But that does not seem to interrupt two critical things that are profoundly significant, that continue to happen: number one, deep structural inequality, which includes the protection of white economic, social, cultural, political influence. That has not changed at all. And that's a very big deal.
Two, is the power of cultural tropes — of black cultural dysfunction and black personal inability to succeed as the reason why we have this inequality. So, you can have whites who love hip-hop and are against affirmative action because it gives blacks privilege. I have dozens of kids in my classes on hip-hop who say that to me every year. And these are pretty liberal — you know, I'm at Brown. These are not kids who are fighting the good Fox News fight. And they see this as a completely rational idea, because they are completely illiterate about racism as it operates now.
They think racism from the 1950s is what they've transcended and therefore they've moved forward. But what's happened is the way race operates has changed and they're illiterate about that and it's not their fault. It's that they're indoctrinated in a culture that allows this gap to continue and promotes and profits from the construction of this gap.
If The Wire were about black people doing something else, it would not be the hit it is. It's not just the ability to tell a story that [gets] black narrative [into] the mainstream. It's what kind of black life whites and others want to see. That's the problem with hip-hop. So the ghetto becomes a cultural trope — a normalized cultural truth — not the sign of an enormous crisis.
I give them personal credit. But that has in many ways really undone us. Because it actually stifles the conversation we're supposed to have. Everyone — liberal whites and liberal blacks — says, "Well, I treat everyone the same" or "I don't see race," which is ridiculous. So everyone can tell you that and then continue to operate in social or cultural ways that do just the opposite and then have no ability to connect the dots because there's no water fountain with a name on it.
ARE THERE NOT MILLIONS OF WHITE PEOPLE WHO LISTEN TO JAY-Z AND WATCHTHE WIRE AND STILL HAVE SOME AWARENESS OF STRUCTURAL RACISM AND WHITE PRIVILEGE? IS AWARENESS INSUFFICIENT? WHAT CAN WE ASK OF THE EDUCATED CONSUMER? Yes, of course, some people have awareness of how structural racism operates and how white privilege maintains it. And, yes the level of this awareness is insufficient — especially by comparison to the level and direction of white consumption of black culture. The point is not to blame fans of any color but to face reality. How will we ever get this solved by looking for the silver lining before we've really grappled with the cloud?
ROSE ON . . . Kanye West (“media-hyped train wreck”)
KANYE WEST: GENIUS OR OVERHYPED MEDIA DARLING? I wouldn't say genius. I'd say extremely talented and overhyped media darling. But I wouldn't say "darling," actually, let me revise that. I'd say "media-hyped train wreck." People love the train wreck quality of him. But he's very talented. And in that sense, he's sometimes underrated. But not more than many other people like Lupe Fiasco, who's dreadfully underrated comparatively.