Upon first hearing exactly why Kendrick Lamar had decided to pull out of performing at GQ’s Man of the Year party, my reactions were as follows:

(In chronological order)

1. “Damn. Good shit.”
2. “Is it normal for people to perform at parties they’re supposed to be honored at?”
3. “I wonder if Drake was planning on being there, found out Kendrick was being honored, canceled because of 'other plans,' found out Kendrick wouldn’t be there, and canceled his cancellation.”
4. “Actually, you know what? Lemme go and read this profile.”

So I went and read the profile. Twice. Armed with my race card. And my ready-made confirmation bias. And while clutching my laminated picture of “Buggin Out” (Giancarlo Esposito in Do the Right Thing). Ready and willing to perform whichever racial forensics necessary to find the racial undertones in Steve Marsh’s piece.

And, I didn’t see them.

Others kinda, sorta, did see them, even if they qualified them by calling the piece more “lazy and disrespectful” than racist. I, on the other hand, couldn’t find them at all.

But I get it.

Maybe you do too. And if you do, this isn’t for you. You don’t have to stop reading, of course. Just read while knowing that what’s being read wasn't written for you.

If you don’t get how (Top Dawg Entertainment CEO) Anthony Tiffith found the racial undertones in the piece to be so problematic that he pulled Kendrick Lamar from performing at a party honoring Kendrick Lamar, you’re likely thinking Tiffith was being sensitive. Maybe you, like me, didn’t see any racial undertones in the profile. Or, maybe you also kinda, sorta, did see them. Either way, you probably don’t see what the big deal was.

You don’t get it.

This isn’t an indictment, mind you. It’s not your fault for not getting it. Really. It’s not. You've never had to. And because you've never had to, you don’t know how to. So why should you?

I do not know Anthony Tiffith. Until two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who he was. I do know, though, that he’s Black. A Black American. I am also a Black American. Since we share this characteristic, I’m going to assume his relationship with America is, like many Black Americans, complex. I’m also going to assume that, like many Black Americans, this complexity influences the way he receives, processes, and assesses information. He, like many of us, sees America differently than you do. Not completely differently. We love ice cream and hate hipsters just like you do. But he, a Black American, sees America differently than you do because America sees him, a Black American, differently than they see you. And an effect of this cynical and neurotic relationship that America has with Black America is that many Black Americans return that cynicism and co-opt that neurosis.

This, this “nigga neurosis,” has a way of allowing race to color our interactions with non-Black people and/or institutions. Because we’re aware of the context behind both America’s relationship with race and our own relationships with America’s relationship with race, we have a tendency to question whether things (good or bad) happened (or didn’t happen) because we’re Black. Sometimes these things are (relatively) innocuous. Sometimes they're not.

A waitress is short with me and fucks up my order. Is she just a shitty waitress, or is she acting shittily because I’m Black? Is my credit history or my Blackness the reason I wasn’t approved for that bank loan? Did I earn that promotion, or are they just filling a quota? Did he just randomly walk up and ask me where he could find black-eyed peas, or did he ask me because I’m Black and I look like I would know where he could find some black-eyed peas? Was I stopped...and searched...and "accidentally" shot because I'm Black, or did the officer just accidentally mistake his pistol for a taser?

After a lifetime of this, of training your ears to detect and distinguish racial dog whistles, you get how someone could read a relatively laudatory piece written by a White journalist and find disturbing racial overtones. Even if other Black people don’t see it, we get it. We get why he’s seeing what he’s seeing. We get why he’s upset about it, even if we might not have been. And, we get how an insistence that nothing is there, that this is all in your head, that you’re playing the race card, that you’re overreacting, that you’re being too sensitive, that “since I don’t see what you say you’re seeing, it must not be there” can make you want to shout.

This isn’t an indictment, mind you. It’s not your fault for not getting it. Really. It’s not. You've never had to. And because you've never had to, you don’t know how to. So why should you?

Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s not your fault for not getting it. It is your fault if you become exposed to why you don’t get it and continue to believe there’s absolutely nothing there to get.

Cause it’s there. Even if it’s not. Which probably doesn’t make any sense. Which is cool. Because getting it never really does, either.

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