the “gold digger effect”

“gold digger.” it’s a song by kanye west. i just saw a cute, young, white girl sing it at karaoke tonight. it was pretty funny — she knew all the words and she sang it pretty deadpan. well, she sang NEARLY all the words.

here’s how kanye west sings it on his album:

and here’s how most everyone *else* sings it (and how it has to be sung on the radio):

clearly, the second version is the “glee” version — kanye has his OWN edited version as well. but the thing that always is interesting to me is … kanye’s original lyrics has “broke niggas” in the chorus. so, is it wrong to sing the words as he’s written them, regardless of the color of one’s skin?

now, i’m not getting into the debate of whether or not he SHOULD have written them that way … bill cosby and chris rock and cornel west are all more qualified to sit and have that discussion. i’m just saying — they’re already written that way, so why is it wrong to actually sing what’s written? is it always, ever forbidden for a white person to have the word ‘nigga’ or ‘nigger’ on our lips, even in an artistic context? doesn’t this get to the root of the “the adventures of huckleberry finn” dilemma?

if you’re not familiar, there’s been talk of rewriting mark twain’s “the adventures of huckleberry finn” to take out the word nigger in reference to “nigger jim” and replace it with the word slave. however, when mark twain wrote that book, that was the accurate word of the day. it’s what jim would have been called. it’s not a happy time in the life of african-americans (1), but it’s the truth. and that’s what gets me the most — the fact that people want to whitewash (no pun intended, tom sawyer) the truth about what our country is really about and why race matters so much. still (2).

it’s just something i’ve noticed and find interesting. i guess i should do some research and ask some african-american people what they think. would they prefer their white brothers and sisters to sing “broke, broke?” or are they fine with us singing it the way kanye originally wrote it down? either way, race still matters in this country, and it would be nice if people actually had discussions about things like this. really asked honest questions, got honest answers. tried to get through the awkwardness and the weird tension and the hurt pride and wounded feelings.

lord only knows that silence creates crazy. like people not believing our president was really born in hawaii. really? dear, lord.

(1) there were SO many unhappy times in the life of african-americans. i think that a lot of people see how things are today and just can’t even fathom why black people are still so fucking pissed. i also think that they don’t really realize how institutionally racist this country is, or maybe *they* are (i know i fight it every day, and i feel awful about it). i just read the other day about this concept of the convict-lease system, whereby slavery wasn’t legal anymore, but it basically still was. upon conviction of a crime (and i’m sure that was done super fairly), you were sentenced to this convict-lease system — essentially, indentured servitude. this happened up into the 1920’s. that’s definitely within a generation of people living today. awful.

(2). this year was the 150th anniversary of the civil war. the war fought over many things, but largely over the socioeconomic (that’s right, economic) concept of slavery. a war we lost more people over than all of the wars we’ve EVER been in. EVER. the vietnamese, hitler, not even al-queda has killed as many people as we killed our own countrymen fighting over the right to keep other people hostage; torturing them as our property. 150 years. that’s not that long ago. if you live to be 75, that’s just two generations of people. pretty crazy, right?

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