The Old Black

Producer/Musician Pharrell Williams

Producer/Musician Pharrell Williams Courtesy


Happy May Day! With the revelation of LA Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s White supremacist comments, the Supreme Court’s decision to undermine affirmative action and the struggle of NCAA players at Northwestern to exercise their freedom to organize, this is a great day to honor laborers everywhere. This month at The Progress, we are also celebrating Afro-Asian Solidarity Month.

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  1. Aasim

     /  May 8, 2014

    It seems to me that as African-American entertainers rely only on corporations for profits, their comments become significantly less radical. One common defense, as seen in the Sterling scandal, is making a radical statement can result in a breach of contract, the loss of a home etc. If business culture and profits continue to be the norm in our society, how do we speak and act on racism and discrimination effectively?


  2. juan843

     /  May 8, 2014

    Pharell Williams’ misguided views about “the New Black,” “who do not blame other races for our issues,” are in my view, reminiscent of an “elitist” mentality most commonly, although not generally, observed in many other celebrities of color, who’ve had “success” in American society. I attribute the “mainstream” definition of “success,” in defining the word. By this I mean, being a household name in American society, selling millions of records, or generating millions of dollars in top box office hits, etc. Many of the things which are not only valued in the music/film industry, but in society in general. This “elitist” mentality is most detrimental in communities of color and which precludes the individual possessing this type of mentality, from developing any sort of historical or political consciousness. These individuals such as Pharell or Jay-Z, equate their personal success to the success of a whole race or ethnic group, ignoring the great on going struggles and batttles that still remain to be achieved in equality and justice. If they “win,” then the black community also “wins.” They take it to mean, that if they, as a person of color, have found success in American society, so can any other people of color, and therefore, racial relations in America are as good as it gets. Their victory also means that past aggressions against the black community, perhaps do exist, but are less occurring. Once again, disregarding the existing obstacles faced by black people on a daily basis. Hence, with historical events such as the election of Barack Obama, the first black president elected to presidential office, the rumblings of the “Post-Racial Era,” began to intensify. Pharells’ statement of “the New Black,” reminds me of differing consciousness, which I refer to as the “collective consciousness,” held by the great icon Paul Robeson, who once testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and when asked by the chairman, “There was no prejudice against you. Why did you send your son to Rutgers?” He most readily replied, “Just a moment. This is something that I challenge very deeply, and very sincerely: that the success of a few Negroes, including myself or Jackie Robinson can make up… for seven hundred dollars a year for thousands of Negro families in the south. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers, and I do not see my success in terms of myself. That is the reason my own success has not meant what it should mean” (Hyde, 2011).



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