Tue | Jan 18, 2022

Chet Hanks – New face of dancehall or newest ‘culture vulture’?

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2021 | 12:05 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

We really need to be more introspective and hold people accountable for being culture vultures. We need to step outside of the narrative of ‘oh, they are so cute’ and ‘oh, they love our culture” and really see what’s happening here.

As I was reading the comments about Chet Hanks on The Gleaner’s Instagram account, I came across a post which I wholeheartedly agree with: “People a tek we culture as joke and entertainment and we nuh see the danger.” People, there is a danger. Our ancestors fought for our freedom, and Patois was the way they communicated to get messages to each other so that backra massa couldn’t hear or understand them. With this language, they were able to organise their rebellions and broker their freedom. And here we are celebrating someone who intentionally used his white privilege and our culture for his own profit.

If you are still wondering why this is just not okay. First, he’s culturally appropriating. Second, he is exhibiting (as he has done in the past) his white privilege to use black culture to promote himself and his music, and engaging in misogynoir.

Third, he’s not Jamaican and has no affinity or affiliation to Jamaica. Fourth, you can appreciate a culture without appropriating it and profiting off of it. He intentionally, as he has done in the past, used this to exploit our culture for his own gain. I mean, if you could somehow crystallise or condense white privilege and cultural appropriation, he would be the poster child.

Writer Chante Griffin of The Root sums it up quite well by stating that here’s another “example of white folks thinking they can say whatever they want simply because they’re black-adjacent”. (Chet plays the rapper Blake on FOX’s Empire, and his daughter, Michaiah, is black.) “But proximity to blackness doesn’t grant permission to mimic it.” Chet is not the only person in entertainment to do this. From Kanye, Drake, DJ Khaled, the list is rather long. For far too long, we give them passes because we don’t see or value who we are and see short-term gains or glimmers of recognition.

If we are not careful, we will be known as the place that created dancehall and reggae but not own it. Local dancehall artistes will continue to be marginalised on the international scene, leaving the privileged ‘culture vulture’ artiste to continue amassing incredible wealth on the backs of real Jamaicans. In closing, Chet Hanks and others like him who appropriate our culture are really problematic. If this doesn’t help your understanding of why this is wrong, den yuh cawna well dawk!

KRYSTAL-GAYLE O’NEILL