Oprah, Accents & Black Masculinity

Why is it that whenever Oprah goes anywhere and meets someone with an accent, she starts mimicking the accent, even when her own imitated accent is nowhere near imitating the accent of the person to whom she’s speaking?  I’m really confused by this behavior.  

  

Oprah & Jay-Z from O Magazine's October 2009 Issue. Photo Credit Unknown

  

And in other Oprah news, recently I read O Magazine’s interview with Jay-Z. I don’t know why, but this interchange between Oprah and Jay-Z seemed so revealing to me:  

O: How were you in school? I’ve heard that when you were in the sixth grade, you tested at a 12th-grade level.  

Jay-Z: I was bored and distracted.  

O: Did you like anything about school?  

Jay-Z: I loved English  

O: I know you love to read now. Were books part of your childhood?  

Jay-Z: No. I don’t remember that.  

O: And I thought we had so much in common!  

Jay-Z: I jut daydreamed a lot.  

O: You didn’t listen in class, you didn’t read books – and you still tested as a 12th grader. You must have a naturally high IQ.  

Jay-Z: Or I’m an idiot savant.  

Good one Jay-Z. Good one. What I found in this interview, is that despite some of the interchanges, in which you can see Oprah doesn’t fully understand the hip-hop generation, Jay-Z’s adultness still comes through. I am particularly struck by how Jay-Z positions and frames his own masculinity. His discussion of what it was like to grow up as the youngest of several brothers, of his father walking out on his family because of his own pain, and how dealing with his issues with his father opened the door to his being able to genuinely love a womyn and become a partner and husband.   

While Chris Rock is busy suggesting that hair that Black men can run their fingers through might help intimacy between Black men and womyn, Jay-Z has another idea, pointing to his own relationship with masculinity and his father. He tells Oprah,”Because when you’re growing up, your dad is your superhero. Once you’ve let yourself fall that in love with someone, once you put him on such a high pedestal and he lets you down, you never want to experience that pain again. So I remember just being really quiet and really cold. never wanting to let myself get close to someone like that again.” 

There’s a great deal of strength and vulnerability in that statement, even as it follows the same path of other narratives of Black male identity. What makes Jay-Z’s statement slightly different to me is that he is talking specifically about feeling abandoned by a parent. He doens’ say he wasn’t able to learn to be a man, or that his mother couldn’t raise a man, he implies instead, that he had to deal with his sense of abandonment from childhood. 

Jay-Z also works to position the womyn in his life, explaining how his mother helped facilitate his healing around his father’s abandonment. It’s just such a thoughtful, beautiful, and honest discussion about fatherhood, expectations for family, and love. 

 Speaking of how Black masculinity has evolved over the last 20 years: 

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