[Audio footage of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his then-girlfriend—who is African-American and Mexican—that he didn't want her bringing blacks to "his" games. The story has been everywhere since the news broke, and Queens rapper Homeboy Sandman shared his thoughts on the saga with a Gawker essay titled "Black People Are Cowards." Sterling has since been banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million.]
Julian: Oy. Well, that headline is like 200% troll. In other words, the Gawker Special.
Julian: What was your knee-jerk reaction to Homeboy Sandman's take on the Donald Sterling saga and black people's response—or non-response—to it?
Lauretta: Well once I get beyond all of the trolling language, I still think it's ridiculous. All the rubbish about aliens invading the earth and who you want to be there with you....The fact that the writer implies he wouldn't want to be with black people makes me think a white person wrote this. You know no black person is going to say they want to be surrounded by white people in the event of an alien invasion. FOH.
Julian: I'm also not here for Twitter activism and people flying the flag for a cause because it's "fashionable to care," but this is absurd. It came off like one huge troll mission. He took the long way home to say "people are cowards."
Julian: But the headline and the bulk of the essay harp on how black people are cowards and uses the Clippers' response to Donald Sterling as an excuse to do that, all just to criticize humans across the board in the end. You could argue that it was cowardly for Homeboy to write the essay and cowardly of Gawker to publish it. Everyone can always sit back, play Monday Morning Quarterback and wax poetic about what should've been done. Here's another thing: If you only have a fundamental understanding of something, sit out all arguments on the matter. His assertion that if every NBA player refused to play until Donald Sterling "resigned" is ridiculous, because I'm not certain what Sterling—the owner of the team—would have resigned from. He'd have to sell the team, which is what [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver is urging other owners to vote in favor of, and he'd make a killing from it.
The players sitting out a playoff game and getting fined as a result wouldn't have accomplished much. It was up to the league to deal with Sterling accordingly, and Silver did as much as he could to punish a ridiculously wealthy 80-year-old bigot. Donald Sterling wasn't their boss—they play for the NBA, not him. So you can't make the weak-ass "If you go to work the day after finding out your boss is a racist, you're a coward" argument.
In general, I think our attention spans are too short to let these kinds of injustices really get under our skin for long enough to do something about it.
Lauretta: I agree. I understand why this guy is upset, and I understand that we should all do more. But it's not cowardice or shame that's the problem.
Julian: Right, I get where he's coming from, but his argument is flawed.
Lauretta: For some people, not revolting is a matter of life and death. Putting food on the table. Like you said, it's very easy to make these lofty pronouncements about how to make things better when you have a record deal and a sweet apartment. It's not so easy when you're a single mother living on welfare raising four children. I agree that boycotts work, though. To some degree, the piss has been taken out of US, and by that I do not mean black people. In general, I think our attention spans are too short to let these kinds of injustices really get under our skin for long enough to do something about it. I like that he mentions the film Network, which is one of my favorites. Classic cinema. Way ahead of its time and still very relevant today.
Julian: Ironically, they use the "Mad as hell" scene at basketball games.
Julian: Call to arms.
Lauretta: But as soon as people turn off their computer or TV, it's like nothing ever happened. We all suffer quietly.
Julian: I agree. People get fake mad about something for five minutes, then go right back to their regularly scheduled lives.
Julian: But sometimes, that support backfires. Remember Jena 6?
Julian: Still, I think knee-jerk reactions to all of this are the wrong way to go. Donald Sterling, who's been known as a racist asshole for years, ended up receiving the most severe punishment the league could give him, so calling the Clippers' players—and black people in general—cowards for clicks ultimately solved nothing.
Lauretta: Well said.
Julian: So, do you think the notion of the "New Black" is cowardly?
[During a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell described himself as "the New Black." "The 'New Black' doesn’t blame other races for our issues," he explained. "The 'new black' dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on." His words have since been picked apart.]
Lauretta: I do. I think it's shortsighted.
Julian: I'll put it like this: I don't think Pharrell is saying institutional or systemic racism don't exist. I think he's trying to say that we, as blacks, shouldn't let it defeat us. At least, I hope that's what he's getting at, because his "New Black" definition certainly could've been better articulated. I'd also say that it's one person's opinion. Just like Questlove's opinion regarding how hip-hop failing black America is one he's entitled to, this is Pharrell's, and Pharrell has always been an outlier. Everyone criticizing him should also remember that his opinion has about as much power as you assign it.
Lauretta: Anytime anyone makes a pronouncement about an entire race, I just smh. The "New Black." The fuck is that? I am entirely part of the legacy of the old black. And I'm proud of that. Don't take that away from me, Pharrell!
Julian: Dude, there's only one black. End of discussion.
Lauretta: EXACTLY. One black. One love.
Julian: New Black, old black...Donald Sterling sees them as the same, so whatever. If Pharrell believes that people shouldn't let adversity defeat them, I agree. But I don't think he's a "disconnected black man" blinded by his privilege. He's weird and always has been. And that—and his talent—have made him who and what he is. This is the same dude who rapped "Identity crisis, they scrunched they facial/How we both black and our kid is biracial?" about his parents confusion over his behavior as a youth. That no doubt resonated with a lot of people who felt the same way. We have to remember that P is who he is, but his opinion shouldn't be taken as law. You have to know when and where to draw the line with people.
Lauretta: My problem is, he didn't know better. You shouldn't make that kind of statement when you're a celebrity. Them's the breaks. When you're a celebrity, you receive more attention and I believe you have more responsibility to not make these types of mistakes. Speak for yourself. Don't speak for your race.
Julian: I think he is speaking for himself. He's the "New Black"...in his mind. His first solo album was called In My Mind. He's in his own world.
When you're a celebrity, you receive more attention and I believe you have more responsibility to not make these types of mistakes. Speak for yourself. Don't speak for your race. Period.
Lauretta: He's Pharrell. And he happens to be black. Do you, but leave blackness out of it. Struggling against adversity has ALWAYS been black. Not letting racism and injustice prevent you from striving for success has always been a black thing. It's not new. By calling for a "new black," I think he created an unnecessary divide when the last thing black people need at the moment is to be more fractured and more divided.
Julian: I don't think there's really a divide though, because he, like you and me, are the same black regardless of how he chooses to define race for himself or anyone else. I can't tell the dickhead cop who pulls me over, "It's ok, officer. I'm the New Black. Let my elite ass go."
Lauretta: So you think he was just posturing for Oprah?
Julian: I can't call it, but a better choice of words was necessary. Maybe he wants to be create a new Talented Tenth, but if that's the case, he should express it properly. If you're gonna go there, you should be as articulate and clear as possible.