Here we go, again. We’re quite familiar with the work of the Tom Hanks-sired struggle rapper Chester Hanks, aka Chet Haze. His several attempts of making his hip-hop career happen have mostly been met with laughs, harmless ones at that. But now we meet Chet at the crossroads of desperation and tastelessness. In photo captions on his Instagram over the past couple of days, the white rapper is throwing around the n-word in several posts.
The initial reaction to this from most of you will probably be: “This dude’s a clown. He doesn’t even deserve the attention.” And yes, that is partially true. He’s mostly a joke of a rapper and his clueless use of the word dovetails right with a sense of entitlement. But as a black person who is met with white people using the n-word on a regular basis, whether it be online or even in person, this sadly is not entirely foreign. Sure, there are white rappers who navigate this space well, like Yelawolf, who gave a great explanation of why he would never use the word, versus other artists like V-Nasty, who unabashedly said it, Eminem, who said it very early on before he was famous, or even Madonna as recently as last year.
Regardless, these are public figures — they have accountability. This goes just beyond music. For every one of the famous people who have used it, there are hundreds on Twitter and thousands in private who use it and don’t care about the consequences. I’ve met this kind of casual racism in the safest-seeming, innocuous ways — like going to Starbucks, walking into my apartment building, or even browsing on dating sites. And I know I’m not alone.
The point is, white people using the n-word is one of those things like wearing blackface. It’s acknowledged that’s it’s a bad thing, but people of color are also asked by those who minimize its offensiveness to “get over it,” or they’re deemed “too sensitive.” Maybe it isn’t entirely understood that most people of color are confronted with some sort of racism on a daily basis, but “it” would be something we wouldn’t have to “get over,” if “it” didn’t exist in the first place.
Tom Hanks is just too nice for all of this.