As a young boy I loved taking road trips in my dad’s car. My big brother and I would take off our shoes and turn the back seat into our own makeshift bed. My father smoked and restrictively danced to his music. One of his favorites was Paul Hardcastle’s “19,″ an anti-war song that focused on America’s involvement with the Vietnam War. As we got older, my brother and I became big fans of Bone Thugs N’ Harmony. I remember hearing songs like “Crossroads” and “1st of Tha Month” religiously during the summer. On Sundays when my mother did her weekly room cleaning she would listen to vinyl records of artists such as Simon & Garfunkel, the Temptations, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Earth, Wind, and Fire.
In middle school, which I called the “Zoog Disney” days, there was a wave of boy bands and girl groups that began to take over pop culture. Groups and artists such as Cleopatra, Nsync, Samantha Mumba, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys would play in the background as I did my homework. My brother, while glued to the computer screen (especially when Napster was around), would blast Jay-Z, Maxwell, India Arie, and Jon B. Then he would switch to Blink 182, Smashing Pumpkins, RENT, or Nirvana at the blink of an eye.
My music taste, through no fault of my own, was always eclectic. To me it was just music. It wasn’t until my teens that I was really introduced to the term: “white music.”
In high school, every day was filled with debates about which rapper was better: 50 cent or Joe Budden? Eminem or Ja Rule? Jay-Z or Nas? Meanwhile, I’m walking through the halls bumping my Linkin Park/Hybrid Theory CD. Every once in awhile, a classmate might snatch up my headphones to see what I was listening to, and remark,
“Oh you listening to that white boy shit.”
Normally, I would just shrug and ignore the comment. I didn’t feel the need to have to explain why I liked this music or make excuses because what is white music exactly? In short, it is ANY music sung by a white artist that isn’t Rap, Hip-Hop, or R&B.
“Eminem, okay. Robin Thicke, okay. John Mayer? HELL NO!”
I challenged this. I began to engage classmates in conversation about this so called “white boy shit” when I was “caught” listening to Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal.”
Me: White boy music? But it’s smooth criminal.
Classmate: Not the real one.
Classmate 2: Lamont is always listening to that white boy stuff.
Me: If it’s good, it’s good.
Classmate 2: Did you see the video? That white boy with the mask was killin’ it!
Classmate: Yeah. That song is kind of tough though.
I had similar conversations after that day and that’s when I realized…
It was all crap.
This labeling of a race on a different type of music was merely a defense mechanism, another way of trying to fit in without being ridiculed. After that instead of being mad or annoyed by someone making fun of my music taste, I felt pity for them.
Proving your blackness is a recurring theme in most black neighborhoods. If you expressed in any way an interest in something primarily associated with another race, you were immediately judged, and often verbally scorned. That only created more generations of insecure young black kids, ashamed of liking anything “different.”
A year ago, I told my mother about my experience in high school with music and she simply replied
“It wasn’t like that when I was kid. Music is what brought everyone together. Music is universal; no matter what form it’s in.”
Republished with permission and written by Lamont Dunnigan