Ever since video leaked of Morgan Wallen using the ‘N’ word on camera on January 31st, 2021, the situation has been broadly mischaracterized by the media and others looking to exploit the situation as opposed to giving it the accurate portrayal such an important incident deserves.
Though belief is nearly universal that Morgan Wallen was in the wrong for using the word in any scenario and in any context, the characterization of it as a “racial outburst” has always lacked important details, and in a way that took a situation that could have been a teachable moment, and made it a reactive and polarizing situation that only increased the popularity of Morgan Wallen and allowed individuals to couch him as the actual victim.
As one of mainstream country music’s top Black stars, Kane Brown’s opinion on the incident matters greatly. Though he’s been silent on the matter now for well over a year, he is now talking on the matter. And similar to fellow Black country artist Jimmie Allen, Brown says the way the the incident was portrayed was lacking important context.
While speaking to The New York Times recently ahead of the release of his new album Different Man, Kane Brown said, “This is the first time I’ve ever even talked about this, but I personally know Morgan. I texted him that day. I told him he shouldn’t have said it, but also knowing Morgan, I knew that he didn’t mean it in the way that the world thought that he meant it. I think if it was in a different context, I probably would have been fighting.”
As opposed to a racial outburst, Morgan Wallen was quoting an often used phrase in hip-hop in a playful manner towards a white friend who he wanted to make sure was getting home safe after a night of drinking. The private moment was caught on a Ring doorbell, and later sold to TMZ, who published the video. Morgan Wallen later apologized on numerous occasions for his use of the word, as well as made $500,000 in donations to numerous Black charities.
A month after the incident, Black country artist Jimmie Allen also defended Wallen, saying in part, “He didn’t use the -er. So that’s why a lot of black people, we laughed at it. It was like, ‘Oh ok, well he said it right.’ True, you shouldn’t say it, but at the same time, just because I don’t agree with what he said doesn’t mean I should banish him.”
Jimmie Allen also went on to criticize how some in the press and on social media had exploited the incident to make it about themselves.
“That’s really kind of rubbed me the wrong way a lot of times, where I saw white people tweeting ‘I’m so offended. I can’t believe that you would do this. I’m so hurt.’ You’re not hurt … Now if people would have said ‘I don’t agree with this. He shouldn’t have used that. It’s a wrong word to use,’ that’s one thing. But when people start to use words like ‘offended’ … my grandfather told me at a young age when someone says something to someone else not directed at you that doesn’t affect you, the only way you can become offended is if you are so self-absorbed and you make something about you that’s not about you.”
“The extra stuff… I feel like people just want to be seen. I feel like sometimes people just want to be in the spotlight, you know what I mean? With the extra hurt. A lot of times it’s just nonsense to where people want to look cool on social media … Racism isn’t about what you post on your social media for the world to see, it’s about who you actually are, what you’re actually doing.”
The specific phrase Morgan Wallen used,”Pussy ass – -gga,” is common parlance in hip-hop songs. From the legendary gangster rap song “Straight Outta Compton,” to songs with the phrase as the specific title from Lil Boosie and 2 Live Crew, to the song “Die Slow” by Lil Durk, who collaborated with Morgan Wallen after the incident on the #1 hip-hop song “Broadway Girls,” that phrase comes up hip-hop commonly.
While the N-word should still should not be said by white individuals due to how it was historically used to systemically demean Black Americans, many Black Americans—including Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen—understand that Wallen was just parroting a commonly used phrase, as opposed to showing his disdain for anyone. They know this because so many Black Americans have heard the word used towards them in anger before.