In history, we have been used in America as sheer entertainment pawns. We are often the act, the talent, the entertainer while being controlled by whites; from what to wear, to what venues to perform at, to what we should be paid, or movies to do; the list goes on. Often when it comes to these black entertainers, many are deemed as sellouts for their selfish gains of exploiting or humiliating black culture in the name of the dollar with the exception of a few black icons that have refused these portrayals such as Dave Chappelle and Eddie Murphy. So it was no surprise however that Lee Daniels (Also the Director for The Butler) made the comment “I guess I’m a sellout then, call it what it is” in reference to him saying he had to “play ball” and followed it up by seeing “*chuckles* I’ll see you in the theaters” providing a false notion that selling-out for fame and fortune is what you should do. It also was no surprise that in his show “Empire” (starring Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard) he uses a dysfunctional black family brought up through drugs and pursuing a career in the music industry with a black son who is gay and another who dates a white woman or the many other scandalous actions in stereotypical movies/shows about the black culture (all that was missing was being a slave). When you’re more concerned about the outcome of your pockets at the expense of your people, you are a sellout.
What has surprise me however is the black communities continued support of sell-outs and negative images and propaganda of black people and families. Long gone are the days where we supported the Cosby’s or the Fresh Prince’s of Bel-Air, where we saw a more becoming and productive image of the black family and what it meant to be family to begin with. Now we have embraced shows like “Scandal” and “Empire” that’s filled with the drama and negative attacks on our black communities, so our communities can continuously tune in religiously to tweet about the next scandalous outcome of the show with ultimate excitement.
Where are our shows that show us more “put together”? Where are our black versions of Law and Order or CSI that shows us being the authority instead of the criminal like we had in the 90s with NYPD Blue? Where are our fictitious superhero shows and flicks that show the black image as an all-powerful being trying to rid the world of injustices for black children to aspire to be like? Why are new age black family roles so dysfunctional? More importantly if we created better images will we be so open to support it as we do with the negative shows? As we continue to struggle with acceptance here in America and its constant whitewashing of who we are, have we brought into the idea that our livelihood is subjected to negativity and that is the only way we are entertained with ourselves. Are we so beaten down mentally that now the only image of ourselves that we can view is negative, because we can relate so much to it? It’s not just Lee Daniels fault, we have continued to support the image of “real niggas”, loud-mouthed attitude-carrying women, side-chick era, and cheating husbands (sometimes homosexual). We have constantly let comedians make jokes about our acts of being lazy and unfit families.
Our icons of the past fought mighty hard to gain a sense of respectability amongst the country (that we continue to fight for) but more importantly amongst ourselves, and that respectability is continuously diminishing with the growing era of black dysfunctional entertainment. We had musicians such as James Brown make being black proud, we had The Black Power movement that regained our african heritage and created new african american state of being. We made fist and natural Afros the cool thing, we created the appeal of dark skin and made it the view of beauty and yet the new age entertainment is threatening to erase everything our previous leaders fought and died for with our growing support of it.
We have to realize that our image is constantly under attack. Even more we have to realize whom they are putting up to promote these images to us, some of our own. We can’t be picking and choosing when to support the positive black image as our black Greeks have chosen to do by becoming infuriated with VH1’s “Sorority Sisters” show but remaining silent on the other targets of black inferiority propaganda and even tuning in to it. We have to start calling for more positive images on our networks and cease negative portrayals. It’s clear that the current structure is to keep shows like the Cosby’s from ever making their way back, and so it is our duty to make sure we stop supporting the negativity they wish to show now, until there is a higher viewing of upliftment on their programs. We as the black community can not be so pacified with the notion “well its entertainment” or “its just TV” like T.V. didn’t give our kids the gangster image in videos, or the constant viewing of near naked women hasn’t influence women current dress code for clubs in near naked dresses, or the “quick come-up” in reality TV if you can land you a B or C celebrity. We need shows that show our black community as doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women etc. We need to reinforce the image we want by dissociating ourselves from the images we don’t. We are more than dysfunction.