These last few months of 2014 have been an “interesting” time for black people in the media. I anxiously waited for the premier of “Blackish,” the first major broadcast network comedy in almost a decade to revolve solely around a black family. The documentary series, Hidden Colors, came out with its third installment, and Shonda Rhimes apparently challenged beauty standards when she chose Viola Davis to play the main character in her new series, “How To Get Away With Murder.” Dear White People was everything I had hoped for, and I’m hoping MLK’s biopic, Selma, will deliver on the big screen as well.
Then there were the not so happy moments for black people in the news. Police killings of young black men have prompted a number of celebrities to speak out on this issue, including Charles Barkley, who we will get to near the end of this post.
Despite these awesome media moments (excluding the riot news and police killings), black people still found something to complain about!
1. “Blackish” isn’t black enough.
For some Black people, “Blackish” was not “black enough,” meaning it did not depict the “average” black American family. Can we just bask (for a moment) in the fact that we have a TV show that depicts us doing well for ourselves? Can we get a church clap for the fact there is a TV show airing during prime-time that explores blackness and how three generations experience it differently? Nah, we are too busy being mad because apparently low-income black people can not identify with a middle class black man experiencing racism in the work place or having the “sex talk” with his son.
2.1 All the actors in Dear White People are light skinned.
So… the Dear White People cast didn’t have enough skin tone variation, and this somehow took away from the effectiveness of the movie? Then there were those upset that the darker light skinned people in the movie were stereotypically casted in militant roles, leading the black student union’s protest against the randomization of student housing. Yes, let’s completely overlook the fact that this movie, that calls out white privilege and explores blackness on a PWI’s (Predominately White Institution) campus, even made it to the big screen.
2.2 How dare Dear White People show a black gay man on the big screen?!
Lord forbid there’s a movie that not only calls out systematic racism, but also sheds light on an issue in our (black people’s) community– homophobia. Tyler James Williams from “Everybody Hates Chris” played a gay black student juggling his blackness and homosexuality– two identities that don’t always mix well. So it didn’t come as a surprise when a fair share of black people complained about his character in the movie. But why? I think Tyler put it best in an Huffington Post interview when he said:
“For so long there was so little, I guess, portrayals of the average black American, that the average black American male associated himself with whoever was on TV,” he said. “So in this way, there’s still this mentality of, ‘Okay, you’re a black male on TV. I am you. Wait, you’re gay? I’m not gay! No, no never mind, we’re not the same thing. Forget you. We shun you now.'” -Tyler James Williams
3. Charles Barkley should just stick to sports.
Charles Barkley has a history of having controversial opinions, and he had no problem voicing his opinion about the recent police killings of young black men and riots in Ferguson; however, no matter how controversial Charles’s opinion is, he is entitled to it. I’m not saying Kenny Smith was right or wrong for telling Charles to stick to sports in his open letter to his co-host, all I’m saying is… I’ll let Stephen A. Smith take it from here:
P.S. The fact that we have black men in positions of media power that allow them to openly express their opinion on racial issues is a plus in my book.
And so I end this blog with a simple request: Dear black people, stop complaining. We’ve had some great media moments. Not saying that your concerns or qualms are not valid or that you shouldn’t voice these, I’m just saying in the midst of pointing out where things can improve, show some appreciation for the great media plays we’ve had this year!