Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech at the Mall on Washington, actor Jamie Foxx, who stirred the racial pot in 2012 by telling a Saturday Night Live crowd that he couldn’t wait to “kill all the white people” in his new film, Django Unchained, suggested that black entertainers could pick up the torch from King. “It is time for us to stand up now and renew this dream,” Foxx said. He then singled out Kanye West and Jay-Z, among others, as potential successors to King. According to Foxx, the massacre by Adam Lanza in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida caused him to speak out.
So, what would make Foxx think that celebrities should lead the way on race? Perhaps the fact that in the past, celebrities did help lead the way on race. Figures such as Paul Newman, Harry Belafonte, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, and Sidney Poitier were all involved with MLK’s civil rights movement. They used the power of their celebrity to push for the best kind of change. And they were successful.
But the celebrities Foxx singled out not only have no credibility to push for real change, they have no desire to do so. They would, like Foxx, prefer to grandstand regarding gun control or to use the Trayvon Martin case to promote racial division. Foxx, after all, is the same fellow who told VIBE magazine that Ritz crackers and friend chicken were racist: “As black folks we’re always sensitive. As a black person it’s always racial. I come into this place to do a photo shoot and they got Ritz crackers and cheese – I’ll be like, ain’t this a b*tch. Y’all didn’t know black people was coming. What’s with all this white sh*t? By the same token, if there is fried chicken and watermelon I’ll say ain’t this a b*tch? So, no matter what we do as black people it’s always gonna be that.” He concluded, “Every single thing in my life is built around race…when I get home my other homies are like ‘how was your day?’ Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours. Everything we do is that.”
It is difficult to think of a sentiment less in line with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message than that.
Unless, that is, we look at the messages promulgated by Kanye West, whom Foxx would anoint as MLK’s successor. Leaving aside his bizarre behavior – “Imma let you finish” microphone hijacking from Taylor Swift, marrying Kim Kardashian – Kanye thinks all life ills are attributable to racism. When Pink was asked to perform at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye was caught on tape stating, “How the f**k Pink perform two songs and I didn’t even get asked to perform ‘Heartless.’ ‘Heartless’ is the biggest song of the year.” He said he was angry because his mother “got arrested for the f**kin’ sit-ins.” West also claimed during Hurricane Katrina that President Bush was a racist, and that that racism dictated his response to heavily-black New Orleans.
As for Jay-Z, the other candidate to reincarnate King, he has suggested that Trayvon Martin was an innocent martyr on the altar of racism. Shortly after President Obama’s election, Jay-Z rapped, “My president is black…My president is black, in fact he’s half white / So even in a racist mind he’s half right…No more war, no more Iraq, no more white lies / The president is black.” As for how to cure racism, Jay-Z already thinks he’s doing it via his art: “Hip-hop has done so much for racial relations, and I don’t think it’s given the proper credit. It has changed America immensely. I’m going to make a very bold statement: Hip-hop has done more than any leader, politician, or anyone to improve race relations.”
Jay-Z, Kanye, and Foxx are the problem, not the solution—representatives of racial division, not harmony, a worldview in which black is set eternally against white. Just as the commemoration of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech turned into an hours-long harangue against white Americans who supposedly seek to keep blacks from exercising their basic rights, so too celebrities in Hollywood believe that racial progress and racial divisiveness go hand in hand. Every racist statement by Hollywood celebrities is a step away from MLK and the meaning of his legacy.
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