This morning on The Breakfast Club rapper T.I. made some comments about former protégé Iggy Azalea that were less than flattering.
“What happened was, and this is just my opinion—keep in mind I didn’t say it to speak down on shawty. This is my truth. I’m sharing it. I don’t wish no ill will on her. She happens to be the biggest thing tomorrow, great. But as far as I’m concerned, when she found out White people liked her and she didn’t really need Black people to like her, she switched up. Started acting different. Made moves I wasn’t proud of. It placed my reputation in the line of fire. She was very arrogant about it.”
Whether or not you agree with his analysis, the reality is Black consumers are routinely leveraged to build up platforms and people, then dismissed. More than anything, Black consumers should learn that they are kingmakers and as such, more scrutiny should be placed on whom they bestow the crown.
UPN quickly became a player as a television network by attracting Black viewers. It became normal, seemingly overnight, to see shows with all-Black casts, telling stories that resonated with Black viewers. All of that changed in an instant, however, when the network was bought out by Viacom. As Essence Atkins put it, “it’s not the first time that a network has built their wealth on Black content and then, slowly but surely, [goes] through a gentrification process.” Building an audience off of Black people is perfectly fine but keeping and catering to that same audience seems less desirable, seemingly. It’s tempting to get angry with television execs for turning away from Black audiences but the larger issue is why Black audiences continue to give them the crown.
The conversation extends much further than UPN and Iggy Azalea. Whether it’s popular music, electronics or any number of clothing brands, Black consumers are providing the energy and ultimately, the money, to elevate brands they do not own and, when convenient, brands that will turn their backs on them in a heartbeat. Each time it happens it stings. With each new occurrence there is a hint of rejection. Still, the pattern persists but it must stop. If Black people are to be kingmakers, they should crown those who look, feel and have commitments similar to them. As an analogy, you could spend hundreds tonight on someone at the club who may or may not call you the next day or you could spend it on someone who will still be there tomorrow and has a real commitment to you — your spouse. Black consumers are kingmakers — let’s make Black businesses who value and are rooted in our community, the kings.