السبت، 16 مارس 2019

Culture’s race war: 'Blackness is something to consume but not engage with'

From Dave to Green Book, artists and the art they create are too often critiqued for being ‘too black’ or ‘not black enough’

Last month, the UK rapper Dave released his latest single, Black. Sparse but affecting, and largely threaded around a few minor piano chords and a drum beat, it saw the south Londoner dissect facets of black identity through lines such as “Black is my Ghanaian brother reading into scriptures / Doing research on his lineage, finding out that he’s Egyptian” and “Black ain’t just a single fucking colour, man, there’s shades to it”. It challenges the flattening and homogenisation of a culture while also celebrating a sense of solidarity. The accompanying video featured figures ranging from scientist Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon to Raheem Sterling, the England footballer frequently savaged by the likes of the Sun.

While the track was playlisted by Radio 1 and its accompanying album topped the UK charts on Friday, not everyone was so keen. A clutch of Twitter users took offence: “If I made a song titled ‘white’ about how good being white is, it would be banned never mind hitting the biggest record,” commented one. Presenters Annie Mac and Greg James, who had played the track, defended Dave, with Mac adding on Twitter: “It’s a real issue that a song so intelligent, so thought-provoking, so excellently put together can actually offend you.” Dave himself seemed nonplussed, telling BBC News: “If they take to it then they do, if they don’t [then they don’t].” It was a clear example of an increasingly familiar backlash faced by black artists in the entertainment industry. When a piece of culture is made by a black artist, it is often considered as “too black”, and evaluated in relation to white culture.

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