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Wendy Williams’ HBCU Comments

The talk show host, Wendy Williams is receiving a wave of backlash for comments she made during her “Hot Topics” segment in response to Jesse Williams’ BET awards speech.

 

(16:00-19:00)

Wendy stated:

 

You know we talk race here a lot on Wendy and I must say to you that he was on BET and his speech was very poignant on one hand. On the other hand, you know, I would be really offended if there was a school that was known as a historically white college, there’s Historically Black Colleges. What if there was a national organization for white people only? There’s the NAACP. What I’m saying is racism sucks and we could all do better in our own households educating ourselves and teaching our children to make it better. National speeches like this will always rub people the wrong way.

 

When Wendy realized that here studio audience had been alienated by her comments she began to speak more slowly and even verbalized her caution in choosing her words carefully. It appears she didn’t choose them carefully enough. Not only did she receive backlash on twitter but even Roland Martin of NewsOne took offense to her comments and rebuttled them on his show. There are also rumors that she may lose her Chevrolet sponsorship behind the comments.

The Problem

The problem here is that we, the Black community, often wield our power and influence in ignorance. We have so much influence on popular culture and so much consumer power but we have no idea how to use it. Most times when it counts is when we get really confused and sterile. However, when it comes to attacking each other, we pull out all the stops.

Wendy’s comments were not hardly attacking HBCU’s or the NAACP. Granted the way she entered the comments into the conversation was very stream of consciousness (a trademark of her show rants) and probably confusing for most. And she did stumble even as she tried to clarify her thoughts but I don’t see anything malicious or anti about her statements.

If we look at her statements in the context of the overall turn that she was making in the conversation you can see that she was addressing the backlash that Jesse Williams received for his speech and her very neutral stance was simply to say that he said what he said and that it is no surprise that some White people found that offensive. Her point was that many White people probably couldn’t understand where Jesse Williams was coming from and therefore felt uncomfortable with his statements or misconstrued them as racist the way they might feel about HBCU’s or the NAACP or they way she might feel if there were similar organizations focused primarily on White people.

Wendy went back on her show to clarify her thoughts and stated:

Be very clear I find nothing wrong against Historically Black Colleges. My father graduated from Lincoln and my brother graduated from Virginia State. But my thought in my mind was and what I said to you is, how would I feel if I were applying to a colleges and they were historically white and that was part of the marquee of selling me to apply to this school.

Another clunky explanation but still devoid of malice.

The Point

Whether or not Wendy Williams finds issue with HBCU’s and/or the NAACP, she wouldn’t be the first. There are many people – including Black people – that have issues with these organizations. I, myself, am not a fan of HBCU’s for specific reasons; however, I do support their existence and relevance because they do stand as stewards for the history of Black culture and I do not think that America as a country has come far enough to not need them in order to offer opportunity to Black youth seeking higher education. I think that the NAACP has lost its edge and activism but, again, I support its existence and relevance because it connects Black people on a national level to raise our voice and awareness to Black issues.

The time and energy that we spend criticizing Black public figures and taking them down for the hint of a misstep is not supporting the struggle nor does it somehow make us seem non-racist because we are willing to attack our own. It is divisive and callous and shows how ignorant we are of how power and influence work in America. A white celebrity could easily bounce back from a national backlash (take Paula Deen or Kylie Jenner) but when Black celebrities receive backlash that is supported or initiated from members of the Black community it becomes the ammunition needed for the mainstream to render them powerless and invisible (Bill Cosby or Michael Vic). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t critique our public figures but I am saying that they are our brothers and sisters and we owe it to them to carefully investigate the claims that are being made and leave room for misinterpretation and/or mistake. It is hard enough for Black people to reach certain levels of success and nothing could be worse than to shoved from that mountain by your own people.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

2 Comments on Wendy Williams’ HBCU Comments

  1. charlesgreen // July 12, 2016 at 7:54 am // Reply

    There is a false equivalence in this kind of argument. The same words simply do not have the same meaning if uttered by a majority-culture person vs. a minority-culture person.

    It is one thing for a black person to use the N word; quite another for a white person. Minority culture people know two cultures, and which is which; majority culture people know only one, and assume its rules apply to everyone. Every time you hear someone say “imagine if a white person said/did xxx” you are hearing a white person make a false equivalence.

    This is true not just about race, but about any situation in which one group constitutes a majority and another a minority.

    Wendy Williams needs to free herself of the false argument that substituting “white” for “black” is valid. You can change the words, but that doesn’t change the reality. The idea of a “white college” in the same sense as a “black college” is ridiculous. Try it with “Irish bar;” do we really identify any such thing as “non-Irish bars?”

    This is why attempts to describe “white culture” always sound a little silly. If uttered by white people, they sound xenophobic and racist; if uttered by black culture, they are really describing anti-black culture. The words change by who is uttering them.

    Wendy has absolutely nothing to apologize for in talking about ‘black colleges.’ The basic value of any minority group organizing itself around its minority status makes sense for all kinds of groups: children, Norwegians, blind people, sports enthusiasts, and black people. It makes no sense whatsoever to define groups as non-blind or non-Norwegian, for example, because majorities have no distinctive meaning – they require no explanation or distinction because they are majority.

    Wendy – learn the phrase “false equivalence” and don’t let anybody box you in. An “historically white college” (unless it explicitly discriminated against black people) is utterly unremarkable.

  2. Well we all know how Wendy is. When I watched the show, I did not see anything wrong as well. It is funny how everyone is trying to jump down his back. Not once have I heard anyone mention anyting about Jesse being biracial. He pretty much is seeing both sides of the fence and choosing to fight this battle because he sees his people hurting. But by all means she did not say anything offensive. I think the delivery and the wording could have been changed to lessen the backlash, but she was giving her opinion. As she says “Say it like you mean it”

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