What a Hip Hop Artist from Australia Taught Me about American society

Nothing brings groups of people better than music. And there’s a lot we can learn from music, such as finding harmony in our own lives just as we learn the harmonies to a song. Remi’s Ode to Ignorance, however, teaches us a little bit more once we give it a listen. His song is exactly what its title implies it is: an ode to the ignorant calling out the social injustices that artist Remi ‘REMi’ Kolawole has experienced in his life. As a Nigerian-Australian who had grown up in the capital of Australia, Canberry, Remi’s experience with racism played a key role in developing his music as he kept a vigilant eye on the racism plaguing his country he had been born and raised in.

Keeping the meaning of the title of his song in mind, the chorus of the song puts listeners in Remi’s shoes. Knowing well that some people will never learn to take the perspectives of others who do not share their own world view, Remi gives his ode to ignorance by repeating the words of the ignorant himself:

F*ck foreigners. Those Africans aren’t worth sh*t
F*ck the origins. Aboriginals aren’t worth sh*t
F*ck foreigners. Indian, Islander, Arabic, Asian if you’re not male and caucasian you ain’t sh*t

Australia shares a similarly abhorrent history and failure to compensate with reparations just as America has. As a case example, in Australia the day that the British arived in 1788 and declared the land terra nullis (a land without people), despite the history of the native people who had lived there for millennia, has become the holiday “Australia Day,” without recognizing aboriginals who had lived in the land of modern day Australia long before any of the British inhabited the land. As a result, the holiday on January 26th is known as “Invasion Day” by those who refuse to forget the true past of this ‘holiday.’

Australia’s Invasion Day is similar to America’s holiday celebrated on October 10 this year, Columbus Day. The day is referred to as Indigenous People’s Day, though it is not formally recognized throughout the countries and the atrocities that America was founded on were ignored. Remi calls out this history, noting that the native peoples are grouped with the foreigners, both seen as other as long as they aren’t apart of the ‘superior’ invading race that has thrived ever since 1788. The first step in the path to a diverse and truly whole society is acknowledging the flaws and detrimental social norms of a society, and Remi acknowledges that without hesitation.

In his four minute song, however, Remi goes beyond just addressing Australia’s lack of recognition for its aboriginal peoples. He shows his disdain for the tendency of his peers to fall back on a “race card” argument to deflect racist actions. Through hip hop, Remi proposes the question: in what world would it be desirable to “play” a race card if it means that its usage comes packaged with having to deal with racism itself? Could Black Australians’ under-representation in the media have attributed to the racism still in Australia in the twenty first century?

The media makes it so we look like aliens
I mean when’s the last time you saw a black guy on Neighbours
*’

Remi proposes these questions through his music, allowing the similarities between American and Australian society to shine through. Both countries struggle with addressing a history of a lack of diversity in their popular culture, and through his music the issue is brought to light.

*Neighbors is a popular Australian sitcom

Saja Hussein

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