Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Black Celebrities Can Learn a lot from Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga leads while celebs of color sit on sidelines

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action

When we use the word “intellect,” we don’t typically apply it to Lady Gaga. I’m not sure what to make out of her, primarily because I don’t think about her very much. But now, when I hear the name Lady Gaga, I’ll think of the terms “leader” and “role model.”

Since her brilliant and impressive stand on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Lady Gaga is officially an important and historical figure in America. In fact, she’s an icon. She is becoming a symbol of her generation, one who transcends petty fashion trends and dance moves. She has chosen to stand up for something she believes in, and as a result, has a whole legion of fans that she didn’t have before. She’s getting respect from the likes of Wolf Blitzer, who acknowledged her on his show and even sang some of her lyrics. She is using her power to change the world.

If a wealthy white woman can become passionate and committed enough to impact the world in which she lives, why can’t black entertainers do the same? Black celebrities have an easier job than Lady Gaga when it comes to finding a whole host of issues worth fighting for: Poverty, homicide, mass incarceration, unemployment, HIV, etc. In fact, for many black entertainers, these issues affect their own families. The proximity of these problems to their own lives should make it quite easy to become passionate enough to stand up.

To my personal dismay, I have yet to see any significant black athlete or entertainer take a stand on damn near anything. Other than polite public service announcements and charitable work that’s been sanctioned by their corporate overseers, you hardly see African American public figures take aggressive dispositions on anything that doesn’t involve drug possession. In fact, Lady Gaga has more in common with Martin Luther King than nearly every black celebrity in America.

Black celebrities have been drinking the kool-aid when it comes to believing that everything should be all about them. They are told that their own personal success is what matters, and that making the green stuff should be their sole priority. As a result, they sit on powerful platforms and do nothing with them, having access to the world, only to watch their communities die. Rather than hearing about black celebs giving millions to meaningful charities or Historically black colleges, we get to see another uneducated rapper on MTV Cribs buying a bigger gold chain than he had the year before. Of course I can’t put every black celebrity in one box, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It wasn’t always like this. Black athletes and entertainers fought during the Civil Rights movement to create the opportunities that we have today. They stood up for what they believed in, and Muhammad Ali even gave up the peak of his career to make a stand for poor people around the world. There will never be another Muhammad Ali, as black celebs are more comfortable at Martha’s Vineyard than they are at a justice rally. Rather than lining up to make songs with Lady Gaga, perhaps many of our black entertainers can learn a thing or two from Gaga about finding a purpose. Any person who has not found a cause bigger than himself to fight for has led a virtually unproductive existence.


Anonymous said...

Boyce, what Kool-aid are YOU drinking? Goo-goo, GaGa, is not my leader. Enough said.


Willie C. said...

Don't make the mistake I used to Doc. Many black entertainers DO more than they might SAY. I had to realize that in many cases they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If the speak out, "it's just for show". If they do things quietly behind the scenes, "they should do or say more". No one can be all things to all people and taking a stand on one issue like "Lady GaGa" does not an icon make. And in all honesty promoting the homosexual agenda does not impress me a hell of a lot. We Christians are called hate mongers and labeled homophobes but others can vilify us and anyone who believes in the teachings of Christ, but no one makes up new names for them, "Christianophobe" or "bibleophobe".

Anonymous said...

WOW! This is one of your first articles that you've written that I could not agree with you at all!

"I’m not sure what to make out of her, primarily because I don’t think about her very much." Clearly this portion of your article is very true because if you had, or done any real research, you certainly wouldn't compare this chick to the likes of Muhammad Ali or Dr. King! I'm floored by your lack on insight to this person and just how dangerous she is to our youth and in particular, young girls. She's not standing up and speaking out, she's using theatrics for popularity and to seduce our children.

I simply can't believe that you (of all people) would refer to her as an icon. "Brilliant and impressive stand on "Don't Ask, Don't Well" was more theatrics because what has she done to continue to raise awareness on that subject? Nothing. Has she joined a group or organization that represents that issue? No! This girl is only thinking of her interests when wears underwear in public, wears pounds of meat as clothes while their are millions of people starving. By the way here is her absurd rebuttal for why she did this move: "However, it has many interpretations, but for me this evening, if we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our bones. And, I am not a piece of meat". WTF?! That has got to be the biggest pile of bull I've heard since the 2000 election! Absolutely no one or nothing is stopping her (of all people) from expressing their rights-- she wants to dress like a slut, therefore she does! She promotes promiscuity therefore she does. Additionally, she has eating disorders and some have predicted that she will commit suicide! Really, Dr. Boyce-- I'm astonished by you're lack of research on this one!

I would suggest you read a few articles by Vigilant Citizen too to understand exactly what the meaning of her (iconic) mission is. While I do think she's being used by her handlers, I know that the message is being delivered just the same to the many, many blind people out there!

As far as the other part of your article, black entertainers and sports figures acting or impacting in passionate ways... I agree that more should focus on issues outside of themselves, BUT there are plenty who are doing great things. The difference, they are black and therefore mainstream press and media tends to ignore that. They are only interested in the next clothing line, tennis shoe, car that they purchase, etc. and continue to keep the Black community on a very superficial level.

I simply cannot believe this article-- I'm deeply disappointed with you. I swear I can hear Dr. King turning over in his grave!