Every once in a while an article comes out with the obvious intention to ruffle feathers. This time around it’s Dr. Boyce Watkins’ piece on YourBlackWorld.com in which he questions hip-hop legend, Dr. Dre’s joint donation of $70 million to the University of Southern California along with music mogul, Jimmy Iovine.
Dr. Dre and Iovine made headlines two weeks ago after donating the money to USC to create an entirely new four-year degree program through the “Iovine and Young Academy” that will encompass, “arts and entrepreneurship; technology, design and marketability; concept and business platforms and creating a prototype.”
However, according to Dr. Watkins that money would be more duly suited at a historically black college or university simply because… it’s a black college or university.
As a USC student myself who comes from a far less privileged background than my class colleagues, when I first heard about the donation I was extremely proud of Dr. Dre. Not only does it contribute to an institution that will serve as a huge part of my own legacy but, given the racial tensions surrounding SC, I could only hope that the donation would show the growth and progression that the school is heading towards.
On a personal level though, can you imagine how it must feel for Dre, who grew up in nearby Compton, to have his name permanently a part of an institution prided on prestige and power that has been in his backyard for his entire life? Dr. Dre has made no qualms about expressing his love for California in the past and this move seems to be no exception.
However, now his motives are being questioned; not only by Dr. Watkins but, by Dillard University president Dr. Walter Kimbrough in a recent LA Times op-ed piece.
What bothered me most about this article is the perpetual stereotypes that come from someone who seems to never have stepped foot onto USC’s campus. Now make no mistake, I’m far from disillusioned and I’m aware that race is a factor in our lives, but I also want it to be clear that our Trojans are so much more than a perceived lack of melanin. For that reason, I had no choice but to dissect the piece point by point:
“Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Lovine recently announced a whopping $70 million dollar donation to USC to create a new degree… Dr. Dre’s donation is the largest ever given by any African American in history, and oddly enough, the money is going into the hands of rich white people.”
- First and foremost the whole idea that the money is going into the “hands of rich white people” immediately makes me think of the superiority complex that many HBCU attendees have over blacks that attend traditional institutions. Am I less deserving because I chose to go to USC over Spelman? Aside from that though, it seems that the writer didn’t even look into the context of the “why?” Why did Dr. Dre make the donation? Is because he wanted to give it to rich white people? OR is it because Los Angeles is one of the biggest entertainment capitals in the world? Or is because it’s his hometown? There’s simply no context except for race associated with his motives.
“Some may argue that Dr. Dre can do whatever he wants with his money, and this point is valid: No one has the right to tell any of us what to do – a child has no obligation to care about his mother, a husband has no real obligation to provide for his wife, the list goes on and on. But the truth is that if you choose not to care about your community, then don’t expect your community to care about you. Black people have always been incredibly loyal and supportive of Dr. Dre, particularly those who made him the defacto King of Compton and Long Beach. It would seem that his greatest economic gift should go to them instead.”
- This is completely based on the idea that black people contribute more money than their counterparts to hip-hop culture, which in fact isn’t true. I’ve been covering hip-hop shows and albums for years and honestly whites and a barrage of other races contribute to the culture just as much, if not more than blacks do. Additionally, the idea completely negates what the donation was all about in the first place. It wasn’t to just freely givemoney away. It was instead to create something totally novel in academia, instead of giving it away for the sake of doing so.
“USC’s endowment is over $3.5 billion, which gives this school more money than every single HBCU in America combined… The point here, and I hope Dr. Dre understands this, is that white people have plenty of money and they aren’t going to use that money to help people who look like you. They don’t exactly need black people making donations, since they’ve already earned over a billion dollars from their African American athletes, many of whom have mothers who can’t even pay the rent.”
- My point here is that the white students at USC are not the only people who need opportunities. There are plenty of black students (myself and friends included) who are more than appreciative and inspired by seeing a man who looks like us being respected and highly regarded at our school. What had ALWAYS bothered me about many black scholarships is that they require you to go to an HBCU to even apply. So I went to a private catholic undergraduate institution and a huge private school for my master’s, why am I less deserving of help? I’m still a first generation college graduate, raised by a single mother so why am I less deserving?
“Schools like USC make it difficult for black students to gain admission and even more difficult for black faculty to get jobs. The university sits down the street from South Central Los Angeles, a virtual war zone where prisons and funeral homes get rich from all the young black men being fed into the prison industrial complex. USC doesn’t use many of its resources to help these individuals, it simply uses Dr. Dre’s money to build higher walls so they can protect the rich white kids from the scary black ones.”
- Once again, what this article fails to consider is the lack of black students actually applying to USC. If you contrast the amount of black students who actually applied to go to SC against those who attend, you may have your answer. Personally, I’ve been a grad student at USC for nearly a year and I’ve witnessed how USC has done community outreach in South LA. However, in many cases how do you reach into a community that simply doesn’t want to be reached? I grew up two blocks away from Temple University, which often has the same exclusion complaints as SC, so being on the other end of the spectrum I can visualize why there’s a need for it. Do you know why USC felt the need to build those walls up blocking out the community? Because in October 2012, non-students came onto campus after hours and subsequently shots rang out as a result. Many times people forget that boundaries usually aren’t created unless they’re forced.
“I wonder if Dr. Dre knows that not only does USC admit very few black students, but the ones who are there are subject to serious racism and racial profiling. During a recent campus party, the LAPD sent over 70 police officers in riot gear with a helicopter to break up the party after noise complaints. All the while, the white kids were partying up in their fraternity houses without so much as a peep from the police.”
- This point I do agree with… partially. The case of the “black party” has been extremely controversial on campus, however, it stems back to the police department. The party was an off-campus event and regardless of the wrong-doing on the part of the LAPD, it was just that; wrong-doing on the part of the LAPD. The Los Angeles Police Department has been known for its racial profiling, most infamously in the case of Rodney King, however, I fiercely disagree with the fact that it has anything to do with the growth of USC as an institution.
“USC shed no tears when Dr. Dre’s baby brother was murdered in the violence that has poisoned the black community. They did nothing when his son died from an overdose on the drugs that were dropped into black communities in the 1980s. HBCUs have scholars working to solve these problems, and thousands of students who will graduate to fight for black America. USC does NOT.”
- Again a generalization, I have a black male friend who graduated from SC this past Saturday with his master’s degree in social work. He’s a Compton native and making a ton of moves to give back to his community. Making these blatantly blanket statements on the behalf of those who know nothing about USC is problematic. I’d like to think that myself and my friends and the hundreds of other black USC grads are just as deserving of recognition and respect as a Howard grad.
“By the way, as schools like USC have gotten rich from black athletes, HBCUs can barely pay the bills. All the while, almost none of this money is returned to the black community, and multi-million dollar USC athletes like Reggie Bush have their integrity questioned for receiving a few hundred dollars under the table. The fact is that these schools rob black people blind, don’t give hardly anything to the black community, and laugh at the fact that we are ridiculous enough to turn around and give money back. If I were the president of USC, I’d be giggling under my breath and wondering how a group of people can have such little respect for themselves.”
- I’m just going to assume that this was written to be a rousing point because other than that I see absolutely no literary value to the statement. HBCUs can barely pay the bills because honestly, their alumni do not give back nearly as much as a traditional institutions. Reggie Bush, plain and simply, knew the rules of college football, just like his predecessors. The last two sentences of this piece is really disturbed me. Exclusion on the part of black people is never the answer to changing things.
I’m a 2014 graduate and therefore, will never see the fruits of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s contribution. However, what can say is that whether I’m a part of 5 percent at USC or 95 percent at Hampton, I’m 100 percent proud of Dr. Dre and his contributions. I can only hope that other entertainers can create such a legacy; wherever they choose to do so.