Scarier than Black People with Ideas
On Kaepnerick & the Fear of Black Voices
By Jaylin Paschal
Kanye West’s provocative penmanship on his “Smuckers” verse (Tyler, the Creator, Cherry Bomb) provides many moments for analysis. It’s a verse that could be dissected almost line by line, bar for bar. But two years after the release of Cherry Bomb, there’s one line of this verse that crosses my mind nearly everyday — the namesake and inspiration of this piece — “scarier than black people with ideas.”
The idea of American-brand hegemony fearing educated black people is nothing new. From The Miseducation of the Negro to the school-to-prison-pipeline to 2015 rapping Kanye, the concept has been working and countered in this country regularly.
But now that we’re in this “post-racial” society, where black people may read and write legally and are able to exercise our First Amendment right to expression arguably more than ever — how is this fear of black thought managed? If at all?
“Fear” of intelligent, thoughtful black bodies is perhaps most evident today in the historical phenomenon described as “backlash,” or the mainstream’s (i.e. White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) response to progression towards equality/equity. The contemporary example of backlash is Donald Trump’s hazardous presidency, a toxic and obnoxious societal response to the successful tenure of the first African American to occupy the highest position in the world. An African American who not only showed up, but showed out, and had one of the most effective and favorable tenures of all time.
And that is not to imply that white people fear black people, although a lot do. It is to imply that they fear change. Whiteness is threatened by black thoughts that challenge its supremacy. If black people are smart enough to do x,y,z, they have the mental capacity and intellectual will to change a,b,c; to dismantle systems and institutions which have upheld white supremacy and instilled white privilege. Hegemony is threatened, which white people often interpret to mean whiteness is threatened. Because, to be frank, the idea of being “white” in this country does not exist outside of an oppressive context. Oftentimes, their identity is so tied to their supremacy that they take a threat to injustice as a threat to their very existence.
Or, alternatively, perhaps they fear that intelligent black people may take it a step further than dismantling these systems, and assume that we will implement a reversal of them. Perhaps, they fear retaliation. Perhaps they fear we will do to them what they have done to us. Perhaps thoughts of Nat Turner’s revolt and Ferguson riots keep them awake at night. Perhaps they think we’ll seek revenge as reparation.
Regardless of the roots of the fear, the rhyme and reason of Kanye’s use of “scarier” is appropriate. More than hating Colin Kaepernick, White America fears him. He has influence, money, stature and the good sense to wield these components as a political power.
The same can be applied to the Jemele Hill incident and the Trump administration’s call for her termination, and Trump’s call for the firing of football players who kneel in solidarity with Kaepernick; against police brutality and racial injustice. The general idea is, if you’re going to use your influence, status and intellectual capacity for anything other than what we tell you — you should lose your position to do so.
White America wants black people to take whatever success, fame or money they’ve mustered from entertaining them and be happy with that much — to accept the fortune and forget the fundamentals of human deceny.
It’s being framed as an issue of free speech, but at its core, its a simple case of fear. Because if we reach for those fundamentals, we obstruct the status quo that white supremacy is held upon. We obstruct the base, and hegemony comes toppling down. And the higher up, the longer the fall; the harder the impact. That’s why Twitter feeds are drowned in “stick to sports” comments — fear. Fear that if white supremacy crumbles, its benefactors won’t survive the fall.