Inspired by Kendrick Lamar, Writer Jeff Chang Confronts Race, Resegregation In “We Gon’ Be Alright”

Presented in black and white with heightened contrast between the two, the music video for Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” begins with a scream and a monologue on struggle.

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in the hotel room
Lucifer was all around me
So I kept running
Until I found my safe haven
I was tryna convince myself the stripes I got
Making myself realize what my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting a continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination.”

While ninety percent of this song is about pain, writer and hip-hop historian Jeff Chang insists the message is positive. With a refrain like “We gon’ be alright,” who would disagree?

In fact, Chang was so moved by that line that he used it as the title for his series of short essays on race and resegregation. That book, “We Gon’ Be Alright” was published with two months left in an election season that has left Americans wondering where this country could possibly go after frequent reports on racially-motivated police incidents and debates about who should be allowed across our borders.

As part of the WAMU In Your Bookstore series, Chang and I had a wide-ranging discussion about race in America today at Kramerbooks.

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