Coffee Rhetoric: Gwyneth Paltrow and Them "Niggas in Paris", For Real

June 05, 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow and Them "Niggas in Paris", For Real

Actress, Gwyneth Paltrow is not really known for being able to relate to the rest of us poor, working-class commoners, despite her liberal rumblings to the contrary; having been born into the aristocracy and with all of her sanctimonious diatribes about not being able to live without hand-painted de Gournay  wallpaper or Antonio Lupi Baia tubs in her bedroom and of course her “For wealthy people, duh!” musings in her Goop newsletter and all; So when Lady Gwyneth tweeted a picture of herself onstage with Kanye West and her BFF Jay-Z during a performance in France and captioned it “N**gas in Paris, for real…”  the Twitterverse experienced one of those screeching, record-scratching moments and side-eyed the pampered actress for getting too swept up in the camaraderie.  The tweet immediately went viral and Lady Gwyneth fumbled to rationalize her social-media gaffe: “Hold up. It’s the title of the song!”
Singer, Terius “The Dream” Nash also came to The Lady’s defense, initially absorbing the blame for the tweet... 


 The Dream then deferred to the “We give too much power to that word!” argument to further defend Lady Paltrow’s honor. An argument that only seems to surface when their favored non-Black friends come under fire for using the word out loud. Because I hardly ever hear rappers use that convoluted defense when "Nigger" is used with malicious intent to slight them or when they feel as if they're being discriminated against in some way.

And since The Dream, Beyonce, Jay-Z, et al have reached the pinnacle of the “Class-ceiling” and cultivated a friendship with their privileged friend in the process, it wouldn’t serve their personal interests to explain to Lady Gwyneth why it probably wasn’t a good idea to tweet the picture with that caption. And some would probably even argue that the onus should fall on Jay-Z and Kanye West for titling a song “Niggas in Paris” to begin with. Fair enough I suppose, since some rappers aren’t really known for tact and thinking of anything other than money.  And since Lady Gwyneth’s Handbook for All things Epicurious and Goopish probably didn’t come equipped with a chapter on: The politics of navigating urban lingo and etiquette, and since rappers see no monetary value or incentive in checking their White protégés and/or friends (see here and here) when they commit racially insensitive infractions, perhaps I can try to offer a bit of insight about why it wasn't entirely cool for Gwyneth to reference her "Watch the Throne" experience the way she did...
  

When Lady Gwyneth drones on and on about her privilege and wealth, she’s already illustrating how out of touch she is with the rest of the country, particularly about those navigating the trenches of the urban jungle. Paltrow definitely may not have had ill-intent with her tweet, but the fact still remains that it came from a place of unfamiliarity with a world she knows nothing about. Some of the responsibility should fall on Kanye and Jay-Z for brazenly titling the song “Niggas in Paris" while being far removed from their former lives and (maybe) expecting their newly acquired, wealthy White friends to find creative other ways to reference the song -- (although the tweet did seem to reference the actress literally being on stage with some Niggas in Paris"for real"). The Dream's shoddy excuses and rationalizations for the tweet...
 "A word means something when u react to it! ... Context is everything. Meaning it in the context as a Song which is how we Sold it to the world!!!!!! It is what it is ... And actually N---az was in Paris! LOL. Stop wasting God's time and do something with your life. Love not war."
...  make him and his rap cohorts just as complicit in its gross misuse when "Nigga" suddenly turns to "Nigger". To me, you can't have it both ways; you can't defend your White homegirl's or boy's right to use it while in the presence of Black people and then get upset if they then turn around in a moment of anger and hurl the epithet in its original, hateful context.

There is definitely no need for the type of alarm that would call for boycotting Goop (other than it’s just an annoying newsletter) and creating online petitions. Calling the actress out with a warning, since her nouveau riche Black friends won’t, suffices just fine. And if she genuinely develops an understanding about why some people found her tweet to be a bit irresponsible, fine; if she shrugs if off, then perhaps we need to examine the fact that her rich, Black friends wrote a song and titled it "Niggas in Paris" and told her to go ahead and repeat it as liberally and as often as she chooses to. Hip Hop Mogul, Russell Simmons also rushed to Gwyneth's defense, with somewhat disingenuous argument of his own ...
"It was this explosive expression that spread out of the inner cities of America into the walkmans of kids like Gwyneth Paltrow during their childhoods in 1980s and 1990s. It allowed white kids to begin to sympathize with the plight of many in black America. And these kids have overwhelmingly become progressive in their politics and their social concerns. Having any Hollywood starlet at your concert was unimaginable, and having her quote your lyrics as a badge of honor that she was hanging out with you, you never would have dreamed of that – until your poetry hit the market and changed the world.
So, for Gwyneth to tweet out her excitement about hip-hop taking over the planet is a good thing. She didn’t mean any harm, she just was trying to ball so hard, and like Jay-Z says, "motherf*ckers can’t fine" her." (Source)
Gwyneth Paltrow and people of her class and ilk often enjoy the luxuries their wealth and privilege affords them and will freely appropriate those aspects of Black urban culture they find most intriguing and entertaining… while disregarding the darker and grittier elements of that experience. On some level, is that not the fault of rap culture? I mean Gwyneth's rap friends are being especially emphatic in defending the "hood pass" privileges they've granted her, even though The Dream and Russell Simmons no longer navigate those circles and rub elbows with a more well-heeled group of people. Moreover, would Russell Simmons and The Dream feel equally as passionate about imploring folks to disregard the original impact of the word had... Ann Coulter tweeted a picture of herself at the concert and captioned she was having a great time with some "Niggas in Paris, for real"? Methinks this is just a case of rich rappers wanting to make special concessions for their wealthy White friend.  For me, this is where the conundrum lies.


In the video below, British poet and rapper Akala, explains why he stopped using the word out of context.



Also read: Dutch Magazine Labels Rihanna "De Ultimate Nigga Bitch"