Racism, like many aspects of our society, has evolved or transformed. We often hear that racism is less overt today, more covert and institutional. This is true. But I’m not sure if we are as adept as we should be at identifying the new forms racism takes on. An evolution that I’ve noticed is the idea that if something is seen as “Black,” or characteristic of African-American culture or perspective, it is deemed inferior or “radical.” This attitude makes up the undercurrent of conservative pundits’ professions of outrage surrounding Michelle Obama’s invitation of Common to the White House for a poetry night. This same undercurrent of “Black is radical” appeared when President Obama’s Christian pastor Jeremiah Wright made statements from a Black historical perspective.

Many people consider racism a “stain” on a history of American exceptionalism and progress, a position that makes them comfortable for it allows them to dismiss racism as a temporary anomaly to an otherwise righteous legacy of America. In taking this position of comfort, they ignore the reality that the legacy of slavery and racism is no “stain” but deeply woven into the fabric of America.

So, what exactly is so “radical” about Common? Read on