For over twenty years, Sean Combs, “Diddy,” or “Puff Daddy” has been a paramount figure of black celebrity. He is debonair and articulate but still bears a familiarity to members of the collective in the barbershops and on the train. To many, he is the epitome of what it means to possess power as a black man in America. This perception, while fomenting much of Diddy’s prolonged relevancy, could not be more inaccurate.
Diddy recently posted a picture of himself with other black figures of influence to which he captioned “black excellence.” The picture incited such a stir after it was revealed that Diddy had cropped out cultural appropiators Kendall and Kylie Jenner. To many, this gesture betrayed a black pride absent from much of mainstream culture, To the conscious gaze, an always fashion- forward Diddy was making yet another fashion statement vital to preserving his image in the wake of pseudo “wokeness.” For instance, while NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a stand against the racial injustice that has plagues the black community for centuries, Diddy took a seat at the 2017 Met Gala to admire his racially ambiguous arm candy. Diddy displays a dedication to self-marketing, focusing solely on ways to help himself gain popularity and allure by appearing “cool.” It is now cool to be black, and Diddy, as the king of cool has assumed a predictably stance in seemingly nuancing society’s latest trend with the term “black excellence.”
Diddy strives to paint a portrait of contemporary black excellence in short film Black Excellence co-starring rapper and entrepeneaur Jay Z and the Apple Music exclusive documentary Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Here’s what Diddy got wrong:
- Black minded is not the same as being black consciousness.
If nothing else is clear about Diddy, it is that he is occassionally black-minded. His business -savvy mindset granted artists that may not have gotten a chance to shine global exposure. The music mogul falls short of consciousness in his projected belief that white wealth equates to success.
For this reason, Diddy is like the field negro turned house negro, the southern black turned northerner, or the western black turned European. Racism is an inescapable global virus that affects the world. Belief that relocation or increased funds cures racism merely reflects an inability of the individual to conceptualize the disease of racism that consumes their lives. A rich black is not any more free than a house slave-he or she merely bears a closer proximity to your oppressors.
2. To Diddy, blackness is only a skin color
In the now famous “black excellence” photo, Diddy poses with Migos, Travis Scott, Wiz Khalifa, and Jaden Smith. All men function to validate the caricatured narrative of black masculinity, making them melanated, or black physically but not possessing the consciousness to depict them as anything more that individuals seeking to eventually culminate a “trans” whiteness.
3. He thinks his success means something for blacks as a whole
While Diddy’s wealth has afforded him costly material goods, visibility, and legendary status, Diddy is an individual. Diddy is not an Ali- like figure who has risked what he worked for his entire life, to uplift his people. He isn’t a Fredi Washington like figure who used her celebrity to fuel activism His wealth and celebrity presence, while at times entertaining, has done nothing to upraise blacks from the veiled pits of contemporary enslavement. Rather, Diddy is a glamorized representation of our shortcomings.
At most, Diddy is a point of reference for any enslaved black seeking white validation. Having a wealthy black man, bears the same significance of first black President— a pseudo symbol of “what could be” but an accurate reflection of the colonialized mindset that consumes our collective.
4. While seemingly complimentary, “black excellence” actually upholds the teachings of white supremacy.
In truth, “black excellence” functions similarly to the term “white trash.” White trash implies that white is not inherently trashy. The phrase upholds the positive connotations the white gaze has always afforded whiteness,
Conversely, the term black excellence also sustains traditional ideologies of the term blackness. The Oxford English Dictionary affords the following definitions for the word “black:”
- Of the very darkest colour owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white.
Deeply stained with dirt.
Relating to black people.
Belonging to or denoting any human group having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.
Characterized by tragic or disastrous events; causing despair or pessimism.
(of a person’s state of mind) full of gloom or misery; very depressed.
Full of anger or hatred.
archaic Very evil or wicked.
The term “black excellence” upholds the negative connotation of blackness substantiated by the definitions listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. It implies that black is not inherently excellent and thus in need of a modifying term to reflect this aberration.
Diddy is of course not an anomaly, nor is Jay Z ,or anyone “gifted” the label of this hollow term. While Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise speaks of being “the hope and dream of a slave” in her confidence and self-awareness, Diddy reflects the hopes and dreams of the slave master, whose blood runs though the current music executives and Hollywood big-wigs– despite being long perished into the stolen soil. Diddy is the freed slave who came home to work for his master, dressed in his master’s clothes and riches torn from his mother continent.
Diddy proves that money, or access is not strong enough to undo the detriment of an institution birthed centuries ago. Like the black soldiers of war, given access to heavy artillery and murdering their oppressor’s enemy and not their oppressor, Diddy in his wealth and influence reflects white success or white excellence. He is not black excellence, but black foolery and debauchery. Diddy is not a leader but a follower, a precarious figure to those of the black collective, not so much for his actions themselves, but in the oblivion in which he projects his behaviors.
In short, the phrase black excellence, while pleasing to the ear, evokes the same shallowness as Jay Z’s “The Story of OJ,” so it seems only fitting that the two co star in an almost comical display of what black excellence is not. So to answer the gauche query that anchors the film:
What is better than one black billionaire?
Two black men to which money is a just a piece of paper.
Black power. ❤