I would like to start this blog post by saying that if you are not black and do not understand what I am saying, I cannot have a conversation with you about this because there is too much to explain and I am not educating you on this. ASK YOUR BLACK FRIEND TO TRANSLATE.
It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I am digesting my lunch. But I am also re-digesting the time when Ava Duvernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Gayle King publicly rejected their auntie-hood.
Now I am realizing, there may have been a deeper meaning to the action than any of us may have thought initially.
On Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, “The Story of O.J.” repeated the line “I’m not black I’m OJ.”
The track successfully re-introduces the idea that after a certain level of accomplishment black people can buy the luxury of transcending race. They can pursue the “American Dream” of “financial freedom” and notoriety so earnestly that once they truly obtain it, they can be above the black plight and struggle, at least in their mind. And this is the exact mindset that Orenthal James “the Juice” Simpson possessed during his tenure as a former running back in the NFL. Very few have this luxury. Oprah, Drake (Although not African American but still black) JayZ, Beyonce, and PERHAPS, Lebron James may be able to claim this "win" if they wanted to.
Oprah and OJ
Because although the African American community sees these people as black and they have no problem speaking to their base, the aforementioned has a level of fame, net-worth, liquidity, and charm that could aid them in getting away with the murder of a 25-year-old American white woman…at least once.
Now, this is no microwavable feat. It is not something that you can obtain by a quick soundbite, Instagram video clip, or even association. This can only be accomplished through years of hard work, ass-kissing, business acumen, and most importantly: WINNING. Which is why it is tricky to obtain in this day and age. We live in an age of instantaneous gratification and all of those things, have to be done with years of consistency, yes even the ass-kissing. It is only then when you are ranked among the greats, both black and white, that you can make brass decisions against your core black audience without career-ending consequences, and at the very least death threats. I wish someone would have told Gayle King this. It may have saved her.
The EXACT statement that I wish someone would have communicated to Gayle is: You are black, not Oprah.
Now I will preface the rest of this article with the truth. I will not condemn Gayle to a life of solitude for her actions due to her interview with Lisa Leslie. I will not condone the death threats that were made against her life. AND I will not allow the grief that the black community has experienced since the death of Kobe Bryant to cloud my vision with emotion for the rest of this piece. I will simply point out that money, resources, age, and not being of the culture you appear to be from, can lead to some disastrous consequences.
Gayle King's Misstep
Gayle King is an accomplished journalist with a reputation outside of her bestie for life, Oprah Winfrey. This is something that has become even more apparent during her tenure at media giant CBS. Serving as a news anchor for nearly 20 years, corresponding on Good Morning America, and hosting her show The Gayle King Show, Gayle has done the work to establish her name and come out of Oprah’s shadow, championing for true reporting and classy journalism at almost every turn in her career.
All that being said, Gayle does not have the wiggle room to commit the same sins as her bff counterpart (ie. Oprah v. Michael Jackson in the court of public opinion).
By now I am sure that you have seen or heard the controversial clip of the Gayle King interview that featured WNBA legend, Lisa Leslie. The clip shows King questioning Leslie on the legacy of Kobe Bryant and the impact that a rape charge (dismissed) will have on his memory.
As I followed this story and its aftermath I heard many conversations surrounding the clip's (not the full interview's) impression on the viewing audience and more specifically its African American audience. Sports figures, musicians, and other reports rushed to the aid of Kobe and Leslie, reprimanded King on behalf of Bryant’s grieving family, and on the other side a few even expressed their views in support of King’s right to ask those questions.
The most compelling report came from reporter Erica Cobb of DBL. Paraphrasing, Cobb states that in 2003 two separate conversations were occurring in American households when addressing the Kobe Bryant case that was later dismissed. One in white households that warned white women about the perils of famous black men like Kobe, who in colourful conversation was compared to the likes of OJ Simpson. And a separate conversation went on in black households, that spoke to young black men about the perils of the white woman’s influence and false accusations, backed with stories of Emmet Till and his accuser who we most recently found fabricated her entire story of their encounter.
This fact, on top of the grief and affinity that the black community has for the legend that is Kobe Bean Bryant, is the cause of the uproar against Gayle King, the black interviewer, reporter, and widely known bff of Oprah.
What Happens In This House...
Seeing a black woman rehash the allegations that were dismissed against Bryant in a court of law, to another black woman who looked visibly ambushed by the questions.. it read wrong. It read that she was using her place as a black public figure to isolate another black woman and try team up with her to discuss a blemish on the record of a celebrated dead black man….a discussion with not only spotlight but cameras. And you know we don’t talk family business around company. Ever.
Before Kobe Bryant and his daughter have been properly memorialized you attempt to ask his friend to speak on one of the darkest moments of his life, publicly. Yes, he as a young black man made the mistake of infidelity (because the sexual assault was not proven), but his past also shows that this mistake is where he grew the most. Discounting his work with the WNBA, young women in NCAA, and his daughters Gayle brought up a time when these dismissed sexual assault allegations put a crossroads in Bryant’s midst…and he chose RIGHT.
Which brings me back to the statement that Ava Duvernay, Oprah, and Gayle made when rejecting the highest honour of respect in the black community, “auntie.” Cookout invitations, auntie nominations, and the title of “ours” across race lines is, of course, nothing more than an exercise of endorsement and inclusion amongst the black community. So when you deny that and ask for alternative acknowledgement you are either 2 things: ungrateful or out of touch.
And while we are constantly rejected by the likes of those who steal our culture and then condemn it such as Post Malone and Billie Ellish the members of the fictions black delegation have come to accept that; however, it is a different kind of pain when that rejection comes from our own and then is back publicly by actions such as the Lisa Leslie interview. I am starting to believe that King is, of the two options, out of touch. And it is this distance that has led her to believe that her years in the game, friendship with Oprah, and current position with CBS should a lot her the ability to persecute the renowned figures of a culture that she may not have enough connection to consider her own.
Could it be that this generation of millennials does not hold the Oprahs and Gayles to the same guard as the previous generation? Maybe. Could it be that we are tried and tired of the double standards that white media places on our stories and expect loyalty from the mouthpieces that are currently in place to speak for us? Probably. Or are we in such shock about the tragic loss of a celebrated sports hero and his daughter that we think it too soon (now or ever) to bring up something that could have been brought up during his press run after the Oscars while he could defend himself? Definitely.
The bottom line is. We already have to teach white people, should not have to teach black people too, but if you are that tone-deaf, it is possible that you don't want to learn.*
Chay Rodriguez's Point of Fact Glossary:
Please see the points of fact here that I must tell you do not matter to the progression of black people as a culture:
Point: Gayle is a journalist and she was doing her job.
What Matters: As black people we are not a monolith. I know that, but I also know that while this country preaches equality. We do not have that. We cannot do everything that white people do, and in this instance, we are talking white journalists. A white journalist could have asked Lisa Leslie those questions about Kobe Bryant and the dismissed rape charges that he was accused of in 2003. I go a step further and say that a white woman could have asked those questions and would not have received the same backlash as Gayle King. But currently being black in the public eye means that you always have to revert to this:
We have to do better by looking after our own, dead or living, and carry that responsibility with us. That responsibility can include bypassing an opportunity to be salacious and gain more eyeballs. BUT it can also include respecting the time and place we are in to have certain conversations in a safe place where all of the facts can be laid out and presented. It is not Gayle’s fault that her network only aired and promoted parts of the interview, but it is something she should be held accountable for because it’s her place of business and she got caught slipping.
Point: Gayle did not accuse Kobe of rape. She also aided Lisa Leslie with an out with how she phrased the question reminding Leslie that the charges were dismissed. And Leslie’s answers were weak in defending Kobe’s honour.
What Matters: Being a journalist and interviewer, you have little to no control on how your subject will react. But you do have to have the ability to read the room (for a lack of better words). Moreover, Part of being a black journalist with the responsibility of showcasing our stories to the world (as CBS has an international audience) Gayle did not do a good job of reading her subject to see how capable she (Leslie) was to answer those questions, especially in her time of grief.
Point: What about Gayle’s interaction with R. Kelly? Didn’t she go against the black culture at that time?
What Matters: No, R. Kelly, was accused of raping multiple underage black girls who could not make decisions for themselves based on reason and common sense when interacting with Kelly because their brains were underdeveloped. This is science. HOWEVER, This does not mean that sexual assault charges brought up by a white woman is invalid. What it does mean is that when looking at the two cases:
-10s of women speaking out against R Kelley with video evidence
-a singular allegation without a witness to testify in court against Kobe Bryant carries a considerable difference in weight.
As it should in the court of law and public opinion.
Let me know what you think below!