by Carmen Van Kerckhove
Oprah delivered a speech at Bennett College’s fundraising event on Friday. She talked about the stuff you’d expect from her (personal development, spirituality, etc.) but interestingly enough, according to this DiversityInc article, she also spent about a third of the time discussing hip hop. And it wasn’t a positive take, to say the least:
Oprah also spent roughly one-third of her time discussing hip-hop music and her opinion of the debilitating effect of misogynistic and racist lyrics. She riveted the audience with historical anecdotes of slavery, Jim Crow and the civil-rights era and pointed out that the last word a lynched person heard was the N-word. She pointedly criticized blacks for taking hate speech, “setting it to a beat and dancing to it.”
She described her mainly unsatisfactory talks with hip-hop artists and her understanding that as a 52-year-old woman, she could be seen as “out of touch.” But she wasn’t out of touch when she told the audience that their generation “didn’t know who they were.”
Ouch. I agree that there are a lot of problematic aspects of hip hop, but I also think it gets an unfair share of criticism. You can find the exact same problems of misogyny, materialism, and general buffoonery in good old-fashioned rock ‘n roll too. And these criticisms of hip hop always overlook the fact that what you hear on Top 40 radio does not represent all of hip hop.
Rappers have been name-checking various black thought leaders for years now (everyone from Marcus Garvey to Huey Newton, from Maya Angelou to W.E.B. DuBois, just to name a few). I wouldn’t be surprised if many folks were first introduced to these figures through their favorite rapper and were encouraged to read their books because of hip hop. It’s pretty narrow-minded to assume that hip hop can only have a negative effect on its listeners.
I also have to say that as a member of the “hip hop generation” (defined by Bakari Kitwana as folks born between 1965 and 1984), I’m very put off by her claim that someone like me doesn’t know who I am.
Every movement is going to experience tensions between older and newer generations – that’s natural. But I definitely think that sweeping generalizations like this, that pretty much insult an entire generation, don’t do much good in bridging the oft-cited gap between the civil rights generation and the hip hop generation. People of our generation are probably much more conscious than she thinks.
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- ModernWizard on Casting Call: Lucy, the Mutant Human/Angel Hybrid Who Speaks with an Asian Accent (But is not Asian)
- Lisa on Open Thread: Kanye West and Yeezus
- Elizabeth MB Downs on Casting Call: Lucy, the Mutant Human/Angel Hybrid Who Speaks with an Asian Accent (But is not Asian)
- J. Lee on Casting Call: Lucy, the Mutant Human/Angel Hybrid Who Speaks with an Asian Accent (But is not Asian)
- leelah on Open Thread: Kanye West and Yeezus
- Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part I
- It’s Time to Recognize All Dads on Father’s Day
- Casting Call: Lucy, the Mutant Human/Angel Hybrid Who Speaks with an Asian Accent (But is not Asian)
- Quoted: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood
- Open Thread: Kanye West and Yeezus
- True Blood Recap 6.1: “Who Are You, Really?”
- Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented
- Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.11: “Favors”
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black blackface celebrities comedy culture diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity international interracial relationships latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes tv Uncategorized white youtube