DARE TO ASK: Don't think twice, Pete, it's a'ight
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do many white people, especially younger white suburbanites, copy black
slang with no thought about it? I see surfers and such groups saying things like
"Wuzzup big pimpin' " . . . to each other. What really bothers me is these same
kids have little to no black friends.
Peter, 22, black, Jacksonville
It's fashionizzable, homey.
Ann, 39, white, Missouri
Hip-hop, R&B and other black music are all over the pop music charts and on
Dennis, 28, black, New York
I'd like to know where black culture is "copywritten." There is this thing
called "freedom of speech." Y'all can act, talk, dress any which way you feel is
Angela, 26, white, Canada
It's just what's in right now. I don't understand it, either, but that's what
people do: follow whatever's "in."
Reign, 19, black female, Illinois
I prefer to act my own race. I have many black friends, but we all agree that
"acting black" is unacceptable and shows a person's lack of character.
Justin, 16, white, Louisville
Is it really possible this nice young African-American fellow has actually
run into these fine young surfer gentlemen he speaks of?
"I tell you this, I never met a black surfer," says Marz (born Zlatko Hukic),
a white rapper who grew up in a rough part of Chicago and is formerly of Insane
A'ight, just messin' with ya for a little bit. Let's be real.
To Marz, whose upcoming CD is MARZ Presents: Grind Music the Movement, it's
not beyond the pale for whites to imitate black culture.
"Kids in the suburbs are definitely into hip-hop, whether they have black
friends or not . . . if that's what moves a kid, who . . . is someone to say no
you can't do it cuz you're white? Bruce Lee taught kung fu to white people, and
would we say you can't do that, that people can't steal that culture? If it's
benefiting someone, who cares what culture made it?"
For many whites, he said, the appeal of rap and hip-hop is the struggle.
"It's deeper than someone coasting through life. These kids in the mansions
see people in the hood going through so much and trying to better themselves,
and they see being poor can be the richest experience you can have . . . and it
adds meaning to their own lives.
"That's why I haven't listened to rock in like 10 years: I can't relate to it
anymore. They're usually well-off, but all they do is whine. Woe is me."
But what about using all that urban slang?
There's a fine line, Marz said.
"You can tell when someone's frontin'. . . . If you're not 'from there,' it
doesn't work. There are definitely kids out there in a little midlife crisis,
but you have to try things you are not to know what you are . . . eventually the
people faking it will drop off, because you can't be fake for too long. It's too
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his