Lil Nas X is Making Oppression A Lot Harder—and Folks Are Big Mad

To say that entertainer Lil Nas X is the moment would be an understatement. From his music to how vocal he has been recently about his queer identity, it has become evident that Lil Nas X is confident in who he is . 

Recently, his video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” sparked outrage with both Christians and conservatives because of its suggestive theme where he invites Satan into the champagne room and gives him a lap dance to remember. While some people are angry over the visual, many are applauding him for doing something that not many artists would have the gumption to try. 

Though many are talking about the video and the “demonic” shoes he just released, there is more to Lil Nas X’s narrative than what meets the eye—something that many of us have failed to give greater attention to. 

I have to admit that while I was never a fan of the song “Old Town Road”, I’ve always liked what Lil Nas X stood for. His tweets and recants on social media always came from a place of authenticity, something that I wish I would have had at his age. Lil Nas X knows who he wants to be in a world that is so quick to judge and I am sure that the pressure to live up to that is greater considering the industry he is in. 

So, when I learned that the young rapper was queer and wanted to use his voice to uplift other (queer) Black men, I couldn’t help but to stan. I kept thinking, “If only I had a Lil Nas X around when I was coming to terms with my Blackness and my sexuality”. 

However, this week my love for him grew exponentially when he released his video and tweeted about the video being dedicated to his younger self Lil Nas X, also known as Montero Lamar Hill, was making a big statement. He wanted the world to know that the pain that he carried for being “different” in this world was now gone and that he was giving permission to all Black people to celebrate who they are.  

Knowing that Lil Nas X has caught a lot of heat for his artistic expression, I kept thinking that this artist’s message was bigger than a raunchy romp with the devil. It was a testament to the hell that so many of us go through to love who we are in a world that is actively working to erase us. 

See, the release of this video isn’t just about album sales or market data, but about a greater message to the Black community as a whole. It’s about reminding us that the same hate that we are so quick to give to one another for who we opt to be is the same hatred that other groups of people are giving to us. It’s about naming the same place that we are quick to say queer Black people are going and recognizing the root of that hatred—it’s the same vile energy that white people have spewed at us since the first time we were put into shackles and carried from our homeland. 

It’s about the constant state of hell that we as a Black community live in trying to live up to standards created to oppress and control.

Consider the notion that from the time we understand our race and our place in the world, it’s about the ways in which we are told who we need to be and how we should perform. If it’s not for our parents and family’s appeasement, it’s for our pastor or our congregation. It only gets worse when we are expected to over-perform for our white educators, colleagues, the police— you name it—we are never able to fully stand in our authentic identity with pride. 

We are reminded day in and day out that we not only have to live up to the expectations of whiteness and white supremacy, but also the expectations of the Black church and the Black community, which have been shaped by white supremacy. From the time we learn how to walk, talk and read, Black people are given a set of rules to live up to—rules that are often meant to further oppression and break us, not uplift us. 

Said pressure is that much more heightened when you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community because now you are going against tradition—traditions that are often rooted in the exploitation of fear and the celebration our pain. But Lil Nas X and his work is redefining that narrative in his own way, reminding us that we all have the right to demand people put some respect on our names. 

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From the inception of his career Lil Nas X has challenged us to think about what our lives would be if we weren’t scared to be the person that we truly want to be. While some might simply see a message of him dancing with the devil, Lil Nas X paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to heal from the inner demons that often cause us so much harm.  

It’s about healing and shining a brighter light on the hell that we often inflict on ourselves by trying to be something or someone we were never meant to be. Especially when you might be in a home where being your authentic self could potentially leave you homeless or experiencing mental and emotional abuse

Lil Nas X, his career and his existence, remind us that we all have the right to not only stand in our truth, but the right to redefine what truth means in our own story. What he has done has given a legion of people the opportunity to feel seen, heard and valued, something that I wished Jonathan had when he was in his heyday.

Jonathan P. Higgins (Doctor Jon Paul) is a social justice leader, media critic, educator, speaker and writer. Find out more about what he has to say @DoctorJonPaul.

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