Chet Hanks’ Cultural Appropriation Has Gone Too Far
The actor/artist’s janky Jamaican accent and “White Boy Summer” highlight the importance of Black people telling their own stories
Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks, has become one of the most polarizing culture vultures across the World Wide Web. And honestly, it was kind of funny at first. You might’ve been able to laugh through dude’s cringe — dubbing himself Chet Haze and White Chocolate, roaring his best renditions of Jamaican patois. But things became much less amusing a couple weeks ago, when he declared the months following the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the United States as “White Boy Summer,” followed by the release of a music video for a song of the same name.
“I’m not talking about Trump, NASCAR-type White boy summer,” he proclaimed, seemingly attempting to distinguish his own racial pride from that of overt supremacists. “I’m talking about me, Jon B., Jack Harlow–type White boy summer.”
Hanks’ announcement and subsequent music video emerged amid breaking news that he allegedly abused his ex-girlfriend Kiana Parker, who is a Black woman. Parker has accused Hanks of accosting, grabbing, and making physically menacing movements toward her person, presumably in the midst of him posting self-made videos that show him speaking like a reggae artist and asserting kinship with Black culture. (Hanks is reportedly also suing Parker for assault, battery, and theft.)
I can’t separate Hanks’ music and rampant appropriation from his real-life drama. Not only are the recent domestic abuse claims appalling, but it also seems inevitable that some will perceive his alleged behavior as a reflection on the culture to which he’s gravitated. His antics invite unworthy, ignorant questions about whether Black folks are innately violent and misogynistic. His appropriation, however, distracts from better questions of how a White male scion of one of our generation’s heralded actors became a man-child embroiled in such a mess. His…