Diddy recently told Vibe magazine that Nightline Host Martin Bashir's question about him giving his son a Maybach for his birthday was racist:
"There were times in the interview when I had to give him an ultimatum," Diddy told Vibe. "The questions weren't being handled the right way. In hindsight, when I saw him, I shouldn't had done the interview because I know the style of interview that he does . . .. The whole thing about giving a Maybach to my son, that's really like a racist question."
"You don't ask White people what they buy their kids," he continued. "And they buy 'em Porsches and convertible Bentleys, and it ain't no question. It's really a racist question and put things back in perspective with money and the way that people still look at you. And I'm not saying that consciously he's a racist. But he probably don't even realize that he would not ask Steve Jobs that. He would be like Steve Jobs has that money and that's the gift his kid is supposed to get."
I think Diddy was right about one thing: Most journalists would never question a wealthy white person like Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet about a car they may have bought their children.
I think, though, he is missing a critical difference between himself and men like Steve Jobs. Men like Jobs and Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have not made a fortune promoting luxury lifestyles and defining themselves by them.
A tenet of hip-hop is ostentation and glamour and luxury. Diddy's image, probably more than any other entertainer, is built on throwing wealth in the faces of others who look on with a mixture of awe, envy and delight. He brags at every opportunity about his wealth, so why shouldn't it be fair game in an interview? The image of boundless wealth, big mansions and fancy cars is how hip-hop has defined itself, and whether he wants to admit or not, Diddy is one of the main architects.
I bet a reporter wouldn't ask Bob Johnson or Kenneth Chenault about a car they bought for their children.
I believe the question was less about race and more about the fact that he is not taken seriously.
You can't be a media whore and then get mad if someone asks you a question you don't like. If you don't want to be questioned about what you give to your children, don't do it on TV. You can't have it both ways, Diddy. I can't remember the last time Bill Gates bragged to the world about how much money he had.
I also think that the question is more relevant to Diddy than to America's wealthiest business leaders, because of the impact that his lifestyle has on young people.
Many young people want to be like Diddy, because he's rich. Not because he worked hard and built a mega-empire from nothing. Unfortunately, the message of hard work and the story behind Diddy's rise to power is lost on a generation who believe they are entitled to big Sweet Sixteen parties and Maybachs without lifting a finger.
We have collectively failed as a community in this regard. Diddy, along with the rest of us, are culpable in raising a generation who just want to be "rich." They don't want to work hard, they don't want to excel in school. They just want be a baller. And if they can't be rich, at least they can look rich, even if it means begging, borrowing and stealing to accomplish it. Somewhere along the line, we forgot to teach our young people the most important four letter word of all: WORK.
And a small part of that is Diddy's fault. If he spent as much time talking about the hard work it took the get to where he is as he does rattling off the brand names in his closet, perhaps he could be taken more seriously as a business leader and not just some rich hip-hop buffoon. Isn't he the one who said, "It's all about the Benjamins?"