Jay Smooth recently linked up an interview he did with Brother Ali a little while back:

Ali notes that when he was nine years old and had mostly black friends, he was fully accepted by them and felt that he was one of them. By this, I presume he means he felt entitled to use the n-word amongst them. But as he grew older, he realized why being down didn’t give him the right, as a white person, to use that word.

I remember struggling with this a bit growing up, too. While I wasn’t in a situation where my friends were mostly black (c’mon – my high school of 2000 people had 10 black students), I do remember feeling that because I was so deeply into hip-hop that I somehow had a pass to use that word in my lyrics. You know, artistically. I only used it once or twice, but looking back, I still feel guilt for ever even letting such a loaded word escape my lips.

A key point in this interview comes where Ali says, “We have to own our relationship to our injustice in the world.” We all are the culmination of the history that proceeded us and as a white person, it’s undeniable that I’m still reaping the benefits of the systemic discrimination of minorities in the years before I was born (and, indeed, in the years since). I can’t help what happened, but accepting it, realizing it, and “own[ing] our relationship” to it is an important step in addressing race honestly.