by G. Brown
Talk show host Wendy Williams has never been one to bite her tongue. She didn’t shy away from that philosophy on a recent show when she recently queried her “The Wendy Williams Show” audience why there remains a need for Black college’s and universities. Williams said on the episode that aired in July, “I would be really offended if there was a school that was known as a historically white college. We have historically Black colleges. What if there was the National Organization for White People, only? There’s the NAACP.”
Williams’ remarks brought a swift education from viewers who were outraged. The fallout from that episode was so volatile that three of Williams producers were fired, though the show is calling their dismissals “lay offs”. Williams apologized and said she was wrong. In a rebuttal , Williams brought on TV One’s “New One Now” anchor,veteran journalist and author Roland Martin to explain to her and her audience why she was wrong.
Martin laid it out explaining that her criticism has often been the criticisms of HBCUs and the NAACP that they are discriminatory. But Martin explained that both entities exist because Blacks at one time were not allowed to attend or participate in White equivalents. Martin said, slaves were not allowed to learn to read and those who did risked their lives to do since the punishment was death. So attending school was not even a concept. Martin said these Black organizations exist as part of “Black folks …trying to force America to live up to its ideals of all men and women created equal, but the reality is that was nice on paper, but it hasn’t been in reality…”
As for the NAACP, Martin said the organization was founded after a race riot, but “in 2016, we’re still fighting for voter rights, we’re still fighting for income equality. Our institutions are allowing us to survive in America even though we built this country”.
The conversation went on to include the rash of police shootings of Blacks, the economy, Black Lives Matter and how to maintain your dignity in confrontations with police (that’s really worth watching the clip just to hear Martin on this topic).
It’s interesting how many Black celebrities climb the ladder of success on the backs of Black support and once they reach a certain echelon, forget that they are also Black and make comments that strike at the core of the Black community. Williams’ show may have fired the producers who wrote the segment or gave her the research, but Williams felt comfortable enough with the information to be the one to sit on camera and say it. Maybe she was pressured by show runners to sound more neutral to appeal to her diverse audience. But Williams did have a choice and didn’t have to make the statement unless she agreed with it in some small way.
Williams quickly realized the major mistake she made and vehemently apologized. She is to be applauded for that and coming to her senses quickly and trying to do something about it. The cost of fame is sometimes losing the ability to speak her own mind even on her own talk show. In the segment with Martin, Williams talked about an incident in a store a week or so earlier where she was being watched by store employees because they feared she might steal something. A situation she admitted happened only because of the color of her skin. So if with her celebrity, she is still exposed to the same indignities of racism that all people of color experience, why didn’t she stand up and refuse to make the initial comment. It would have been the perfect opportunity for that trademark bravado in saying what she thinks…even off camera.
Williams and other Black celebrities often get caught in the middle of trying to maintain their identity while appealing to a diverse audience. The price for fame or employment should never have to be denying who you are.
Here’s the clip of that segment…it’s a good interview and worth watching. Let us know what you think…are some Black people selling their their identity for fame?