Two weeks ago, two female Miami students were removed from the Delta Zeta (DZ) sorority after a video leaked online in which they were singing along to the song “Freaky Friday” by Lil’ Dicky. In the Snapchat video, the girls sing a line in which the N-word is repeated multiple times by featured artist Chris Brown.
After surfacing and drawing considerable outrage from the Miami community, which has recently experienced several instances of race-related uproar, the video prompted the DZ national organization to post a public announcement last week stating the girls’ memberships in the sorority had been revoked.
For those unfamiliar with the song, “Freaky Friday” is essentially a comedic skit-rap in which Lil’ Dicky, a white, Jewish rapper, finds himself in the bodies of several other celebrities, including black pop star Chris Brown. Upon realizing he now has a black outward appearance, he delights in the freedom to say the N-word and proceeds to use it excessively for a few lines.
Surely this was a bad look for the subjects of the video and the organization to which they belonged. The girls were reprimanded and accused of “using discriminatory language” that apparently left their chapter president “incredibly appalled.”
The irony within this story is too substantial to ignore. Is it fair to call these women racist for singing over the lyrics to a pop song? Is it fair to condemn these women in the same terms as one who yells the N-word at a black person on the sidewalk? They were in fact using discriminatory language, but the language was not their own. It was the product of the writers, singers and producers of a song that has garnered over 120 million plays on Spotify and relatively little scrutiny in the name of satire.
The line in the song itself is a critique of the underlying societal double standard regarding the acceptable use of the N-word by black people versus white people. It’s a provocative take at comedy, but the satirical message gets across easily to the listener, as the N-word double standard has been an apparent cultural phenomenon since the advent of mainstream hip-hop.
To call these girls’ words offensive is to call the song offensive, and to remove them from their sorority is to prohibit the song from being played at any future sorority social events, for fear that others might sing along. If this is the case, then a full scrub of the popular music catalogue is necessary to remove all songs containing the N-word from the white listener’s repertoire.
Dignified progressives and social justice warriors alike are quick to respect the freedom of expression associated with the art form of hip-hop and its acceptance among the masses, yet demand that specific sectors of these masses be ever-conscious of the social pseudo-boundaries associated with the “appropriation” of its contents. In calling the song’s performance (or re-performance) an appropriation of hip-hop culture or even black culture is itself an appropriation of comedic and popular culture. There is simply no way to reconcile the popularity of hip-hop with the diversity of its performers and audience, so these progressives dismiss the idea altogether and condemn offenders to social exile on a case-by-case basis by ruling of their high court of subjective morality. How can one be expected to navigate the intricacies of this moral code while this content is streamed to us as acceptable on a daily basis? If we expect to have a culturally sensitive society, this question must be addressed with a homogeneously applied doctrine.
The fact is, these ex-DZ members were caught in the unfortunate circumstance of being filmed using derogatory language. They were using the N-word in perhaps its least malicious form, taking amusement at the song’s take on an ambiguous societal double standard. Perhaps they should be ashamed of their actions, for which they’ve paid a hefty price in the form of removal from their sorority and subsequent public shaming, or perhaps the larger phenomenon surrounding these actions should be considered before subjecting these women to the left’s wildly unprincipled judge, jury and executioner.
If we are to accept “Freaky Friday” as fair expression, then we must be willing to accept the consequences of its popularity, including its consumption by all listeners. If we are not able to do so, then the music industry, and the First Amendment as a whole, are in need of a vigorous overhaul.