While weighing in on Terry Crews’ reasons for not immediately retaliating after his alleged sexual assault by Adam Venit, Wendy Williams made a bold proclamation about her race. The talk show host said the actor’s statement that he is “African-American … [and] I would be seen as a thug,” “bristled” her.
“[I’m] Black. I don’t do the African-American thing,” Williams said on her show Wednesday, Nov. 15. “We’re Black. How many times are we gonna change our name? It started out as the n-word, then it went to colored people, then it went to Black people and now all of a sudden we’re PC and we call it African-American. I can’t even. I can’t. Black Wendy from Jersey says, ‘I don’t think … [it was brave of Crews to come out].”
Yolande Tomlinson, co-founder and director of Education and Applied Intersectionality at the Organization for Human Rights and Democracy, said poor associations with Africaness could be the reason behind Williams’ stance. However, it could simply reflect the time in which the former radio host grew up.
“Some Black people refuse [the term] African-American because of the inclusion of African with which they have negative associations,” she told Atlanta Black Star. “We don’t know exactly how she feels about the term African, but if we go with her actual words, it seems that her embrace of Black is more a reflection of the era in which she came of age. She’s likely embracing Black because of the powerful reclamation work of the late ’60s and ’70s that asserted the power of blackness, the beauty of blackness, the sexiness of blackness, the pride of blackness.”
Yet, Williams isn’t alone in her wish not to be identified as African-American. Raven-Symoné famously said she is not African-American during a sit-down with Oprah. The star’s “The Cosby Show” co-star Bill Cosby has also said he’d welcome everything but the African-American label and there are other celebrities like Shemar Moore and Keyshia Cole who didn’t want to be identified as Black at all.
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Online, folks issued quite the response to Wendy’s preferred racial description.
I'm still mad at #WendyWilliams. Instead of thanking Terry Crews for sharing his story, she's worried about him using words African American instead of "black" & whether he'll be employed again. That's sending the wrong message. She's an idiot.
— Highly Favored 🌿😤 (@tokingblackgirl) November 15, 2017
The reactions speak to the importance of identity in the Black community and Tomlinson said regardless of the label Black people use, how we are described reflects our historical treatment under white supremacy.
“Racial or ethnic identification matters,” she said. “It speaks to our cultural origins, political affiliations and commitments, and how we are likely to be treated by others as a result of their association with that identifier. … It’s important to understand our histories of resistance to the global threat to Black peoples that is white supremacist terrorism.
“I respect people’s choices to identify as they like, as long as we can come together as a collective to fight for our liberation,” she added.