the dawn of a new decade, we have arrived at a moment unlike any other
in the history of our beautiful nation. We have endured the brutality
of slavery, we have survived the pain of Jim Crow and we have overcome
segregation to declare our dignity and equal rights. We witnessed and
participated in one of the greatest achievements in the history of our
country when we elected our first black president, Barack Obama. And
here we stand, with great opportunity, this year, this decade, to once
and for all, emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery that is
limiting our society and our people from moving forward.
remove these shackles forever, we must take advantage of the
opportunities that we have created. To me, during segregation, the
black community was strong, because we had black dentists, doctors,
drug store owners, grocery store owners, and many other business
leaders providing our community with care and services. Integration
came and although it gave us much more freedom and liberty, it also
presented new challenges that we continue to face. New cultural and
entrepreneurial groups came into our communities and took over many of
these businesses and destroyed potential economic opportunities.
However, now more than ever, the 89% of this country that is not black,
is thirsting to buy our products and follow our cultural lead. If we
ignore this 89%, we will never be able to move forward. We should not
limit ourselves to just interact and do business with each other. I
don't want to address just 11% of the population. I want to speak
to100% of America. If I had segregated myself and my businesses when I
started Def Jam, then I never would have brought Melle Mel, Kurtis Blow
and Run-DMC to the Mud Club in the Village, which was a White club.
Black people didn’t like rap music, they rejected it at first. It was
the White press that made us popular…the first time I heard my record
on the radio was in Amsterdam on a Dutch station! I say all this, not
to criticize you, but to challenge you to recognize your power.
am saddened by many of my peers who continue to perpetuate the notion
that diversity is wrong. When black TV executives compare the
multiracial programming I produce to "black” shows on their networks,
it reminds me that we are also responsible for limiting ourselves. When
online "black” gossip sites make an issue of inter-racial dating it
exhibits our own responsibility for not progressing forward. If you
only interact with "your group” in university or the work place, you
not only do yourself and your company a disservice, you diminish the
possibilities of a generation. We have nothing to fear from
integration because our culture is the New American Mainstream, the
entire world is embracing us. It’s our time to be open to the world.
At this point in our history as a people, we must uplift each other and
encourage each other to change how we see in the world. It is honest
integration that the next generation is bringing and they are
challenging the old guard to step down and stop their old ways.
Similarly, too many mainstream companies today are limited by their
inability to honestly integrate some of the most powerful American
ideas because of their lack of diversity. To speak to the new America,
you have to completely rethink your "diversity” approaches in an
integrated, fast-forward way, or risk being overtaken by an unstoppable
tide of demographic and cultural change.
So, as we enter this
new decade, let’s practice loving everybody and everything. Let’s be
proud of our diversity and make sure it means what the word actually is
supposed to mean. Let us not be agents for others to co-opt, let us be
the agents of change. It is the wisdom from having experience and
inside perspective from the most important cultural phenomenon our
country has ever seen that this new generation carries forward. And
damn, it is exciting.
Follow Russell on twitter @UncleRush