WATCH: Stop asking clueless celebrities to comment on race relations

Salon's D. Watkins urges the media to stop asking celebrities questions about race relations

By D. Watkins - Matthew Smith

Published January 13, 2017 1:00PM (EST)

If I ever need advice on how to throw a football or what type of Creatine to take, I’ll call Cam Newton. If I need help putting together a rap album, I’ll summon Lil Wayne. These people are experts at what they do. But please, please, members of the media: Stop asking these people to speak about race. The same goes for the RZA, Stacey Dash, Raven-Symoné, Donovan McNabb, Jerry Rice, Fetty Wap and the rest of the celebrity #AllLivesMatter crew whose fame disqualifies their perspective on the typical black American experience.

I’m from a rough spot: the back of East Baltimore. I ran those blocks, fell asleep on the corners and fought until my mouth welled up with my own blood, but guess what? That was a decade ago. Now I mentor kids, promote literacy and donate books to underfunded schools and youth programs, so I’m no longer qualified to speak about what it’s like today to hustle in those alleys and survive on those streets. That’s how I feel about these disconnected celebrities. Nostalgia is great and giving insight on how things were before you made it is valuable. But the earth spins and culture evolves.

Yes, you are black, so you so do have an understanding of the black experience, but your black experience isn’t the typical black experience. Most of us don’t have millions or thousands or even hundreds of dollars at our disposal. That means some of us live in neighborhoods where we don’t have access to things like Wi-Fi. Yeah, I know people around my way without Wi-Fi, living in the middle of a food desert, raising their kids on scraps and sending them to schools where they are forced to be educated with scraps.

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D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new book, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," is out now.

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Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith is an associate video producer at Salon. He has an unhealthy obsession with Mickey Mouse and video games, and regularly tweets about both.

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