The perspectives of men like James Brown and Scott Adams are overt appeals to skin color. While the motivations for these appeals vary, the goal is the same: self-help, pride, and temporal well-being. A question like “Is it okay to be white?” and its provocative musical counterpart, “Say it loud, black, and proud,” are short-sighted appeals at best.
Recorded in 1968 at the Vox Studios in Van Nuys, California, “Say It Loud, I’m Black, and I’m Proud” would be released to the public. James Brown and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis were working on what would soon become another hit. The song, released in August 1968, would spend six weeks at the top of the R&B chart and reach number ten on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on April 4, 1968, Brown wanted to give black people a reason to take pride in themselves, and he believed that music was the best way to express that pride. The song would become an anthem for the black power movement that took root after King’s death.
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., social unrest broke out in more than 200 cities across the nation, causing millions of dollars in property damage and business losses. Far from being an anthem for unity, James Brown’s song was about self-empowerment and standing against the forces of racism.
With the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, many in the “white community” believed they had done enough to combat racism. Many whites marched with King and fought against Jim Crow laws and racism in the South. At the cost of black and white lives, their efforts led to a change in how the rest of the country felt about civil rights for black people. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one in four whites favored civil rights. In the months following the legislation, 50% of whites supported the bill.
By 1968, as cities burned in the wake of King’s assassination, many began questioning whether it was worthwhile to help black people achieve the equality they had fought for.
“Black and Proud” by James Brown is an old example of the continued ethnic tribalism that arises when people discuss “race” nowadays. Once ethnic pride is tied to a person’s sense of empowerment, it becomes necessary to defend it. When guilt is assigned and sacrifice demanded based solely on a person’s skin color, a lack of respect can transform into indignation.
From Woke to Reality
For American cartoonist and novelist Scott Adams, his indignation was peaked by a Rasmussen poll in which 46% of respondents disagreed with or were uncertain about the statement, “It’s okay to be white.” Adams took to Twitter to express his outrage. In his Twitter video, upon reading the results of the poll, Adams labeled the 46% as a hate group, advising whites to stay away from black people.