We love celebrities, right? The lavish lifestyles, the access, the excess. Celebrities love nothing more than flaunting. Floyd Mayweather walks around with a suitcase full of money. Tyler Perry just built a multi-million dollar production studio. For the most part, we enjoy seeing Black celebrities succeed. The idea that they have made it when all the odds are stacked against the Black community. They started from nothing and became goals! Unfortunately, there is nothing but disappointment to be felt about how Black celebrities have, for the most part, not done a thing in terms of using their influence productively. It started to become obvious during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of them posting selfies and videos in their mansions. Using blanket statements like “we are all in this together” while still flaunting their wealth. Yes, it seemed out of touch, but we cut them slack because what can they do about a pandemic?
It became unacceptable with the death of George Floyd and the civil unrest that ensued. Suddenly, the celebrities that looked like us were largely silent. The ones that did speak were even worse. Shamiek Moore tweeted that Blacks were not doing enough to avoid systemic racism. Diddy tweeted that it was not just a race issue but a human rights issue. Tyler Perry made a long Instagram post about how we need allies that do not look like us because him, Oprah, and other millionaires have been talking to people that can affect change with the stroke of a pen. Virgil Ablogh initially only donated $50 to a Black Lives Matter charity. There was a huge amount of teetering along the line of maintaining White approval while attempting to create the facade that they were still down for the cause. This all seemed to culminate with Terry Crews creating the delusion that ending White supremacy would only create Black Supremacy.
All of these are examples of what not to do when you are in a place of privilege as a Black person. They have all amassed wealth they feel they need to protect by defending the ego of their majority White investors. When put in a position to use their celebrity to educate their following and even donate money to people on the front lines protesting for the rest of our freedoms, there is nothing. If Tyler Perry and Oprah have access to people that can make so much change, how come they have not changed anything? While it is possible they get the same run around that we do, it is also unlikely that they would not use their massive platforms to discuss it. Remember when Oprah made that huge stink about not being allowed into a luxury store to buy a purse? Hard to believe she would not keep that same energy when trying to end systemic racism. We have seen them use their platform when it behooves them, so why are there crickets now?
There is a line from 6 Foot 7 Foot when Lil’ Wayne says “real G’s move in silence like lasagna” and it has become a mantra for a lot of people. The idea that you do not need to tell everyone what you are doing. To an extent, I do agree that everything does not need to be a photo op. However, in these times, giving a half-ass statement of semi-solidarity and then not even publicly donating to the cause speaks volumes about what exactly their motive is. A lot of working class people simply cannot afford to be vocal because their livelihoods are at stake. Yet celebrities give us the idea of financial freedom and entrepreneurship only to act like they are tied to the same strings we are. We have looked to them with the idea that “they’ve got us” and have been let down time and time again.
Here is the inconvenient reality of it all. If “moving in silence” is what is so important to Black celebrities, be consistent. Move in silence when you have a tour that needs tickets bought, or a movie that needs seats filled. We are expected to reach into our wallets to support our own, only to receive nothing of value when it matters. Nobody is asking you to do everything, but at least do something. Reposting the link to a petition is not enough. Creating more Black millionaires (and yes, I use the term creating because the majority of them used our acclaim to leverage a career) will not give us freedom. What it does, is further solidifies the capitalist structures that keep us all impoverished. Why am I going out of my way to purchase Ciroc if Diddy is just as silent as the owner of Belvedere? I am hoping that we continue to hold all celebrities accountable for their negligent approach to these protests.