Classy Black Women


A few weeks ago, Fox premiered its new show Empire. It was directed by the same guy who brought the movie Precious to the world, if that tells you anything. The show features a black family who has been enriched by the entertainment industry. It's headed up by a sassy black mother who has just done many years behind bars. From what I've read about the show, she is the classic sapphire stereotype, snapping her way through every scene.

Then you have the pimpish black father played by Terrance Howard (a person who has made his distaste with black women glaringly clear in the past, but of course black women are quick to forget). He is the classic stereotype of a trifling black father who abuses his family, and of course now that he's rich he is involved with a white woman. The rest of the family is a ball of dysfunction, including a gay son who was apparently thrown in the trash as a baby. Family members are fighting each other for power. 

I get it -- this is basically a juicy urban book wrapped into a multi-season mainstream TV show. Black people love these types of stories because there's drama, sex, money and drugs. 

But there's something deeper and more insidious behind Empire that is the reason why I can't and won't support it -- Fox's decision to air it head to head with ABC's new show blackish on Wednesday nights.

I believe that the Fox network, headed up by the notoriously conservative Rupert Murdoch (the same network that is responsible for Fox News), has reasons behind airing this new gangsta black family that (presumably from the storyline) hates each other against a show about a professional black family that loves each other. I believe that this can be seen as a calculating move made to "put black people in their place." I think of it as TV's way of showing the world what the black American community of today is REALLY all about, what we worship, where our priorities are, what we value. And it's embarrassing.

While black people are out on the streets screaming that black lives matter, many still seem oblivious to how the black IMAGES we see and support every day in media can effect how we're treated by and in society. 

A Different World
The executives at Fox knew exactly how to capture the attention of most black viewers, and it worked with flying colors. The show now has over 11 million viewers compared to ratings that have fallen for blackish (now at about 3 million according to the latest numbers). They have succeeded probably beyond their wildest dreams at this point. Let's not even talk about how many non-black people are watching this show quietly and eating it up. This IS Fox, a mainstream channel, after all.

Just recently I watched a mini marathon of a show I used to love as a girl called A Different World. It was one of the shows that pushed me to value my education. It taught me work ethic and sisterhood. I also remember that around that time I was exposed to a number of other fun, light-hearted shows featuring everyday black people making a way, including Living Single, Martin and NY Undercover.

Shows like Empire have their place on TV. Mindless soap operas have been around for decades. But here's the problem: nowadays we don't have a good variety of smart black shows to offset shows like Empire. Other than Empire, blackish and Scandal, we mostly see black women and men fighting on reality TV. Every reality TV show isn't horrible, but they all play on the line and tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes. 

Get Ready for More
Now that black people have shown network executives how much they LOVE Empire, get ready for plenty more shows like it on mainstream TV. Maybe the next one will be about a drug dealing black family -- a black mother on crack and the Kingpin father who beats her senselessly while running his "empire." Or a black family that boosts together, because you know that's all black people do is steal and commit crimes for profit. (That line of thinking is also what helps whites justify killing black people in the streets as if they're rabid dogs).

Also get ready for even more debased and questionable story lines on Empire that will have black people second guessing whether it's something they really want to support.

Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if blackish eventually went away quietly. It's probably one of black America's last chances for putting forward a positive image for black kids to see. It was finally a new show that might encourage a black child to be a working professional who OWNS something instead of chasing hoop dreams or ending up in jail for trying to mimic the lifestyles of Jay Z and Meek Mill.

The success of Empire proves the point that black people have to stop blaming others for our problems. Many black people willingly participate in their own slander. 

Black parents, please do everything you can to expose your young kids to a wider variety of black images. Centric and TVOne are a start. Support smart web series that put forth diverse stories about black people so that they can one day reach television. What young children consume regularly does matter when it comes to the choices they make and future steps they take.

CBL



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After weeks of persistent tweets, calls and boycotting of sponsors, Vh1 finally caved to the pressure and decided to end their show Sorority Sisters in a not so spectacular way. They are "dumping" the final episodes on a Friday night, which is basically the same as saying "just get rid of it."

This boycott taught me a few things that I didn't know (like how defiant VH1 and certain advertisers would be to a serious boycott movement) and also affirmed a few that I did know. Here they are:

1. Money talks, B...S... walks 
When VH1's advertisers started calling them up saying "please take our ads off Sorority Sisters" the show became more of a charity than a profit-driven vehicle. VH1 isn't in the business of doing things for fun -- it's all about the money. 

I will post a list of the advertisers who defiantly refused to remove their ads as soon as I have it. I believe these are the companies that will be most likely to give the middle finger to *any* movement against negative black images in the media. If you want bad reality TV gone, withdraw support from these companies. 

2. Some people will do or say anything to defend negative TV. 
It's so important to ignore detractors & deflectors when you're moving toward a goal. They will always be there, trying to trip you up and make you feel like you're wasting your time. Some are being paid to do so.

3. VH1 producers and bosses are some stubborn SOBs! 
Since the days of Flavor of Love, I've never seen a VH1 television show be forced off the air by a protest or public pressure. This was the first serious test of what it would take, and I'm a little surprised (but not very) by how defiant VH1 was about keeping this show around despite lower ratings, 70 advertisers pulling out and the possibility that it could activate future boycott movements against their channel. They barely even did any advertising or promotion for the show.

4. A television network like @VH1 cares, knows and respects so little about the black community that they thought #SororitySisters would fly with 100+ year old organizations! 
These are the same organizations that cultural icons like Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Height and Zora Neale Hurston joined. They were established at the turn of the 20th century and continued going strong through countless social movements. Look at any major positive black movement and you'll see black sorority members at the helm. And despite this level of disrespect from VH1, black people continue to support their channel and shows.

5. Good things can come from bad situations. 
Here's the silver lining from the #BoycottSororitySisters movement: I've heard talks amongst sorority and fraternity members who want to target reality TV in discussions and forums on college campuses. It's no secret that a large portion of the reality TV target is young black college aged women, 18-25. 

Who knows, maybe VH1 did the black groups who are against negative reality TV a favor in a way -- but they certainly didn't do any favors for their network or the women (cast members) who chose to join Sorority Sisters. This is a legacy they will find hard to shake.







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