If you’ve peeped our list of “Black-Ass Books to Add to Your Reading List,” then you know Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years In Power dropped in October. The acclaimed journalist and author is currently on a press tour promoting his new book, and during a stop at Evanston Township High School in Illinois, a white student raised an email sent to students ahead of a Lil Uzi Vert concert stating white students do not have the right to recite the n-word during the show.
The student, who agrees “100 percent” with the memo, asked Coates how to go about addressing white folks who feel entitled to the word when they hear it used in rap music. “I don’t know what to do when I hear my friends use this word in a song,” the student expressed, to which Coates responded: “Words don’t have meaning without context.”
“My wife, with her girlfriends, will use the word ‘bitch.’ I do not join in. I don’t do that—and perhaps more importantly, I don’t have a desire to do it,” he explained while addressing privileges people have to use certain terms in different contexts. He then goes on to expound on racial implications beyond music and pop culture.
“When you’re white in this country, you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. It’s conditioned this way,” he said. “The experience of being a hip-hop fan, and not being able to use the word ‘n*gga’ is just a little peek into what it means to be Black. Because to be Black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do.”
We Were Eight Years In Power—which The Boston Globe calls “essential“—is available now. Watch Coates drop gems in the video clip above.