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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Accidental Racist


Ladies Love Cool James


From his 1985 album Radio, lyricist LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James) contributed to hip hop history with a track entitled “Rock the Bells.” To this day, he serves as the catalyst regarding my longstanding appreciation for Kangol hats, which began in the ‘80s.


In 1987, LL dropped Bigger and Deffer, an album that featured the hit song “I’m Bad.” It was akin to the unapologetically flamboyant form of braggadocio common in rap at the time.


Unlike most of the rappers I admired in those days, Ladies Love Cool James was a male sex symbol—something of which I wasn’t fond. Still, I can’t think of another shirtless male entertainer who could hold my attention like LL. He was fierce on the mic!


His 1989 album Walking with a Panther plunged the emcee into my long-term memory, as it featured tracks that I memorized such as “I’m That Type of Guy,” “Going Back to Cali,” and, “Jingling Baby.” I wore out that album!


In that same year, at around 13 years of age, my dad took me to LL Cool J’s Nitro World Tour in Denver, Colorado, which also featured Eazy-E, N.W.A, Slick Rick, De La Soul, and though he was scheduled to perform, Too $hort was unable to attend the concert. It remains as the most meaningful concert I ever attended.


By the time 1990 rolled around, I was in a children’s home and LL dropped his album Mama Said Knock You Out. As the place in which I was a resident had restrictions on the type of music to which children could listen, I had to sneak the heavily sexualized lyrical content past my house parents.


During my graduation year, LL Cool J released Mr. Smith, containing “I Shot Ya (Remix),” featuring Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown. In my opinion, that one song was worth the money spent on the entire album.


It was also by that point that LL solidified his position in my mind as a lyricist rather than a rapper. Despite his mass appeal to a female audience, he was a bona fide battle rap wordsmith.


I was a United States (U.S.) Marine, stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in 1997, when LL dropped Phenomenon. It contained the classic “4, 3, 2, 1,” which featured Method Man, Red Man, Canibus, Master P, and DMX. Also, when LL Cool J put on a show in Okinawa during that year, I attended.



I could express further appreciation for the lyricist, though I imagine the reader understands by this point that I’m a fan. In my opinion, Ladies Love Cool James is a hip hop legend.


Racism


In 2013, country music singer Brad Paisley released the song “Accidental Racist” which featured LL Cool J. For the rap portion of the track, LL stated:


Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood

What the world is really like when you’re living in the hood

Just because my pants are sagging doesn’t mean I’m up to no good

You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would

Now my chains are gold, but I’m still misunderstood

I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the South into firewood

I want you to get paid, but be a slave I never could

Feel like a newfangled Django, dodging invisible white hoods

So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinking it’s not all good

I guess we’re both guilty of judging the cover not the book

I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air

But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here


The song was panned by critics and admittedly, I don’t think it was LL Cool J at his finest hour. All the same, earlier this week I was recently reminded of the track when LL became the topic of discussion in regards to racism.


Before I continue, I think it’s worth defining terms. When I mention racism, I mean the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.


By this standard, any member of any race or ethnicity is capable of espousing racist rhetoric. Likewise, when I discuss what a racist is, I’m referring to a person who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group.


As such, any member of any race or ethnicity is capable of being a racist. To be exceedingly clear, so-called minorities and members of marginalized groups are fully capable of exhibiting racism and being racists.


Recently, President Joe Biden—the individual who allegedly received the most ever votes for presidential office, no doubt due to election fortification—botched LL Cool J’s name and referred to the lyricist as a “boy.” Per my understanding, some people are unfamiliar with the latter term.


Growing up, I was taught that referring to a black male (boy or man) as a “boy” was synonymous with the word “nigger.” However, not everyone agrees with the racist origins of this term. Let’s look at what the judiciary has to say regarding this matter. Per one source:


[T]here was evidence that Tyson’s plant manager, who made the disputed hiring decisions, had referred on some occasions to each of the petitioners as “boy.” Petitioners argued this was evidence of discriminatory animus. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that “[w]hile the use of ‘boy’ when modified by a racial classification like ‘black’ or ‘white’ is evidence of discriminatory intent, the use of ‘boy’ alone is not evidence of discrimination.” Id., at 533 (citation omitted). Although it is true the disputed word will not always be evidence of racial animus, it does not follow that the term, standing alone, is always benign. The speaker’s meaning may depend on various factors including context, inflection, tone of voice, local custom, and historical usage. Insofar as the Court of Appeals held that modifiers or qualifications are necessary in all instances to render the disputed term probative of bias, the court’s decision is erroneous.


Rationally speaking, context matters when considering use of this word “boy.” I now turn to Biden’s actual words. During the Congressional Black Caucus’ Phoenix Awards, Biden stated:


Two of the great artists of our time, representing the groundbreaking legacy of hip hop in America, LLJ Cool J, uuhh. By the way, that boy’s got…he, that man’s got biceps bigger than my thighs. I think he’s fan— and MC Lyte. Both of you, thank you!


At a cursory glance, one may quickly dismiss Biden’s use of the word “boy” as little more than one of many gaffes made by the President. However, I wonder at what point people stop overlooking his faux pas and begin to view Biden’s statements in the interest of context.


For instance, Biden has stated, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” going on to correct himself by expressing, “Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids. I really mean it. But think how we think about it.” “We,” who?


Think about when Biden said to a group of people—which included blacks, “Unchained Wall Street. They’re gonna put y’all back in chains!” Casual mistake?


Then, there was the time that Biden was surrounded by black children and he stated:


By the way, you know I sit on the stand, and it gets hot. I got a lot of…I got hairy legs that turn, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that turn, uh, um, blonde in the sun. And the kids used to come up and reach in the pool and rub my leg down so it was straight, and then watch the hair come back up again. They’d look at it, so I learned a lot about roaches. I learned about kids jumping on my lap, and I love kids jumping on my lap.


Referring to black children as roaches, accidental racism? In 2020, during his run for president, Biden (white) stated to radio host Charlamagne (black), “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Was this a mere blunder, as well?


Contextually speaking, I advance the claim that if Biden isn’t a racist, he certainly uses the rhetoric of racism. Therefore, I suspect that when calling LL Cool J a “boy,” it’s plausible that Biden already maintained circumstantial evidence to support the notion that he’s at minimal racially insensitive.


REBT


As a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I understand how use of irrational beliefs—which are comprised of demandingness, awfulizing, frustration tolerance, and global evaluations—can lead to self-disturbance. Given this fact, I know that I can upset myself.


For instance, suppose I told myself something like Biden should, must, or ought not to maintain racist views. When a man who holds the highest political office in the U.S. then espouses racist rhetoric, despite my requirement to the contrary, what is the consequence of my unhelpful belief?


I may be upset by experiencing anger (emotion), tightness in my jaw (bodily sensation), and I could slam a cabinet door (behavior). Importantly, REBT maintains that it isn’t an Action-Consequence connection that results in this sort of experience.


Rather, there is a Belief-Consequence connection at play. I like to think of a self-disturbing Belief as the Bullshit I tell myself. This Action-Bullshit-Consequence chain is the true value of the ABC Model used by REBT practitioners.


Understanding this sequence allows me to take personal ownership over my response to what I tell myself. After all, it never has been true, isn’t currently the case, and never will be a valid assumption for me to require Biden or anyone else to share my values.


In fact, I appreciate that Biden and people who share racist perspectives are comfortable enough to communicate their principles with the world. Otherwise, how would I know who it is with whom I don’t want to associate?


Furthermore, I appreciate the sentiment of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) who stated about those who mask their racism:


Don’t say, “The whites down South, whites up North.” There’s no difference between whites in the South and whites in the North. Only, the whites in the South aren’t hypocritical about it. You don’t find any more inter— there is just as much social intermixing in the South as there — between the races as there is in the North. Only in the South, they let you know where they stand, and in the North they take a hypocritical approach or attitude or reaction.


People like Biden may put up a thin layer of moral superiority by promoting diversity, equity, inclusivity, and access (DEIA) programs which are supposedly meant to serve non-white people. However, the transparent veil of tokenism may suggest a deeper meaning to this sort of action.


While I don’t agree with many of Sigmund Freud’s concepts, I suspect he wasn’t entirely wrong about the process of reaction formation— the tendency of a repressed desire to be expressed at a conscious level in a contrasting form. Think of the evangelical preacher who rails against homosexuality, only to later be discovered as a gay.


I think it’s plausible that Biden rallies around DEIA efforts in an attempt to demonstrate the opposite of his actual worldview. Of this, I’m reminded of another el-Shabazz quote:


That white person that you see calling himself a liberal is the most dangerous thing in the entire Western Hemisphere. He’s the most deceitful. He’s like a fox and a fox is always more dangerous in the forest than the wolf. You can see the wolf coming, you know what he’s up to, but the fox will fool you. He comes at you with his mouth shaped in such a way that even though you see his teeth, you think he’s smiling and take him for a friend.


When Biden bungled LL Cool J’s name and then called LL a “boy,” I saw a fox. Although I acknowledge that each and every person alive is a fallible human being—and I accept this fact without condition—I’m aware of the teeth presented by a fox.


I find it fascinating to hear the excuses provided by liberals for having voted for Biden when information about the fox’s teeth was available prior to the 2020 election. Was tacit support of racism in opposition to the perceivably dreadful Tweets of Trump worth allying with racially insensitive views?


Of this, I’m again reminded of an el-Shabazz quote:


The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the negro, the white liberal is able to use the negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.


When I’ve told liberals—particularly white people who know very little of the history of U.S. political parties—about why it is I express caution about Biden, it’s as though I’m speaking to a brick wall. The virtually impermeable force field of indoctrination is quite difficult to pierce.


Similar to how I’m sometimes unable to persuade people in my personal and professional life about REBT, I’ve learned to value the wisdom of Maya Angelou who stated that when people show you who they are, believe them the first time. After all, they know themselves better than you do.


Therefore, when racist rhetoric is espoused by Biden and when people voluntarily vote for a man who is arguably a racist to his core, I believe these people when shown for who they are. Accidental racism or not, it’s still racist.


Conclusion


The first time I recall learning that the word “boy” was racist—when spoken from a white person to a black male—was in childhood. My mom explained that the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” likely had racial connotations regarding the lyrics, “Pardon me, boy, is that the Chattanooga choo choo”.


The song was released in 1941, and Biden was born in 1942. Understandably, a number of common phrases from yesteryear haven’t aged well—especially racist terms like “boy.”


Recently, Biden called LL Cool J a “boy,” as the President quickly corrected his moment of parapraxis (Freudian slip)—an error in speech, memory, or physical action that occurs due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish or internal train of thought.


When considering racial insensitivity, I think it’s useful to consider context such as the age of the perpetrating individual, situation in which a term was used, and expressed intent of the person thought to be a racist. This is a rational rather than emotive approach to the matter.


Herein, and without the benefit of Biden’s explanation regarding the snafu, I’ve provided further evidence of the President’s racist rhetoric. Calling LL a “boy” isn’t a one-off affair.


For the reader’s benefit, I’ve shared REBT concepts and quotes from el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz which help me frame a rational dispute to irrational beliefs about Biden’s pattern of miscalculations in regards to black people. After all, Biden has a number of presumably accidental racist blunders.


Given the information outlined in this post, I ultimately conclude that rather than upsetting myself with unhelpful beliefs about racism and Biden, I’m actually quite grateful for the freedom of expression U.S. citizens maintain. This includes rhetoric expressed from our nation’s primary representative.


Personally, I’d much rather know that a fox’s smile is full of teeth than to have its mouth muzzled. Therefore, I’m undisturbed by President Biden’s continued degradation of my people. After all, I believe him when he shows me who he is.


Furthermore, I believe those who vote for Biden and implicitly endorse his racism when they show who they are. Conclusively, no one—not Biden, the voter, the reader of this blogpost, or anyone else imaginable—is required to believe as I do.


How about you, dear reader? What is your experience when faced with racism—accidental or not? If you needlessly upset yourself with unproductive beliefs about racists, I may be able to help so that you, too, can process your assumptions in a logical and reasonable manner.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


References:


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