(Too much Microsoft news lately….like three stories back to back! Gotta break up the monotony.)
From time to time I frequent what I like to call, “Black News” sites (like ConcreteLoop.com and others). They’re a great source of information and since I’ve been out of school for “a little while”, they’re a great place to keep pace with “what the young kids are saying”. (Sadly, they’re also a stark reminder of my aging ways and opinions.)
One trend I’ve begun to notice is somewhat disturbing. Frequently the site hosts will post information about a celebrity that leads to a public debate. For instance, recently folks who frequent the site have been critical of Beyonce Knowles for “media overexposure” on one hand, while her album appears to be somewhat lackluster on the other. The same is true of Janet Jackson. Almost the exact same situation — lots of media coverage, but an album that doesn’t quite reach the level of past efforts. On any message board there will be a certain contingent of people who will complain about anything. But there are occasionally a few folks who have well thought out critical responses to media stories.
Today I noticed that under the posting featuring Beyonce’s “Got Milk” Ad with her Mom (Tina Knowles), there are a lot of critical responses. Some just don’t like Beyonce and truly do want to say something negative just because she’s famous. I’ll agree — those folks are just haters. But a few seem to be fans who realize the negative impact that overexposure (and sub-standard albums) can have on your long term career. And then there are others who just didn’t care for the ad. While personally I thought the ad was pretty tasteful, does it make me (or anyone else) a “hater” just because I have some critical feedback to offer?
I’ve often heard it said by thirty and forty-something folks that “calling older artists ‘Old School’ has driven a wedge between the older generation and the young.” They claim that Caucasian artists who fall out of the limelight are considered “Classic” and are put on a pedestal (like the Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers). But when it comes to older R&B and Hip Hop artists, (Chuck D, Atlantic Starr) rarely do they receive the same respect. Similarly, I think the whole concept of “hate-sighting” is driving a wedge between us. There are times when as older fans of 80s and 90s artists, my opinion may truly be out of touch. But in my honest opinion, “taste is timeless”. If something is done in good taste, it doesn’t matter whether it’s 1906 or 2006 — it will be seen as such. It seems as if the second that someone expresses a thought that is anything short of a glaring compliment about another celebrity of color, the accusation is that, “you must be hating”. “Stop hating.” “Don’t hate, celebrate.” “Don’t hate me cause you want to be me….” and all other variants of the sentiment.
I feel as if I’m all over the place with my thoughts tonight. Put simply, my challenge to the younger generation is this: Understand and be able to discern the difference between someone who’s “hating” and someone who’s seeking a higher standard.
You may get a job at Wal-Mart and expect me to be happy. And if I think that you have “Wal-Mart potential”, I may very well be happy. But if I see a young George Washington Carver or Granville Woods in your because of your gift in science, don’t consider it ‘hate’, if I express disappointment and challenge you to do more.
You may sing for a Talent Night show. To the audience, you may have brought the house down. But I — knowing your potential and having heard you on some of your best days — may say “I think you can do better.” Is that “hate”? (Actually, I think the “hateful” thing is to let someone walk away thinking they are doing great when in your heart you know they can do better. Usually you’ll see that from someone who wants you to stay confined to that area — it takes love to inspire you and push you to do more.)
And is it hating for me to reflect on the incredible career of William Drayton….. and now, even though he’s making significantly more money — probably more than he’s ever made as Chuck D’s hype man — express disappointment that for every great concert that he was a part of….and all the ways that he helped to make Public Enemy one of the most important groups of any genre in its time….. that he’ll probably be remembered less speaking out against Arizona not recognizing the King Holiday….. and more for living in a house with 10 women watching them degrade themselves in front of you? I guess to many folks, I’m considered a hater. But I like Flav. I respect the fact that he has to do what he has to do to take care of his family. But I’m brave enough to go against the grain and express the fact that I think he can do a lot better. And unlike many today, I still have my copy of “It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet.” I’m that voice at the talent show telling you — amidst the cheers — that I think you have the ability to do better.
Reflecting on my educational and professional careers, I’ve dealt with a variety of different authority figures. In my experience, the best influences on me were the folks who saw my potential and pushed me in some way to do more. “Is this the best that you can write?” “This is garbage — don’t give me garbage.” “I’d expect that from most of the other folks”. All of these are criticisms I’ve received. Actual criticisms over the years. And sadly, I feel as if many younger adults coming up today would “shake off” the lesson as “just some more people trying to hate on my skills”, and not someone who’s trying to get you to step up your game.
I guess this is a long way to go from “a picture of Beyonce and Tina drinking milk.” But to me it’s bigger than that. It’s about accepting criticism for what it’s worth. And I guess that’s where my heart is tonight. Don’t be afraid to challenge one another to do better. And as the receiver of that feedback, don’t cast it aside immediately as “someone who’s hatin’ on you” and perhaps receive it as constructive criticism. There will be folks who don’t understand your talent. There will be folks who don’t quite see the direction you’re headed in. But don’t mix those folks in with the ones who are trying to motivate you to do better.