During a recent interview with New York’s Power 105.1, rapper, actor, writer, and comedian Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), had a lengthy conversation about white privilege – from the subtle everyday discrimination, to the lingering structural oppression ingrained within our politics, culture, and the economy – and his experience as a black man in America.
The conversation began when The Breakfast Club radio personality Charlamagne Tha God asked him about a poem he posted on Twitter last month following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:
“childish gambino is a white rapper”
i wanna be a white rapper.
i wanna be so white im the biggest rapper of all time.
i wanna be so white i can have a number one song with cursing and parents are fine with it.
i wanna be so white and so big i get to eat dinner with the koch brothers.
i hope I’m so big and white i can go to clippers games and it not be a statement.
i hope I’m so white they let my friend out of jail sooner.
i hope I’m so big and white my cousin wasn’t shot and stabbed twice in the neck twice last month.
i wanna be so big. so white.
i wanna be so big and and so white that white dads feel comfortable sending their daughters,
who are home for the summer from Stanford, to my show.
and after the performance they come hang with me on my bus and we smoke and then we fuck to young dro
and she holds my face in her hands and her eyes roll back in her head.
then she goes home and her dad says “how was the show?” and she says “it was fun. they had lasers.”
i hope i become so big and and so white that G-Eazy will say “damn, this nigga is white” and everyone will agree and nod.
i want to be so big and white that people are scared. “what if this spreads?
what if everyone starts to get big and white? what if this works for everyone and everyone can experience this whiteness and this bigness?”
i hope i become too big and too white.
but i am just a black male.
i am a nigga.
About the poem, Gambino said, “It was a poem about freedom. I’m not gonna, like, explain my art, like that’s not what art’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to be a conversation… I do want to be big and white, like Will Smith is big and white.”
When asked by Charlamagne why, “we can’t be black and great, or just human and great,” Gambino replied:
“Well, I agree, we always want to be human and part of the same thing, because we are. But the truth is, we aren’t because they won’t let us, […] it’s just not set up that way. Whiteness is blankness, they look at it like a blank slate, like when you come in you can be anything; Like when I walk in, even if I have a bow tie, they might be like, ‘is he Muslim?’ They’re not going to do that with a white dude. White people are a blank slate, but we are not – people bring stuff to it. They judge us based on whatever they know. As a black person, I constantly have to know what a person is assuming about me, that’s what I’m saying.”
He continues by saying that white privilege, from his perspective, is not about being inferior – but about acknowledging the power imbalance created and perpetuated by systemic racism.
“I feel like right now, our generation, [we are] fighting to be real and quantify our worth. When they shoot us in the streets, basically they’re saying we’re not worth anything[…] There needs to be some solidarity […] We just got to be loud.”
Watch the whole conversation below, starting at around the 8 minute mark: