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



Comment

THERE ARE 11 COMMENTS FOR THIS POST

  1. Yamina Collins On March 5, 2015 at 9:46 PM

    I really like your blog. Well said. I've never seen Empire, but when I read a run down of the story line I couldn't believe how stereotypical all the characters were made to be. We are adding to our demise.

      Anonymous On March 23, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    I fell into your blog from NYGF's and I am glad I did. I also made the choice to not watch Empire after I saw the pilot episode and it just screamed "STEREOTYPEs" loud and very clear. I also thot it quite interesting that it was on FOX and that it goes up against Blackish. I am not surprised that it has become so big though becaseu Black ppl just want to see themselves on TV (no mtterw hat) and white ppl are alwasy highly entertained by blacks living up to stereotypes.

      Anonymous On April 7, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    I agree we need more positive portrayals on TV and I agree we get what we watch, which is crap. I totally disagree Fox is trying to kill Blackish. They only have two hours a day to air programming. Murdoch's Fox News Channel is right leaning but he is not, he just knows how to make money. Remember Fox aired In Living Color, Martin, Arsenio and other AA shows early on.

      Anonymous On April 12, 2015 at 4:23 AM

    I agree wholeheartedly. When the leading female character "Cookie", remarked that black women are running around with their hair smelling like "goat's a**", i felt it was something written by a white woman and given to this black actress so that it could covertly insult us. It worked as nonone seems to have picked up on it. The line was said as she sat talking to "Lucius", the lead black male character. He laughed as she said it because of course, black men are QUITE RACIST toward black women. I dont think any of the black men on that show are in a serious relationship with a black woman. Its funny how outsiders can see this but black women keep worshippingbat the altar of black men who made it clear many years ago that they dont care about us let alone value us. Anyway, once i heard that hair remark, i was done.

      Paul On November 17, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    You dont have to be a black woman, or even black to find this type of blatantly sterotypical drivel....well....garbage. Blacks and whites need to speak up equally. I recently got into a debate with 2 black friends and 3 white friends at a party. They were all praising this show as an example of "black culture" gaining a foothold on primetime television, and claiming this as a victory for equality. I pointed out that this show perpetuated the sterotypical "thuglife" mentality. Where are the Maya Angelous? The Neil DeGrasse Tysons? This show not so subtly suggests that black people can only attain the cheapest types of superficial success through rapping, etc. I may be a white man, but in the intellectual circles (physics) I travel in, this show does not depict black "culture", only some of the most ignorant parts of it. My main lab partner throughout my masters program was a black female. I am offended on her behalf. It is offensive to me, as a white man. I feel offended for the black people in my life who have earned higher degrees, and are currently working on contributing to the great scientific discussions that are ongoing in our scientific community. Of course Im biased when it comes to my group. Scientists have almost always led the way in regards to progress.

      Preta On January 26, 2016 at 12:53 PM

    I am also glad to have come upon your blog, as I have seen several episodes of not only this sadly lamented mess,but the even more insidious stuff that has become of 'How to get away with Murder' as well (more graphic and in your face homosexual scenes than any other shows on tv to my knowledge. Guess they want to make sure that the black community "finally gets and accepts it", when it comes to homosexuality in our community).
    Well, I've decided not to be anyone's patsy any more, and have given up and both of these shows, and don't intend to go back to them.
    It broke our hearts (the loyal viewers of 'Personal of Interest' character Joss Carter) when Taraji was let go from that show, especially when she was helping to pull in viewers, week after week and helping her fan base to grow as well. Any time you see a "main character"being killed off after two and a quarter seasons, and whites calling the move "bold and innovative" you know somethings terribly WRONG. YES, she knew she was leaving, but I highly susoect she didn't think I'd be this soon (and her co-star Jim Caviezel said that Taraji, while on set, made him feel at ease EVERY morning when he came in, there are videos of them laughing and joking together on set).
    Lastly, I say all of this because I believe that Taraji IS better than this, but perhaps because of her having to pay her mortgage and other bills, and maybe her son's college tuition, she took this role and didn't really realize the implications behind it??? Only guessing here, as whatever the reason, I wom't go backwards or support this damaging stereotypical kind if show. Will catch her in her next one.

      Preta On January 26, 2016 at 1:12 PM

    "Mr. Paul", I'm black and agree with you 1,000 %, and feel that the 'main stars' (especially Taraji P. Henson), are so much better then this (we're still missing her Detective Joss Carter 'Person of Interest' character, who left a very indelible impression). I realize these folks need money like the rest of us, but wish they wouldn't do this at the expense of moving us backwards in time.

      Kat On March 12, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    Agree

      Anonymous On April 24, 2016 at 6:53 PM

    You guys really shouldn't watch power. It covers the drug dealing part

      IslandBeauty On June 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    I, myself, do not support this show as well and wished many others would not. To be perfectly honest, I was watching the Wendy Williams show with featured guess, Taraji. She was sharing her new upcoming series, "Empire". I was quite interested to watch to support our community and see what will her part be as a black woman. Taraji then shared with Wendy Williams that when read the script of "Empire", she at that moment told the executive director that she will not play the part of Cookie UNLESS Terence Howard was the leading man in the film because she said he would be perfect for it(Youtube it and listen for yourself). When she said that, I was very disappointed. I was disappointed because Terrance Howard dislikes and is against his own kind, black women. I absolutely refuse to watch let alone support a black man who thinks I am not worthy because I am a black woman! The most shocking part is the fact that Taraji is aware of his perpetually damaged mentality via slavery of not wanting nor "for his own black women" yet she chose him. If it were the other way around, do you think he would have chosen her or ANY other black women for that fact? Of course not. We should absolutely not support them because they(not all) don't support or see us. We should only support the ones that are keeping the black community strong by seeing the utter importance of a black king marrying a black queen and making and raising healthy and strong black babies.
    I have read the above comments about Empire and not at all surprised. By any chance, is there a black husband and a black wife depicted in that film together as the utter example of family that builds a better and stronger black community? I bet not!

      IslandBeauty On June 19, 2016 at 5:56 PM

    I, myself, do not support this show as well and wished many others would not. To be perfectly honest, I was watching the Wendy Williams show with featured guess, Taraji. She was sharing her new upcoming series, "Empire". I was quite interested to watch to support our community and see what will her part be as a black woman. Taraji then shared with Wendy Williams that when read the script of "Empire", she at that moment told the executive director that she will not play the part of Cookie UNLESS Terence Howard was the leading man in the film because she said he would be perfect for it(Youtube it and listen for yourself). When she said that, I was very disappointed. I was disappointed because Terrance Howard dislikes and is against his own kind, black women. I absolutely refuse to watch let alone support a black man who thinks I am not worthy because I am a black woman! The most shocking part is the fact that Taraji is aware of his perpetually damaged mentality via slavery of not wanting nor "for his own black women" yet she chose him. If it were the other way around, do you think he would have chosen her or ANY other black women for that fact? Of course not. We should absolutely not support them because they(not all) don't support or see us. We should only support the ones that are keeping the black community strong by seeing the utter importance of a black king marrying a black queen and making and raising healthy and strong black babies.
    I have read the above comments about Empire and not at all surprised. By any chance, is there a black husband and a black wife depicted in that film together as the utter example of family that builds a better and stronger black community? I bet not!

     

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