“I’m not racist but…”

Hey All! I hope you’re all doing great and as safe as possible during these times. 

I would like to start this blog post with a simple question: how many times have you heard someone say “I’m not a racist but…”?

As I was doing research for this blog post I came across a song called ‘I’m not Racist’ by Joyner Lucas. ‘I’m Not Racist’ is written about the dispute between white and black people in the United States. Joyner attempts to rap in a form of a dialogue between white and black people. This shows a clearer picture of both sides of the political situation between conservative and liberal.

The song starts off with the words: “With all due respect…” or how we say it in Maltese “Bir-rispett kollu…”. We all know that something crazy is going to come after that! We also love to use it when we are ‘defending’ our culture. We see it mostly used when there are comments made against the so-called ‘Organised Illegal Invasion Of Malta’. 

The song goes on with the first verse continuing with the white character mentioning a number of stereotypes that are linked to black culture. A lot of the mentioned stereotypes are often heard here in Malta.

For example, saying that black people lack purpose in life, are lazy and insensitive to their own future! Our perspectives offer a very different view of this issue. We see migrants, of any skin colour or nationality, determined to integrate in our society, despite repeated obstacles put in their way. Our Project Integrated 2021, the continuation of on-going activities with our partners (JRS Malta, Integra Foundation,the Women’s Rights Foundation) is aimed at supporting this integration in relation to asylum-seekers and beneficiaries of international protection.  

There are several other myths that are common in Malta. For example, that all of Africa wants to come to Europe. As stated by UNHCR, as of mid-2020 the countries hosting most refugees are Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan and Uganda. Another popular one is that all refugees and migrants are taking jobs from Maltese people.

It seems to me that no jobs are actually reserved for Maltese people, but are open for anyone who applies and is accepted by the employer.

Furthermore, figures show that refugees often take up those jobs that are available precisely because employers do not find Maltese people to employ. And the ‘best’ one of all is that refugees want to take over Malta! Well, let’s remember that refugees flee their homes out of fear of serious human rights violations, with no particular intention of reaching, let alone, conquering or taking over Malta. If you want to understand more about this, I explained it in one of my earlier blog posts: ‘Understanding the difference between an Asylum-Seeker, a Refugee and a Migrant’.

Throughout the second verse of the ‘I’m not racist but’ song, the black character is fighting back against these mentioned stereotypes. Joyner Lucas, the writer and singer, is attempting to make the point that white people aren’t capable of understanding the perspectives of black people as they aren’t looking at the culture of black people. That they don’t understand the person behind the ‘criminals’ they see on TV and all around them. That they aren’t aware of the “Black Experience”, which causes them to not recognise the humanity these individuals share with them. 

I then noticed that the second verse had a very similar structure and phrases to the first verse. I read up about the song and understood that Joyner had the intention to keep it similar to the first verse. By doing so he highlighted the similarities between the two different racial figures singing in this song. However, rather than implying the superiority of white culture over black culture, or vice-versa, or focusing on the disconnect that one culture is morally better than the other, Lucas re-frames the disconnect as being about knowledge. The way to ‘fix’ the cultural disconnect isn’t by eliminating one culture in favor of another.

By the end of it, there are many differences laid out from both sides in both verses as the singer puts forward his opinion of America’s current situation. I’m thinking it’s a situation very similar to the one in Malta. I like that the main message he kept throughout the song is that he would like everyone to be accepting of each other. This is shown best with the phrase at the end of the music video… 

I for sure stand by this message and I hope that we all can accept and learn from the differences. 

Matthew xx

#KeepingUpWithTheInterns is part of our project Marginalised Persons as Human Rights Volunteers. If you want to follow Matthew and Rimaz as they navigate their way through Malta’s human rights landscape, subscribe to our News & Updates or follow them on our social media pages!

This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MEDE and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.