Open letter to Rip It Up Magazine

What a time to be alive huh? This afternoon it came to my attention that a Mr. Andrew Johnstone published a review on the movie "Dope" with the headline "Film Review: DOPE is a hip-hop film about what it means to be a Nigger". Now there is so much wrong with the headline and the content of the review and while I hoped that Mr Andrew would apologise, he defends the use of the word in his article. This saddens me because he claims he is interested in racism in New Zealand but he does not realise that he's review is part of the problem. Here is my letter to Mr Andrew and a screenshot on the 220 word mess he wrote. 

Dear Mr. Andrew “I reek of white male privilege” Johnstone,

I hope this electronic transmission of my communication finds you in a deep state of contemplation at the words you scribbled recently. Firstly I would like to say, I never ever thought I would be the type to pin point someone’s identity or put them in a box but you have left me no choice. In the comment section, it was revealed that the author of the article (you) was an insider on black culture and everything about it but after I did a quick Facebook and Google search it has come to my attention that you are far from an insider. Let me just quickly add that a quick Google search on the historical context of the word ‘nigger’ would have saved you from the rubbish that you published, research before you begin something is important. Now you may respond to me and said I have judged you on the basis of your lack of melanin (yes sir I also know you have Polynesian roots) but I will say that is exactly what you have done when you narrowed down the experiences of a black person.

Now I understand that in this day and age of digital communications, click bait has become a thing, being controversial in the name of sparking debate has also become a trend but unfortunately in this instance you have succeeded at click bait and also offending a whole lot of people. It’s safe to say your attempt at being deep and starting dialogue about “cultural” identity has resulted in you appearing to be fake deep. In your attempt to be deep you have seemingly taken the time to educate us about the connotations on a word that has deeper-rooted history than the depths of your knowledge and experience allows you to be.

Since you have taken the time out of your day to educate us, allow me the time to pin point what you missed in this exploration of what it means to be a “nigger” (what business this has to do with you as a white male, is still beyond me). In your piece you confidently state, “a nigger is just like a white person”. Wow, now how do we digest that? Are you saying that the same person who raped, killed, abused, lynched, burnt, kicked and stole from a black person is the same as them? How is a white person’s reality similar to that of a “nigger”? Sir in case you did not know, the reality of those individuals differs to an extent that cannot be fully comprehended and articulated.

Let me use an example of something that you might understand, what you have said is basically that a thief is just like the person who just got robbed; yes they are both breathing homosapiens but you have neglected to touch on the pain and hurt the person who has been robbed feels. You have neglected to touch on how “niggers”’ sense of being, safety, belonging in society and so much more has been robbed by the pain and torture experienced by our ancestors. Need I remind you that 60 years ago you and I could not shit in the same toilet? 60 years ago your people believed that they were superior to my people yet you have the nerve to state, “a nigger is the same as a white person”. Need I remind you that as a black woman I am now living the results and the impacts of years of segregation, aparthetheid and disregard of the humanity of my people? Daily we wake up to fight a system that doesn’t recognize our ability, a system that creates policies that lead to our failure so for you to say that a “nigger” is a white person is to slap me in the face and completely disregard the reality of my daily existence.

Secondly, a street occupied by that other kind of nigger – what does that even mean?  The movie is about black identity and not about “niggers”, it is about people and not “niggers” as you referred to them as 5 times in your piece. What your piece has left me with is an undertone of “goodness gracious Tiffany these niggers are actually capable of being smart, of having straight A’s and not having guns”. It is almost like you have written with disbelieve that amongst “niggers” there is a type that actually studies and is not on the dangerous streets, which in America are even more dangerous because of policemen that continue to kill black people. Additionally, you have also neglected to explore as to why “those other niggers” have ended in the streets, it is deeper than just being “those other niggers” but I wouldn’t expect you to understand that. See white male privilege stinks because while you have first dibs on a lot of resources whether passed down from generations and generations of wealth that came as a result of stealing and cheating indigenous people or from some old boys club you belong to, “those other niggers” don’t have that.

Something I also fail to understand is when it states that 'Dope is a feel good movie about black kids who are not stereotypes.' Yet you have made something so embedded into our blood, roots and the daily lives we live into a complete joke, casualty and stereotype in itself. Even if you are saying that the use of the word 'nigger' has changed over the years, it has not. Did your father walk across the boarders and through the deserts of Africa to get here 22 years ago? Did your mother struggle to find work when she first came to the west because they didn't want to hire a black hairdresser even though they knew she was qualified even more so than them? 3 years ago did he have drink bottles chucked at him and the word 'nigga' yelled out at him? It's just as alive as it was then. It may be in a slightly different shape/form but are you kidding yourself if you think the meaning has changed. 

Finally to the editors at Rip It Up (not you Andrew because it has also come to my attention that you are one) I am sure there are cultural insiders readily available to you, it wouldn’t hurt to find a person of colour to write content about something that is their daily reality. In the daily fight of having to navigate life having to prove your worth/your intelligence/your humanity and at the same time fighting off the stereotypes that are roughly thrust into your being to define who you are, such shit (calling Andrew’s piece content is a disgrace to the word) does nothing to help us.

Your resident angry black woman,

P.S I look forward to your feature on racism in New Zealand. I do hope that your writing of the issue includes insight from cultural insiders from various backgrounds and I do hope it is long than 220 words. 

Transforming public spaces

What is fashion design: the power of authenticity

What is fashion design: the power of authenticity