Why We Shouldn't Expect Celebrities To Speak Out About Social Issues
It's a new trend that's been hugely popular lately: People all over social networks are now demanding that their favorite entertainers advocate for social issues.
I think it's pretty ridiculous. It's arrogant, even. When something -- good or bad -- happens in the world, people usually go on the Internet to let the world know (in all caps) how they feel. But they don't stop there.
Oh no. That wouldn't be effective tweeting, would it?
They demand that others -- usually celebrities -- voice and ultimately share their opinions. There's this demand of activism from entertainers who aren't necessarily fit to be activists.
Entertainers aren't activists. We shouldn't expect them to be any more than we should expect activists to be entertainers.
Why would I want a ball player to speak about police brutality? Dunking doesn't give you some magical civil rights prowess. If it did, Michael Jordan would be Martin Luther King by now.
After the list of Oscar nominees was revealed for this year's ceremony, a decent number of people demanded that Chris Rock step down as host. Yes, demanded.
They did not even suggest. “That's right Chris, I paid $73 a few years ago to see you perform, and you made me laugh really hard. I have to give it to you. You're a funny motherf*cker. But right now, I demand that you don't do what you do best because there isn't enough melanin among the nominees. Signed, entitled fans who think you owe them everything. ”
Who do these people think they are?
Chris Rock is one of the best comedians to ever pick up a microphone. He's one of the most political and socially conscious standup comedians in the last 30 years. He has “activized” (this really ought to be a word) way more through his comedy than the legions of latte-drinking bloggers who are writing listicles about the most effective ways to “stay woke.”
When the grand jury wrongly failed to indict the police officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, scores of fans asked that LeBron James sit out the games in solidarity with the protesters. LeBron is a ball player, and arguably the best in the world. That's where he thrives.
Would it be great if he spoke about the incident to give a voice to the black community in Ohio? Of course it would.
The man is the king of Cleveland at this point. His kingdom would heed his voice, and maybe even start healing. Maybe he could make a statement against police brutality on his jersey, or help Tamir Rice's family financially. Those are all good things he could do.
But to sit behind one's smartphone and furiously demand that he sit out games reeks of baseless entitlement. He doesn't owe you anything.
Soon after the release of "Formation," Beyoncé's coming out song -- she came out as black, said she still likes men and that Jay is good -- the Internet was set ablaze. Some felt her activism was too late or fake. Others criticized it as “capitalism, masquerading as radical change.”
You don't say? Beyoncé is a capitalist? I had no idea the girl who swears by her paper is capitalist. I don't understand how we keep confusing the status of these entertainers and putting them on a pedestal they didn't ask to be put on.
She never sold herself as a promoter of “radical change.” Saying “hot sauce in my bag” and “please stop shooting us” isn't her selling radical change.
Beyoncé has been around for a while. We all know what she is. She's great at what she does. She's an extraordinary performer who makes timely and incredibly catchy music that we usually forget by the same time the following year. I haven't heard "Drunk In Love" in over a year because it was designed to be hot for a season.
I listen to Nina Simone probably once a week. But this isn't me knocking Beyoncé down in favor of Nina Simone. This is me saying people are what they are, and we should take them as such.
Beyoncé kills in the club. Nina Simone doesn't.
They make different music, and they have different types of reach. You can't knock someone for using his or her platform however he or she wants, while making a boatload of money doing it. That is as American as hot sauce in your bag. She can't be the activist you want her to be.
I understand the place from which these demands or suggestions come from. I do. LeBron is one of the most influential athletes in the world. Beyoncé is one of the biggest stars in the world.
Chris Rock is one of the best comedians alive. Yes, their voices can influence millions of people. They are leaders in countless communities. They could choose to boycott anything they want to, and it would make tons of people happy. It may even cause some change.
But here's the thing: If and how they choose to do it is their choice, and theirs alone.
We all choose our lanes in life. We all share our gifts with the world in the best way we can. That's what I demand of myself. That's what I demand of everyone. People should be all that they are, but they can never be more than they are.
How could they?
When a gifted entertainer is also socially aware and active, it is most certainly a desired bonus. But it's not a requirement. It is admirable and rightfully lauded. But it should never be demanded.
What people choose to do inside and outside their craft is up to their talents and capacities. When people share their gift with the world to the best of their abilities, and yet, somehow, we still ask more of them, it's as if we're saying they're not doing enough.
Even worse, it's as if we're saying they're not enough. We all choose our lanes. It's terrible to feel like you're not enough because of your lane.
No one ever asked Martin Luther King to play basketball, dance or tell jokes for our enjoyment: "Yeah, we're going to get to the Mountaintop, but can we moonwalk our way there? All this marching is pretty boring."
If it's so absurd to demand that an activist be an entertainer, why are we so quick to demand that entertainers be activists?