Music

Howard University Professor Isn’t Super Impressed with Pharrell Williams’ ‘New Black’ Comments

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Pharrell Williams (Fred Dufour/Getty Images)

Pharrell Williams (Fred Dufour/Getty Images)

Pharrell Williams raised a few eyebrows over his statements about race in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, particularly his use of a term “the new black” — and a prominent professor at Howard University isn’t really buying it.

The superstar said in the Winfrey interview that “The new black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The new black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.”

He discussed this same topic in his GQ cover story: “This is the new black. Oprah Winfrey: That’s the new black. She’s a black billionaire. President Obama: He is a black American president. Regardless of what you think about him, this is his second term. That’s the new black. LeBron James: the first black man ever shot on a Vogue cover, a black man. Me: a guy that’s written a song at 40! Nominated for an Oscar, four GRAMMY awards — at 40! That’s the new black!”

Response to his term “the new black”  has been strong, inspiring the twitter hashtag #whatkindofblackareyou, and The Root offering  “25 Alternatives to Pharrell (or Any Other Celeb) for Insights Into ‘the New Black,'” listing links to people and organizations “Who care about these things, study these things, talk and report and write and educate on these things all the time — not just when Oprah asks.”

Dr. Greg Carr, Howard University associate professor & chair of the department of Afro-American Studies, reacted to Pharrell’s “new black” theory in a new interview (via HBCBuzz) — and doesn’t seem impressed.

“My first impression is, this is a young man who is an excellent marketer,” Carr said. “I don’t think that Pharrell believes that there’s a ‘new black.’ Perhaps there’s a new opportunity. If he thinks there’s a ‘new black,’ I think  a quick perusal of history, particularly style makers and culture keepers in black communities in this country, will reveal very quickly that that’s been an ongoing conversation since enslavement.

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