Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
Lenny Kravitz is the son of a black actress, Roxie Roker, and a white television producer, Sy Kravitz. The title track of his ninth studio album is an autobiographical look back at his upbringing in New York. "It's my life," he told Billboard magazine. "I grew up in an environment where I was in between a so-called black and white world. My life has always been about contrasts, and it reflects on not only my life and what I've gone through with my parents and what I saw growing up, but also where we are now as far as this country, and accepting these kind of changes where we now have an African-American president."
"All the records are personal," he added, "so I can't say this one is more personal than the others, but I think it tells more of my story. I think it'll give people a little more insight into me and my life."
A theme that keeps cropping up throughout Black and White America is the idea of unity. Kravitz explained to MTV News: "The inspiration came from a documentary that I was watching. It was about a group of Americans, I'm sure somewhere tucked away, and they were saying they were disgusted by what America had become, they were disgusted that there was an African-American commander in chief; they're not for racial equality, they would like America to be back to the way it was 100 years ago and, basically, they would do anything it took to make sure that their idea of America was restored, down to assassination, etc. And it was with such hatred and, obviously, we know that racism exists but somehow they threw me for a loop. I was like, Really? For real? So the chorus of the song, I was just saying to them, This is what's happening, you need to know what time it is. It's how I was raised; I grew up between two cultures at a pivotal time after the civil rights movement, and [it's] the story of my parents, and what they went through. It's very natural for me to write about that sort of thing."
The album cover is a picture of Kravitz as a child. He told Spinner
: "I was probably 7 years old in that picture. It was taken in my schoolyard. I was looking through old photos and trying to figure out my album cover – I wasn't looking for my album cover, I was going to take a picture and saw that photo and it just popped out."