Morgan Wallen is watching his career implode before his eyes as a consequence of a video that catches the country music star using a racial slur. Wallen and his buddies were laughing and carrying on after returning home from a night of drinking this past weekend. Their antics were loud and disruptive enough to wake the neighbors, one of whom decided to pull out a phone and document the commotion. Unfortunately for Wallen, the camera had been turned on right before he shouted to one of his friends across the street, presumably referring to another friend who was in perhaps an especially drunken state, “take care of this [blank] [n-word].”
It’s clear that Wallen used a word he should not have used. It’s also clear that he didn’t mean for it to be public (though he did shout it in the street, which is not a good way of keeping things private), and he meant it as a joke. Nonetheless, as expected, the penalties have been quite significant. Wallen apologized profusely but that did not stop the inevitable: his record label suspended him, the Academy of Country Music Awards revoked his eligibility, and Cumulus Media, iHeartMedia, and SiriusXM pulled all of his songs from their stations, effectively removing him from the radio altogether. This is the swiftest and harshest backlash we have seen against a star musician in years, even though star musicians do and say objectionable things all the time.
While Wallen’s star is rapidly plummeting after saying one offensive thing — a thing which, if context matters, was said drunkenly and in jest — another star is ascending again after a minor and temporary dip. The juxtaposition is instructive. Nick Cannon and ViacomCBS have reunited and the production of his VH1 series “Wild ’N Out” will resume, following a brief suspension of their relationship following comments Cannon made on his podcast last summer. What provoked the backlash was Cannon’s claim that black people can’t be anti-Semitic because they “are the Semitic people” and “the true Hebrews.” “It’s never hate speech, you can’t be anti-Semitic when we are the Semitic people,” he said. “When we are the same people who they want to be. That’s our birthright. We are the true Hebrews.” This is what prompted the brief severing of ties with ViacomCBS, and an apology from Cannon. That is all water under the bridge now, apparently, and Cannon’s career is back on track.
The “true Hebrews” stuff wasn’t the only problematic thing he said during that podcast. The even more offensive and racist remarks were never acknowledged by most of the media, or by Cannon himself, or even by ViacomCBS when they initially condemned his statements. Cannon in fact has faced no consequence — not even a temporary consequence — for the rest of his racist diatribe, in which he claimed that white people have a “lack of compassion” because of their melanin deficiency. If that wasn’t enough, he also said that white people are “a little less” (inferior to people with darker skin) and that because they don’t have “the power of the Sun” (?) they have behaved “out of fear, out of low self-esteem, out of deficiency” and acted “evil,” robbing and raping in order to survive. White people, Cannon said, “are closer to animals” and are “the true savages“:
The people that don’t have (melanin) are – and I’m going to say this carefully – a little less. When they didn’t have the power of the sun, it started to deteriorate them so then, they’re acting out of fear, they’re acting out of low self-esteem, they’re acting out of a deficiency. So, therefore, the only way that they can act is evil. They have to rob, steal, rape, kill in order to survive. So then, these people that didn’t have what we have – and when I say “we,” I speak of the melanated people – they had to be savages. … They’re acting as animals so they’re the ones that are actually closer to animals. They’re the ones that are actually the true savages.
This is by far and away the most racist thing that any celebrity of his stature has said in many years, and he never apologized for it. And now he has his job back.
Let’s stack these two situations up against each other. Wallen used a racial slur, in a non-racial context, was drunk and joking, and never meant for it to be recorded. Cannon, on the other hand, expressed his true feelings about white people, in thorough detail, and did so publicly and proudly. His opinion, as he says himself, is that white people are deficient savages and are inferior to himself. Who has committed the greater sin here? Who suffered the worse consequence? Objectively, there is little doubt that Wallen is the lesser offender (also the lesser human, by Nick Cannon’s way of thinking) and even less doubt that he has endured the more severe professional consequences so far. He’s also the only one between the two of them to have apologized for his racial comment. Will his sin be suddenly wiped away like Cannon’s? That remains to be seen, but he better not hold his breath.
Who, who has the privilege here? The man who said a bad thing, apologized, and lost his career anyway, or the man who said a worse thing, didn’t apologize, and quickly got his career back? You cannot say the first man has the privilege without removing all meaning from the word.
Is it enough, then, to say that white privilege is a myth and black privilege is real? Not quite. If it were as simple as that, then Candace Owens — not only black but a woman as well — would enjoy all of Nick Cannon’s privilege and then some. But that is clearly not the case. Rather than black or white privilege, it is probably more accurate to speak of Identity Privilege or, more accurately, Tribal Privilege. Your privilege is tied to your tribe, and within the privileged tribe, the pecking order is determined by a complicated and convoluted hierarchy of identities. Nick Cannon can survive and thrive in spite of his insanely racist views — or even, partly, because of them — due first and foremost to his leftism. If Cannon were a conservative, an acolyte of Thomas Sowell instead of Louis Farrakhan, there would be no redemption arc.
Through his degree of intersectional privilege Cannon can say pretty much whatever he wants about race. But he is not at the very top of the intersectional heap, so if instead of white people, he had labeled, say, gay people, or transgenders, or women, as “a little less,” then he would be banished from polite society with all of the same speed and vengeance that has been directed at Morgan Wallen.
And as for Morgan Wallen, he is white, a country singer, and he lives in Nashville. This make him, for all intents and purposes anyway, a conservative, or at least conservative-adjacent. He is the wrong race and in the wrong ideological tribe. The only privilege he has is the kind he can buy with his wealth. That will probably be enough to keep him comfortable for a while, but not enough to save his career or his reputation. That kind of privilege is reserved for men like Nick Cannon.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.