Charlamagne Tha God makes the case for "black privilege"
"The American dream never was for us, but now it's time just for us to create our dreams," he said
Charlamagne Tha God has never been shy about speaking his mind and this is a trait that fans of “The Breakfast Club” love about the radio host.
But when he released his first book, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It,” Charlamagne was slammed by some progressive supporters who accused him of denying what they see as the prevalence of white privilege.
“But that’s why you should never judge a book by its cover,” Charlamagne told CNN. “And that’s why I laugh at those so-called conscious people … How about you read the book first and then attack me if you feel like I’m presenting something that I shouldn’t be presenting?”
CNN’s #GetPolitical caught up with Charlamagne, who co-hosts “The Breakfast Club” — a progressive morning show about hip-hop, pop culture and politics — to talk race and racism in America and get the the hip-hop aficionado’s thoughts on music and activism in the age of President Donald Trump.
Why is the phrase “black privilege” so controversial for some people?
Charlamagne: “Yeah, because people see ‘black privilege’ and they automatically think ‘white privilege,’ which is something that is very prevalent – Oh, black people don’t have no privilege and you’re making white people think that we’re equal. What I’m simply trying to tell people is I think it’s a privilege to be black. You know? I think when you look at the word privilege it has two definitions. One definition is advantages granted to a certain community, but the other definition is an honor to be, and I think it’s an honor to be in this black skin. I don’t think that my black skin is a liability. I don’t think it’s a burden. I just feel like we have access to a divine system that … we can tap into that causes us to prosper in spite of everything that’s thrown at us in this country.”
From the lens of “black privilege,” what is your view of the American dream?
Charlamagne: “Great question. The American dream is subjective, right? Success is subjective, period … America, for whatever reason, we started to equate success with celebrity and equate success with wealth and equate success with fame that’s maybe somebody’s definition of success, but success is subjective … Maybe happiness to you is just being able to provide for your family. You may not even like your job that much, but as long as your kids is smiling and your wife is smiling and they’re taken care of, you’re good. That’s success.”
What do you tell people who believe the American dream wasn’t for them?
Charlamagne: “They’re absolutely right. The American dream wasn’t for them. America was never designed for any minority to prosper. America was designed for the white people, simple as that. I would tell them we’re here now, though. And you know we’ve had people who came before us who fought for us to have certain civil liberties … Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not out there marching and getting his ass kicked you know, for us to just be sitting around saying “hey, this can’t be done” … No. We have access to go get it, so we need to go get it, regardless of how difficult or hard it may be … The American dream never was for us, but now it’s time just for us to create our dreams.”
So you’re saying that you can still acknowledge that there’s injustice and still access your black privilege?
Charlamagne: “Absolutely … I can acknowledge that it’s institutionalized racism, systemic oppression, fight against those things and still think it’s a privilege to be black. Period. My black skin is not a burden or a liability. Your racism and your bigotry is.”
Hip-hop is leading the way when it comes to the rise in activism
Charlamagne: “Hip-hop has always led the way — good and bad because when hip-hop shifted to the gang banging and the super drug use and all that, we started doing that too. So now when you bring it back and you got guys like the J. Cole and the Kendricks and the Wales and the Big Sean and they’re talking about issues and they’re showing up at these rallies, it makes you pay attention to what’s really going on.”
You hear a lot of arguments about hip-hop going back to its political roots now that Trump is in office. Is it a myth that hip-hop fell off from being socially conscious?
Charlamagne: “I’m not going to say hip-hop fell off but hip-hop’s priorities changed and now hip-hop’s priorities are changing again … we were getting money and life seemed sweet. Barack Obama was in the White house the past eight years. But yeah, when you started seeing the unarmed killing of black men like over the past four, five years real heavy and then rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right and white supremacy, yeah it did awaken a lot of people. “To Pimp a Butterfly” (a 2015 album by Kendrick Lamar) was a beautiful album and I’m pretty sure to “Pimp a Butterfly” doesn’t happen if it’s not for this shift of consciousness in America.”