Is There Room for a Race Man Today?

Jay Z and Belafonte's generational beef aside, can a popular artist be dedicated to unpopular change?

Posted:
 
(Continued from Page 2)

As much credibility as West gained for speaking his heart at that moment, others like Sinead O'Connor and the Dixie Chicks, for ripping a photo of the then-pope on Saturday Night Live and openly decrying former President George Bush respectively, were banned from radio and other venues for their perspectives.

In the days of Paul Robeson and Lena Horne, their punishment for supporting civil rights was more than removal from a playlist. Robeson experienced the near-annihilation of his career through heavy-handed McCarthyism, and Horne, like Belafonte, suffered Hollywood's blackballing practices in the 1950s. In comparison, contemporary tactics don't seem to be as dire.

"I don't know that there is a huge cost to speaking out," Soledad O'Brien, broadcast journalist at Al-Jazeera and producer of CNN's Black in America, said. "For entertainers, if they don't want to perform for an audience because they want to stand up against 'Stand your ground' laws, that's the way America was built. One of the great ways to get a groundswell and public opinion sway is to do that."

How to Make Timely Change

As the tanning of America continues, some say black culture is so pervasive that it's hard to teach children to hate African Americans if they're listening to Snoop Lion on their iPods.

"Racism is not just black and white," Darden said. "How young minority men are judged by the older generation extends beyond whites. It's deeper than race now; it's about culture and state of mind."

Others say the old civil rights practices are outdated.

"With the resources we have at our fingertips, there are more educated ways of voicing our displeasure than boycotting a state," Saleh said. "I don't think boycotting Florida is going to work, and Florida doesn't care if Stevie Wonder boycotts. But if we put pressure on the president to make a change, especially a guy like President Obama who's said, 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon,' something might change. A movement is needed but not with the same tactics we used 50 years ago."

Even Oprah Winfrey agrees that her generation and the ones before hers must realize that social activism can be achieved in different ways, whether it is through a petition or a black brokering a lucrative deal in a room full of monied whites.

"This is what I think Harry Belafonte, my generation, everybody needs to know … people war in different ways," Oprah said recently during an interview with Jay Z's website, Life+Times. "Jay uses his music, his life, his artfulness and his ability as a business man. That is his protest against all the indignities that not only he has suffered, but generations before him have suffered."