Joyner Lucas recently released the viral music video entitled “I’m Not Racist.” It features two caricatures. One is an extremely obese white guy with a MAGA cap looking like he’s from a Rust Belt steel mill, and the other a black guy styled like he’s fresh from the ‘hood. Each takes a turn venting to the other about their views on race relations in a very harsh, often intense manner. Each keeps dropping the line “I’m not racist.” It is as if both are racist yet they don’t want to be, so they continuously tell themselves this white (pardon the pun) lie to reassure themselves they are something that they are not. In the end, each says that he wishes he understood the other’s perspective. It concludes with them hugging.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here.

Some commentators have tried to pick apart each side’s argument, scoring points for who is the most factual. But this misses the point. If I were to score it that way, putting aside the crude language, the white guy’s arguments for what haunts black America, despite being steeped in exaggeration and not entirely factual, nonetheless have much that is grounded in facts and rationality, particularly on points such as fatherhood and role models. The black guy’s arguments are more factually incorrect and more emotional, citing the other’s lack of sympathy and how the white guy can’t feel what it’s like to be black. So the white guy wins, right?

Wrong. The more important message is in the black guy’s lyrics.

Sympathy Trumps Truth

The key point jumped out at me from an exchange the two have about heroes. White guy says:

But I think there’s a disconnect between your culture and mine. I worship the Einsteins, study the Steve Jobs. But you ride 2Pac’s dick like he was a fuckin’ god!

Black guy retorts:

But I know there’s a disconnect between your culture and mine. Yeah, I praise 2Pac like he was a fuckin’ god. He was fighting for his life way before he fuckin’ died!

Yes, logically speaking, it makes more sense to idolize Einstein and Steve Jobs than a guy whose claim to fame is promoting violent criminal behaviors in his rap lyrics, and at first I thought, “White guy has a valid point.” Then I thought more deeply about it: for disaffected black Americans, 2Pac expressed empathy towards them, expressed that he cared about them, felt what they felt, and was on their side. That is the point of this lyric, and it is the winning point.

Lecturing someone about how everything they are doing wrong is a great way to convey that you don’t care about him and are not on his side. It’s a perfect way not to win people over to your ideas. Sympathy wins over your fellow humans, not logic. 2Pac made an emotional connection with black America. Steve Jobs did not.

A similar sentiment can be found in an exchange on slavery. White guy says:

Talkin’ about slavery like you was around back then, like you was pickin’ cotton off the fuckin’ ground back then, like you was on the plantation gettin’ down back then.

Black guy responds:

My grand mama was a slave, that shit gets to me, and you ain’t got no motherfucking sympathy.

If we stick to objective facts, his grandmother was not a slave. Maybe some of his great great great grand mamas were slaves. Probably some were not. That aside, there are plenty of historical examples that show an oppression that ended 150 years prior is irrelevant. Score one for the white guy?

But that isn’t what black guy’s lyric is arguing. He doesn’t actually say, “I can’t succeed because my great great great grand mama 150 years ago was oppressed.” The verse says that the history of slavery bothers him emotionally and that he doesn’t feel any sympathy or compassionate concern expressed from the other side. In other words, he feels like white America hasn’t given a shit about him and his ancestors for 150 years and beyond. He isn’t blaming slavery. He’s faulting a lack of caring.

Trump the Compassionate??

Compassionate sympathy, whether real or perceived, is what has determined the outcome of every presidential election in my lifetime. Bush with his compassionate conservatism was more powerful than the Robotron 9000 Al Gore. Obama was the king of this, especially in his second election when Romney basically said he didn’t give a crap about the concerns of 47% of America. Don’t get me wrong: I agreed with Romney’s point! It was logically sound and he was criticizing a welfare-state socialist mentality that I completely oppose. Yet no amount of logic can change the fact he told 47% of America that he didn’t give a crap about them.

And that brings us to the 2016 election. This may seem shocking, but Trump won because of his (real or perceived) sense of caring! His opponent Clinton did herself no favors. She just exuded privilege, that you should vote for her because she deserves the presidency. Even her message to women wasn’t one of “I care about you and feel what you feel” but “Vote for me because I have a vagina.” Saturday Night Live captured it quite well.

Trump at face value seems even more the opposite of compassionate caring. Bashing immigrants and making fun of crippled journalists are about the furthest thing from sympathy we can imagine. But he did convey to disaffected blue collar whites (symbolized by the white guy in this video) that he was on their side, that he cared about them and understood the very real problems they face in life. It was a message this group of voters hadn’t heard in decades. Thus despite being the exact opposite of sympathetic to his political opponents, he expressed far more compassionate concern at least to his voting base than Clinton did to hers.

Final Score

So in the end, the black guy in “I’m Not Racist” is the winner by my accounting because he reflects the fact that groups of people (including black America but many other groups) stay in the pocket of this or that political interest group because no other group has succeeded in fulfilling their emotional needs.

Logic and rationality are losing strategies for influencing humans. They are always defeated by emotional appeal. You can dislike this fact, but facts are facts and you must deal with humans as they are, not as you wish they were.

Whatever your political stripe (hopefully libertarian!), if your way of outreach is to lecture people about their own faults and other emotionally unintelligent approaches then stop immediately and start thinking about how you can make your proposals connect with the emotional needs of the people you reach out to.

Don’t condescendingly preach personal responsibility like the out of shape fat white guy in this video; learn how to express sympathy and caring to your target constituency like the black guy in this video asks for.