, I don't give a fuck what people wear and I don't think songs about marriage equality or thrift store ballin' are a threat to the culture.
Lauretta: And now Kanye is on the cover of Vogue.
[Kanye West is the first rapper to grace the cover of Vogue magazine. Fans and haters have come out of the woodwork in either protest or support of the magazine's bold decision to feature West and Kim Kardashian, also the first interracial couple.]
Julian: So here's the thing about that cover. Everyone has a reason to love it and everyone has a reason to hate it—if you give a fuck.
Lauretta: But isn't Vogue is a fashion magazine about luxury and skinny white people? In short: everything Kimye is not?
Julian: Yes, that's what's kind of arresting about it, and perhaps that's why Anna Wintour did it. Kanye is "sophisticated ignorance," as he would put it. Like I said before, there are some people who look at Kanye West with the utmost disdain. So to see him on the cover of this prestigious magazine, well, it's a slap in the face to them and the very fabric of their existence. Kim's presence amplifies that because people hate her for a different set of reasons. Love them or hate them, they're polarizing figures, and that sells magazines.
Lauretta: Sadly, I feel so indifferent about it. Like, who cares? All of these people have more money than I will ever have. They are all assholes in that regard.
Julian: I don't care either. I don't read Vogue. I'm not the target demo.
Lauretta: I don't read Vogue either. What motivated Kanye and Kim to be on the cover? Do you think it's because he wanted to get under everyone's skin? It's the ultimate status symbol and the ultimate "fuck you."
Julian: That's part of it. They both love attention. Like you said, it's the ultimate fuck you, and it's also a nice pre-wedding gift. "Look baby, I got you that Vogue cover." Ray J couldn't do that shit.
[City Guide ran an interview about black women and Asian men and why they should date. Not everyone agreed with the opinions expressed in the article.]
Lauretta: Speaking of interracial couples, shall we talk about black women and Asian men dating?
Julian: Yep. Let me ask you: What motivated you to write about that?
Lauretta: Oh, I'm not married and I'm thinking about whether or not I want to be, and if so why. Is it my fault? Is it because I'm black? Is it because I actually don't want to be married?
Julian: Why do people obsess over marriage to the extent that they do?
Lauretta: Clearly you haven't been in many weddings.
Julian: I've been in two the past two years. I get it, I just feel so differently—or indifferently, actually—about it.
Lauretta: About swirling or marriage?
Lauretta: Swirly swirl.
Julian: Long live the swirl.
Lauretta: But lots of people DO NOT THINK SWIRLING IS A GOOD THING.
Julian: I meant marriage though, and that's their opinion.
Lauretta: What's your opinion about marriage?
Julian: It's cool, but it's not something that needs to be rushed in my eyes. For example, people shouldn't be like "Oh my god, I'm 27 and I'm not married. My life is utterly meaningless as a result." Or even "All my friends are married. How come I'm not married?" There are more important things to worry about.
Lauretta: Like the upcoming Captain America movie.
Julian: I was thinking Cinco de Mayo and perhaps the new X-Men movie.
[30-year-old Amherst graduate Kyle Hunt organized a White Man March in an effort to raise awareness about the how the Aryan race is being threatened by diversity in America.]
Lauretta: So, last topic: White Man March! White people must be really bored these days.
Julian: Only the scared types with nothing better to do than spew propaganda like "Diversity=White Genocide."
Lauretta: These guys definitely don't support swirling, but they are obviously approaching this issue of conservation in the same way as Lord Jamar.
Julian: Absolutely. Those dudes probably have swirl fantasies, though.
Lauretta: Pass. But, on the real, wanting to preserve your heritage is not a crazy concept. What's crazy is when you conflate that argument with racism, paranoia and hate mongering.
Julian: It's a very fundamentalist perspective. I, for one, would just like to say that I won't sleep at night until the plight of the white male is understood. They are entitled to the right to be subjected to stop-and-frisks, DWB (Driving While Black) and all the systemic racism that blacks experience.
Lauretta: LOL. Preach!
Julian: How dare anyone deny them that.
Lauretta: That is very good of you, Julian. What's interesting about the White Man March is they are projecting some doomsday when white people will be extinct.
Julian: I feel like any white supremacist with a shred of rationale left should be able to look at that and realize how ridiculous the entire notion is.
Lauretta: You'd think they would be more concerned with the more serious threats to the human race. Like having enough potable water, for example.
Julian: Nope. That takes a back seat to "white genocide," the biggest threat to society since comfort and that damned Kanye West.
Lauretta: Look, everyone deserves to have a parade or march. I like a good parade, but this is clearly a case of ill-placed priorities.
Julian: Their stylish Aryan uniform had me in tears.
Lauretta: Yes! Fucking Polo shirts. Who comes up with that stuff?
Julian: Khakis. Sunglasses.
Lauretta: Like most people, I thought the White Man March was a joke.
Julian: If so, it's hilariously self-aware. The sunglasses thing was exceptionally funny to me, though. "Let's hide our eyes so we look confident!"
Lauretta: Sounds like some beta male shit to me.
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