In a recent interview promoting her upcoming film Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Oprah found herself being asked about the recent kerfuffle between famed entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte and rapper Jay Z.
Last year, Belafonte asserted that Jay and his wife Beyonce “turned their backs on social responsibility,” and the rapper shot back on his latest album, rapping: “I’m just trying to find common ground/’fore Mr. Belafonte come and chop a n*gga down/Mr. Day O, major fail/Respect these youngins boy, it’s my time now.”
Many saw Jay Z’s lyrics about Belafonte as disrespectful, but others, like Oprah, saw the overhyped “beef” as more of a generational misunderstanding.
When asked what she felt about the conflict between the two men, Oprah told Shaheem Reid that both men are protesting in their own way.
“This is what Harry Belafonte, my generation, everyone needs to know, and what this film says: People war in different ways. There are multiple ways to protest. Jay uses his music, he uses his life, he uses his artfulness, his ability as a business man, that is his protest against all the indignities that, not only he has suffered, but generations before him have suffered. Harry Belafonte’s might have been going to Congress or marching. Not everyone has the same way, that’s why this movie is so powerful because the father’s way was not the son’s way.
Which way is right? Both are right.”
Some have criticized Oprah for not chastising Jay Z about his comments, citing her multiple interviews with the rapper and his wife. However, I think she’s onto something.
One of the failings of those from the Civil Rights era is their inability to connect with younger generations, so perhaps this dustup between Harry Belafonte and Jay Z can lead to a wider conversation about how we can begin to bridge the gap.
What do you think of Oprah’s comments?