Before Kanye West became BFF’s with Donald Trump or proudly proclaimed himself a “N***a In Paris,” he spit a bar that sums up an essential truth every ambitious non-White Westerner learns one day or another:
“Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe,” warned West on 2004’s “All Falls Down.”
West’s double entendre was a tongue-in-cheek reminder to all Black Americans that no matter how hard you work or how seamlessly you adopt Western values like capitalism and materialism, you will never be far enough removed from your ancestors’ slave coops to be above or beyond racial denigration.
This week, West’s “Gold Digger” collaborator Jamie Foxx was reminded of this unfortunate fact while dining in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Between scenes of the Robin Hood prequel he is shooting with Leonardo DiCaprio, Foxx was eating out with White friends when their party was interrupted by two middle-aged men who strongly disapproved of the actor’s presence in the restaurant, if not the whole country.
The men reportedly banged their fists on the table Foxx was eating on, pointed their fingers at him and called him a “crncuga,” which a Croatian news site translates as “nigger.”
As a Texas native, veteran of stand up comedy and host of multiple celebrity roasts, Foxx took the slur in stride. He immediately recorded and posted the fallout on his Instagram as his new Croatian friends were escorted out of the restaurant. Foxx jokingly blamed their outburst on the alcohol, saying in the video “They drunk up in here,” before giving his own impression of their sloppy insults.
Humor will always be an effective tool for deflecting pain, but Foxx’s immediate instinct to document and share the incident shows that he understands it’s true relevance. Later that day, he likely thought to himself, “After all of the work I’ve done and awards I’ve won, they still just see a n****r — *Sigh* — oh well, back to work.”
While sipping champagne at his Croatian castle later that day, Foxx must have wondered why they weren’t satisfied slurring him privately among themselves. Why did these grown men feel entitled to approach an Academy Award-winning millionaire to explicitly inform him that he was not welcomed in their country because of the color of his skin?
But he knows, like we all know, why his acting accolades and Billboard hits couldn’t curb their hatred or help them recognize his humanity. Croatia, like America, Britain and other Western societies, has reportedly seen an uptick in political nationalism and outright racism in recent years. As President Trump continues to deport and ban brown bodies from America at an unprecedented rate, Foxx’s treatment should be a wake up call to anyone still seeking to integrate these Eurocentric institutions. If you don’t pay attention to current events or recent history, the message has always been loud and clear: Respect can never truly be earned by outsiders in the now globalized culture of White Supremacy.
Foxx’s stellar performances alongside Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday and Tom Cruise in Collateral didn’t make his melanin any less threatening to his assailants, who were later charged by police with disorderly conduct. In fact, their crimes may have gone unpunished altogether if Foxx weren’t a Hollywood star with the platform to instantly spread word of his mistreatment to millions. Another actor may have lacked the courage to share the incident with his followers, but Foxx’s upbringing in Texas, where that word “grew,” as he put it in an interview with The Guardian while promoting 2012’s Django Unchained, prepared him to process the unprovoked insult and handle the bizarre situation with calmness and cleverness.
“I think (growing up in Texas) gave me an upper hand on the (Django) material,” Foxx told The Guardian. “I played cheese-and-wine parties for men who called us niggers. But my grandmother worked as a housemaid all her life and she taught me some truths,” he explained. Five years earlier, he opened a comedy set by telling an Atlantic City, New Jersey crowd “I’m an Oscar winner, but I’m still a nigger.” The line was a set-up for a joke about Michael Richards’ infamous racial tirade in 2007, but a decade later, Foxx’s joke still carries the same ugly truth.
Whether it’s Oprah shopping for purses, Jay Z shopping for luxury apartments or Dr. Henry Louis Gates locking himself out of his own home, no amount of hard work, social status or dollar signs has succeeded in shielding non-White people from Western civilization’s deep-seated racial hate. That’s why, at this point in time, nothing about Mr. Foxx’s treatment should be considered “Unpredictable.”