Where Are the Black Romeos?

On primetime broadcast TV, Black men can be handsome, tall, strong and protective. They can be wealthy and powerful. But they cannot endear themselves to, or win the heart of, the Black female lead.

We are supposed to be witnessing a Golden Age of television. Arguably we have seen a flourishing of excellent TV writing and production, but for all of this progress, it seems like the one segment of society that U.S. broadcast networks resist affirming is that of a likable Black man who is worthy of the desirable Black woman he loves.

What in the Hays Code 2.0 kind of Black Love blocking is this?

But wait … isn’t this a blog about an interracial family? So why call out the dearth of Black lead romances on primetime network TV? As I’ve said before on this blog, I and my family are outliers in the United States, representing perhaps one percent of all marriages. Issues around representation in the media still affect us, however. Single Black women still want Black men, generally, and as long as we have escapist television, they should get the chance to dream a little.

Or, in this case, dream a lot … 

He runs a wealthy principality, has foreign policy experience, dresses like GQ, has ONLY heart eyes for Rosaline, but somehow he’s less worthy than the career drinker and brothel patron??

Networks are flailing around, trying to heed relentless calls for diversity and inclusion in everything from casting to authentic storylines to costuming and hairstyles. They’re checking boxes, and if they read the right blogs, or talk to the right Black friend before unlocking the escape room, they will not only cast more Blacks in great roles, but render Black relationships and families in believable ways.

Roscalus
Shondaland thought that his penitence on bended knee was an excellent time for her to turn cold and start falling for the shiftless artist.

Social justice warfare is not what I’m asking for. Television doesn’t quite lead the charge for societal change, anyway. But Black families have been part of the fabric of this country since it was a string of British colonies. There have been intact ones, led by decent Black men who were protective fathers and devoted husbands. Why don’t network television executives care about affirming the Black men who provide for, protect and nurture the Black women they actually love — and not just love until they attain affluence and then upgrade marry white? It seems like they are doing all of these contortions to pair every kind of body with every other kind of body else except the unit that has been just as much a pillar of American society as white families. We’ve had the Waltons. It’s high time for the Washingtons!

Yes, yes, I hear the counter punchers now, ticking off the network sitcoms anchored by Black couples. If you go back far enough in TV’s sitcom track record, you will find a good handful. But when it comes to hour-long dramas, the marquis events of broadcast TV, Black power couples are still pitifully scarce, and they are almost never the lead romance. If a recent crop of cancellations is any indication, we’ll have to wait for opportunities to see couples like the Suttons again.

Real Fam - Lincoln Heights
The Suttons were a lasting pillar in their community of Lincoln Heights — but they were on ABC Family (now Freeform), a daughter cable network.

“Still Star-Crossed,” ABC’s lush drama set in Renaissance Italy and shot in Spain with its sumptuous castles, cloisters and costumes (which explains all the pictures here), is the latest example of Black Love on the rocks. It was created by Heather Mitchell, a writer on “Scandal,” another Shondaland production. The glaring biases were laid bare and old patterns repeated as “Still Star-Crossed,” unfolded. Canceled after one season — the title seems so symbolic now — the show is based on a fanfiction novel that imagined events that took place in Verona weeks after Romeo and Juliet died. The female lead, Rosaline Capulet (Lashana Lynch), was a highly intelligent, compassionate, beautiful and loyal noblewoman, a prize for any young man of sizeable fortune in want of a wife. Sounds like she would make an excellent Princess First Lady to Prince Escalus, who rides into “fair Verona” just in time to swear some kind of deathbed oath to his very good-looking father. Everyone on this show is stunning, BTW.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Escalus has to rule a city being destabilized by the never-ending Montague-Capulet strife, just when outside city-states are building armies and licking their mutton chops to consume the wealthy territory. Critics and viewers point to Princess Isabella as the one more fit to rule, but Escalus should get much more credit for wisely understanding the larger realities that Verona faces. Despite the relentless weight of these domestic and foreign affairs, His Grace always brightens and melts a little when Rosaline comes into the room. She is after all, the girl at court whom he was madly in love with, until his father rather forcefully interrupted the romance by sending him to study in Venice.

Ugh. Then Renaissance loser Benvolio Montague (Wade Briggs), his “rival” for Rosaline’s affection staggers in. With no accomplishments to recommend him, we’re supposed to swoon for white, blue-eyed (OK, good-looking) Benvolio, who is set up as the “he’ll have to do I suppose” Montague heir. Because everyone else is dead. He swigs from a flask in church at his cousin’s secret wedding and knows more about the new girls at his favorite brothel than the family estate that supplies his pocket money. Of course Ben-whore-lio gets a sympathetic backstory, and this contrivance qualifies him to be in the same eligible bachelor runway as Escalus!

Never mind all of His Grace’s winsomeness. He just so happens to be the repugnant rich guy. He just so happens to clumsily toy with Rosaline’s heart. He just so happens to sucker punch Benvolio when he’s handcuffed and emotionally drained. Sigh. Maybe I’ve aged out of the core demographic for this overwrought nonsense, but the whole thing was so lazy, trite and juvenile.

Pain and devastation from a white man? I’ll be right over.

I might have overlooked this white feminist hatchet job on Prince Escalus had it not followed the demonizing of Daniel Reynolds. That character was a glorious FBI regional director from season three of “Sleepy Hollow,” a horror drama that appeared on FOX. Now-canceled, “Sleepy Hollow” followed beloved dynamo Grace Abigail Mills (Nicole Beharie) and man out of time Ichabod Crane as they unraveled weird mysteries and thwarted apocalyptic plots.

We should ask ourselves why casting directors just so happen to think Black men are the reliable fit to play the Black woman’s “abuser,” but scarcely think of them as the right fit to play the honorable man who emotionally nourishes her.

Once again, a Black woman’s superior IBM, who is obviously madly in love with her, is shoved aside because shippers in the village square think the jobless white guy is better. Despite the fact that she always has to rescue this white man in some way, or support him financially and sometimes emotionally.

Once again, despite his physical magnificence, his intellect and winning-at-life togetherness, Director Reynolds is written as abrasive, untrustworthy and borderline emotionally abusive toward Abbie. Yet he thought the world of Abbie. He encouraged her in her chosen dream career, unlike Ichabod who resented the idea that Abbie’s success in the FBI could take her to a post far away. He eventually came onto Team Witness, answering to her.

Once again, Abbie Mills was romantically involved with the superior man, who was Black. I know that we have a phrase “stuck on stupid,” for women who are blind to the evils of a toxic relationship but Danny and Escalus were solid men handling big responsibilities, not self-righteous and abusive.

Danabbie
The zombie monster who killed those poor souls got a lipless (!!!) make out with his girlfriend-stein long before these two alphas talked it out and kissed. I cannot …

White audiences — and sometimes nerdy Black girls — are generally blind and tone deaf to these nuances, writing it off as typical of the way TV deals with love rivals. Guys like Escalus and Danny are supposed to be jerks, then become just noble enough to sacrifice their lives to ‘save the city’ and clear a path for the jobless white guy. Or maybe it’s an unavoidable outcome of colorblind casting. But if that is the case, we should ask ourselves why casting directors just so happen to think Black men are the reliable fit to play the Black woman’s “abuser,” but scarcely think of them as the right fit to play the honorable man who emotionally nourishes her.

What annoys me are the white fangirls, blogging and wailing about “abusive” or “toxic” behavior from guys like Danny and Escalus. They obviously haven’t dealt with Black male corporate bosses, followed Black male pastors, worked for a Black ward heeler or had to be accountable to any other Black man who has a lot to deal with. The Escalus and Danny characters were short on patience at times, but not gaslighting, emotionally manipulating tyrants.

Certainly neither one was a wanton killer, or kept company with them, like Fitzwilliam Grant. Oh! Remember when Olivia Pope, the apex of Black womanhood on TV during her heyday, rejected a second marriage proposal from Edison Davis, a prominent Black senator from Florida, because she wanted “painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love?”

Yeah, the doubles standards are a bit much.

Danabbie2
Abbie Mills once disarmed and tackled this guy, 2x her size, then eventually signed him onto a team where he follows HER lead. Was she really ‘abused’ in this relationship?

It’s a compelling question for me: What do successful Black women like Shonda Rhimes, who heads the Shondaland production company, and Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment Group, really think about successful Black men?

I understand that Ms. Dungey and Ms. Rhimes cannot oversee every writer’s room to ensure that the likes of Prince Escalus are made lovable. Yet, here are two women in positions of unprecedented power and influence in American TV, falling back on the time-worn notion that Black men are here to break Black women down. They are reflecting the more contemporary thinking that Black women are opening up their dating options. That would be fine if they didn’t mingle that with the idea that Black women are better off without Black men entirely. The reality is that real-life accomplished Black women do not agree.

Iris West’s new editor-in-chief Scott Evans was smart, successful and a sharp dresser. But just because he wasn’t destined to be her Gold Standard, did he have to be so detestable?

Even “swirlers” like me didn’t plan to marry out, and most of us might have gone with an IBM if we had encountered them before the white guy. Understand this: when IBMs get ornery, sisters can usually handle their rudeness and blustering. And when it gets to be too much, we know how to manage the situation and put them back in their place — or escape for a girlfriends weekend or night out. Otherwise, we leave them. I know it isn’t always that neat and simple, but Black Love has its ups and downs, and most Black women believe that the great days are worth the scrapes.

Don’t Be Surprised When Race Bending Comes Full Circle

I call myself a movie buff and patron of the theater, but I’ve always found the entertainment industry to be incorrigibly absurd, always asking audiences to suspend disbelief in poorly conceived plot twists and editing choices. And I hold the powers that be in a permanent state of suspicion when it comes to finding fair and believable ways to include Black actors in creative output.

That’s why I’m ambivalent about this whole “race bending” practice spreading through the entertainment industry right now.

Sometimes I bring a theatrical view of things to the table, where you can see how iconic characters would be played by someone outside of the original race for the stage. Photos emerged this week of the Granger-Weasley family in the new stage production of “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child,” and Hermoine has grown up to be a Black woman. They have a daughter with a mane of thick, naturally coily hair, dark skin and a mischievous Weasley glint in her eyes.

Ron-Hermione-Rose

Quite a few people who consider themselves to be enlightened anticipated “the haters” and quickly clapped back at people who pointed out that the casting was not in line with Hermoine as portrayed in the original series of books. Twitter lit up with avid readers highlighting passages describing Hermoine’s “white skin,” and other allusions to her being a white English rose. In most cases, I would side with the ones cheering on whatever is supposed to be going on here. I’m just not sure what that is: Progress? Pure, talent-based, colorblind casting? A … bait and switch in the making?

Rose-Granger-Weasley

I have nothing against the actresses playing Hermoine Granger-Weasley and Hermoine’s daughter Rose. They are attractive and the young girl’s charm radiates through the promotional photo. You just know she’s going to put down a remarkable performance as a witch with her mother’s brains, an unbridled heart like her father’s, and the astonishing talents of both parents.

To be clear, race bending is not what happens when a Black actor is cast in a role from an original screenplay where the race or ethnicity of a character has not been explicitly or reasonably established. Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard” is a great example. When a Black actor’s management gets wind of an opportunity to play a dynamic and appealing character, one whose race and ethnicity isn’t established in the script, there is nothing better than that rep really pushing for his or her talent to take on that role. May the best talent win, and if it goes to a Black actor, all is fair.

Race bending happens when, for instance, James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad led a Black production of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.” (I missed the brilliant and sublime Anika Noni Rose as Maggie the Cat!) Or Candice Patton signed on as Iris West, the soulmate and destined wife of DC superhero Barry Allan, AKA The Flash.  It was one thing when Black actors took roles in which the character was always depicted, described or drawn, as white, or it was plainly and reasonably understood that those characters were white. Opportunities for Black actors were scarce and narrowly written, because stories about Black life — all aspects of it — were scarce and narrowly written. Also, the mainstream stories themselves were so appealing. What actress wouldn’t relish the chance to bring her interpretation to one of Tennessee Williams’ women fraying at the edges? And I have to admit that Candice Patton is doing a terrific job in her portrayal as Iris West.

But I think the jaded entertainment industry needs to snap out of its culture malaise and produce stories around themes that are definitely about Black people, portrayed by people who are recognizably Black. We no longer live in an age where trauma-laden slave narratives and one dimensional melodramas of homespun wisdom are the only opportunities available for Black actors who want to work. Black actors, and the culturally diverse casts that they are part of, have more than proven that they are bankable, whether the story is a sensitive and heartfelt offering in the fall, or a pyrotechnic summer blockbuster. The way forward, at least in my opinion as a discerning viewer, is to produce stories where Blacks are everything: alluring and demure; noble and ignoble; complex and rich with troubled pasts; or single-mindedly devoted to whatever twisted agenda drives a thriller. You know … stories!

I don’t want to overthink Harry Potter because it’s only Harry Potter. High-minded issues like fair representation in works of film are probably best left to serious dramas and feature films. What troubles me here is that young Black people are already enthusiastically celebrating the reimagined casting in “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child,” as if this decision is some indication that predominantly white culture has finally learned to look past our skin color, etc., to see only talent and content of character when they need someone to fill a role. It hasn’t. It has copped out of recognizing enchanting stories and characters from non-white cultures in favor of slotting Black actors into white culture. As charming as the world of Harry Potter is, it is still a very white, English world. Everyone else just slots into it, regardless of what flavorful delectables were packed in the Ziploc containers for the train ride, or the native language that was being spoken in their homes while their mothers hurried them to pack their bags to head for Platform 9 and 3/4. As much as I respect Ms. Rowling and give her all the props for spinning a world we can all get lost in, total assimilation without so much as a glance into a Black person’s heritage (or other person of color’s) is not flattering.

If viewers continue to support Hollywood’s culture copout, then pretty soon you’ll see Hollywood casting directors develop the audacity to do a remake of “The Color Purple,” with a cast of illiterate, toothless white Appalachians. Our beloved “The Wiz” will be white one day, with people dancing on the ones and threes. Get ready for a reimagining of Octavia Butler’s hallowed “Kindred” with Scots-Irish indentured servants, not Black slaves. By failing to create storylines and roles around what makes us special, they ignore our identity — and I hate it when white people shrug and say narrow-minded things like, “I don’t see color,” as if ignoring what’s right in from of them somehow makes them enlightened. It doesn’t.

If you believe I’m “overthinking it,” you are in the dark on this issue. White decision makers are already whitewashing Asian characters out of stories that are distinctly Asian, choking Asian actors off work that is rightfully theirs. Just look into what Asian actors think of what Hollywood is doing to stories that represent them and their culture, starting with the Twitter campaign #whitewashedOUT.

Here We Go Again: Backlash Over TV One Sitcom Calls It ‘A Wrap’ On Black Women

Every now and then I pull up a blog, vlog or snatch a piece of the public conversation about the state of Black women in America, and I come across a misogynistic tirade, often disturbingly gleeful, about why Black women are facing annihilation. Apparently, all but the lightest skinned amongst us are on the brink of collapse and utter humiliation, having destroyed the moral compass of an entire race.

So when TV One began running promos for its new sitcom, “Here We Go Again,” the predictable jeers resounded — often from men who aren’t content in just marrying white, Asian and Latino women, but who need to devote much of their energy to bashing Black women, too. I happen to like watching Black people on TV, so I had to find out what the fuss was all about. The sitcom follows the lives of three generations of women supposedly affected by a family curse. Wendy Racquel Robinson, known as Tasha Mack from “The Game,” stars as Loretta, who had her first child at 16. That child, Maddy, played by Latoya Luckett, one of our favorite “Single Ladies” also got pregnant at 16 with Chante, played by newcomer Kyndall Ferguson. The story picks up right before Chante’s Sweet 16 birthday party, an event that her mother greets with great foreboding and stern lectures about safe sex, and preferably, chastity. They’re all on pins and needles, fearing that Chante will succumb to the supposed family curse of a pregnancy at 16. Chante’s birthday does usher in a pregnancy — Maddy’s. And the father happens to be Victor, Maddy’s old high school sweetheart and Chante’s biological father, played by Andra Fuller (RoomieLoverFriends, The Game).

herewegoagainpostertvone

The self-appointed moralizers immediately panned the concept, saying it was cheap, degrading and portrayed Black women as hopelessly stupid hussies. I mean of all the topics to make television shows about, this is what TV One is backing? Supposedly this show takes a rampant out-of-wedlock birthrate among African-Americans, and turns it into “coonery,” an exploitation of our poor decision making and dire circumstances for mass entertainment. And apparently, Black women are ignorantly complicit to all of this.

But I actually watched the first two episodes, which the amateur TV critics might also have done in advance had they the press credentials to do so. In their haste to troll for clicks, stir up a tempest in a teacup, or gin up another flimsy excuse to bash Black women, the alarmists overlooked a few pivotal facts:

  1. Loretta has only one child, Maddy. After the pregnancy, she buckled down, became a successful realtor and didn’t have multiple unplanned pregnancies by different men.
  2. Maddy only has one child, Chante. After her pregnancy, she buckled down to become a successful lawyer. She never slept around, and never got knocked up by different guys, either.
  3. Maddy and Chante’s father co-parent and treat each other with respect. And by smooth co-parenting I mean that Maddy took charge while Chante’s father went off and had a successful football career. Both are successful professionals and provide a comfortable upper middle-class life for their daughter, including a private school, a large and luxurious house, and toys like a smartwatch and her own car.
  4.  Victor only has one child, Chante. But of course, the misogynegros expected this level of uprightness from him, since Black men are the natural backbone of the Black community, right? Riiight.
  5. Yes, Maddy got pregnant while in a relationship with another man — and her boyfriend is very good-looking and has his whole act together. But that relationship is celibate and had been so from the beginning. Clearly Maddy has a very short list of sexual partners, and her heart seems to be tugging her back to Victor.

Apparently, people objected to television executives mining a very real problem in our community for laughs. But this show doesn’t set out to coon Black people. Far from it: ‘Here We Go Again’ goes out of its way to depict a family that would be perfect aside from ill-timed pregnancies. And it seems a little unrealistic: How many teen mothers go on to become successful attorneys with all the trappings of the upper middle class? Also, while Maddy, Victor and Loretta were all out devoting so much time to building successful careers, who was reading to Baby Chante every night? Who carted her to story time at the library? Or did Maddy not sleep at all while Chante was a tot? If anything, the show dodges the tough economic and social realities of raising a child as a teenager. It decides to paint a picture of an exceptional family that overcame circumstances that trap so many Black women in poverty.

The story arc points to Maddy possibly reconciling with the only father of her two children. A family is being formed here. It is not a tragic tale of promiscuity, ignorance and social decay. Maddy is clearly not a trick, THOT, chicken head or any other charming sobriquets of a woman with a sex life, and she doesn’t fit into any of the ugly characterizations that the trigger-happy trolls are all too pleased to throw on her. She doesn’t hang out with guys whose only high scores in life are their recidivism rates. Chante’s father, as it turns out, wrapped up a successful NFL career and emerged with his finances and marbles intact. He is now eager to play a more active role in Chante’s life. He wants to support Maddy as she carries their second child.

If Maddy and Victor reconcile, then what will you have? A sitcom about two attractive and young, successful professionals who thought their diaper days were over, when … “Here We Go Again.” So how, on the strength of this particular show’s concept and execution, are Black women losing, exactly?

Nice try, Hoteps and handmaids, but you’ll have to get your kicks from kicking Black women some other time.

Fun fact: according to the discussion board on LeToya Luckett’s Web site, Ms. Ferguson is the daughter of R&B star El Debarge, and Tracey Ferguson, founder of the Black women’s luxury magazine Jones.

 

#BlackLivesMatter, Just Beware the Misogynegro

A few months ago I started to wonder if Black women who discuss their interracial relationships online weren’t doing themselves more harm than good. It seemed like we could hardly post a blog, Facebook post, Tweet or Tumblr update celebrating our relationships without intense backlash and unfounded claims that we were “bashing Black men.”

I had hoped the drumbeat would die down, since Black women were not backing down from marrying out. Actually, the phenomenon gained steam. Also, independent think tank data, mainly from the Pew Center, suggested that Black women who married out were often just as healthy as any other woman in a stable, healthy relationship, so it seemed like “swirling” did us no harm.

But the hypersensitivity didn’t die down. In fact, it has morphed into full-on hatred. For reasons that no rational person will ever be able to work out, a specific strain of Black men have intensified their campaign of railing against an oppressive white regime, proclaiming that #BlackLivesMater, while instilling self-loathing in Black women. Incredibly, they begrudge Black women of the happiness they find outside their race! Their videos, crude artwork, photo manipulations and blog posts communicate one message: Black women of every educational and social background are the scourge of the Black race, and are the cause of its “downfall.” It’s not enough that they don’t want us, but they don’t think anyone else should want us, either. To them, it doesn’t matter if we are cut from the same cloth as Michelle Obama or relate more to “New York” of reality TV infamy. To them, we are all trash, and deserve to be reminded of that fact whenever anything, be it innocuous or really troubling, sets them off.

Also, I couldn’t help notice that they idealize women with brown, caramel, olive and white complexions. Remarkably, the one or two men who had the courage to show their faces on their troll accounts were often very dark-skinned, broad-nosed, coily-haired and thick-lipped Black men. What else could this content be but hypocrisy and a bit of self-loathing itself?

Notice that the ideal male ruler has a "chocolate" complexion, and his so-called Queen is significantly lighter?

Notice that the ideal male ruler has a “chocolate” complexion, and his so-called Queen is significantly lighter and significantly softened Black features?

That’s when I gave up on trying to make sense of the pointed attacks that these men leveled from their cowardly social media troll accounts. I systematically began reporting all videos and channels with disembodied voices ranting about the evils of the Black woman, and then blocked them from my feed. That’s also when the word “misogynegro” came to mind. That type of character underpins what I call the hidden Third World in the Black community, and I define it this way:

mi-soj-uh-nee-gro

  1. a man of African, particularly Bantu, descent who zealously and irrationally vilifies women of African, particularly Bantu, descent. Such individuals tend to display an obsessive interest in ancient Egyptian of African Hebrew culture. They also devoutly glorify women of all other ethnic groups, regardless of their socio-economic background, educational attainment, or personal mores.

Mind you, misogynegros don’t all subscribe to a specific pseudo-religious sect, hail from the same socioeconomic background, and they are not all straight. Several of the most demeaning misogynoiristic hate speech, be it public, private or online, come from gay or trans men. You’ll find misogynegros all over hip-hop, which is why the “Straight Outta Compton” movie phenomenon can miss me forever, no matter how phenomenally it performed at the box office. No narrative about the Black experience is so important to Black people that it can be allowed to ignore the degradation, brutal violence, blackballing and finally, abandonment that Black women endured to prop up Black men.

I have some theories about what might be driving this visceral hatred of Black women, and maybe it’s something I’ll address in another post. My point for now is that Black mothers need to prepare their daughters for the inevitable encounters with these guys. I don’t believe these guys are harmless, docile internet trolls. A video composed of a disembodied voice feverishly cussing out Black women dubbed over footage of boys wielding guns and smoking weed is a sign of a troubled mind, ready to blow. I would hate to see violence against Black American women to the point that it’s indistinguishable from what you hear of in oppressive paternalistic societies. Don’t think that gang rapes on a bus, honor killings or dowry murders is something only East Asians are capable of doing. We live in a society that has a cavalier attitude about violence on Black women. How long do you think that those fever-brained rantings will stay confined to the outback of the Internet before something happens on Main Street? Black women will need to learn how to either talk their way out of confrontations with these guys, or knock them down and run!

How Did #OscarsSoWhite Get So Messy?

Right now, the Northeast is under a blizzard watch for all of Saturday, and it seems like a similar storm over the blinding exclusive whiteness of the 20 performer nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. All but the completely Grinchy at heart can see the inherent bias from a nominating and voting board that is 94% white and 77% male.

What’s a Black actor, writer or director to do in situations like this? The immediate answer is not much. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is not a government body, and is under no real obligation to behave in a way that represents or reflects the best interests of the population that consumes the products they put out. Ah, but there is the key word: the consumers. When you look at the breakdown of movie ticket buyers, it seems that about 46% of them are Black. It’s obvious then, that Black people have very little trouble laying aside any cultural or skin tone differences when choosing what to watch and which actors to follow.

Hey, Matt Damon and Ridley Scott: You’re welcome, by the way, for whatever contribution we made in helping your film succeed. Glad you put that obnoxious, nasty “Moses” business behind you.

You’ve seen the video on her Facebook page, right? In just under three minutes, she asks whether “we” have come to a time and place where “we” should stop yearning, no, begging, for a body that doesn’t reflect or represent us to actually duly acknowledge our creative output, especially when it is outstanding and might deserve an award. And that maybe it is time for “us” to pull back “our” resources and put them back into our own projects. Strike out on our own. She also announced the now-famous boycott of the Oscars.

Oh, Mrs. Smith. The years have given astute observers so much ammunition to cast doubt on the sincerity of your desire to be FUBU, when your husband was supposedly one of the actors who was supposedly snubbed for a nomination. Her husband’s former co-star Janet Hubert, however, minced no words in her response, which went viral, of course. She pulled the Smith’s cards, noting that they have never strongly advocated for the careers of actors of color, aside from their own children, and that it was thoughtless of them to call for actors with less social and economic clout to take a course of action that might put them on the outs with the powers that be.

Some say Ms. Hubert was merely salty — still, after 20 years — for a falling out that she had with Will Smith leading to her exit from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Well, if that’s the case, then Ms. Hubert has company, because my first inclination after seeing Mrs. Smith’s video was that she was salty because her husband was not nominated for an award. The Smiths might make modest gestures in helping former costars here and there launch a minor project, but they are far from being figures that have helped mentor and advise up and coming talent in the industry, particularly if they’re not one of Will’s kids. Kind of weird to expect the people who might have benefited from your advocacy in the past to now take a bold stance with their careers to help you all make a point, huh?

And poor Will. When he did get around to getting on a national platform to explain his perspective on diversity in Hollywood, he really sounded like he was not prepared for the backlash that Jada had gotten him into. He always seemed to be searching for the right words to Robin Roberts’ questions, as if he’s never really trod on that topic before and had to quickly think on his feet to come up with an answer.

I’ve always thought that Jada was the kookier one in that relationship, and now I’m totally convinced.

If Jada’s video has gotten him deeper into an area that he didn’t expect, then it will be interesting to see how he gets out of this one.

Regardless of whether this storm blows over with the Smiths, I can tell you that I’ve already moved on from expecting mainstream networks and movie studios to tell stories reflective of my culture. After noticing some of the special tomfoolery that goes on with Black actors, and other actors of color, I’ve been seeking out other entertainment options that highlight more Blacks, men and women, and in varied ways that don’t play to lazy stereotyping by white writers who just don’t know any better or don’t care to. The Smiths are late with their self-serving call to action, and the Oscars lost a lot of their luster and relevance in my mind years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving With Black Families

Updated: Found this hash tag on Twitter today,  #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies …

As if it wasn’t bad enough that I was kee-keeing my way to an early grave, when sure enough, there was one for BW “swirlers.”

 

The Regressive Thinking Behind Rachel Dolezal’s Scam

One of the greatest aspects of living in North Jersey is its multiculturalism. You don’t have to try very hard or go very far to run into people of every description. Integration helps us to coexist as we are, without the pressure to stop calling ourselves Black, white, mixed, Asian or what have you. Someone should have explained that to Rachel Dolezal, the Caucasian woman who just resigned as the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP.

A lot has been said about Dolezal’s racial confusion since last week, when her parents revealed that she is white, with no Black ancestry. Writers and pundits keep on raising the question of what it means to be Black or Caucasian. Is this Blackface? Can she fairly be compared to Caitlyn Jenner? Poppycock to all of it! Rachel Dolezal’s dogged insistence on identifying as Black undermines our efforts as a society to achieve harmonious racial coexistence, and that is the real issue.

White America (I said it, now deal) has a shameful, dark past of extreme cruelty and depravity toward Blacks and Native Americans, in particular, which was driven by greed, a false sense of white superiority, and racial hatred. That history cannot be denied. When minorities began to organize themselves and resist these forces, they had to face the reality that, as minorities and people who are not omnipresent or omnipotent, they needed to strike partnerships with whites who had a strong moral compass, and who could help spread the message of the need for freedom and justice. That’s how the NAACP came to be, when it was founded by Blacks and whites in 1909. White abolitionists, and later white civil rights workers dedicated their time, talent and treasures to the work, and often risked their lives. But that did not make them Black, and when Blacks began to earn money, found schools, relearn their own histories, reclaim and expand on their own histories, and move into the Middle Class, it did not make them white!!

In an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show, Rachel mentioned the fact that at one point, she obtained full custody of her Black adopted brother Isaiah, and that since he called her “Mom” at that point, she couldn’t plausibly be seen as white and be his mom!! That is what set me off.  Zahara Jolie-Pitt, who was born as Yemsrach in Ethiopia, plausibly has white parents, and white and Asian siblings. Ask Halle Berry and Paula Patton, both of whom identify as Black, about their Caucasian mothers, and how those wise women helped prepare them for certain racial realities as they went out into the world. Dolezal’s statement completely undermines the idea that Americans can be different racially and culturally, yet move past the surface and embrace each other and relate to each other as human beings.

Zahara Jolie-Pitt ZaharaMomDad1

More has come out about Dolezal’s past, which undermine her imaginary Blackness, including a 2002 lawsuit that she filed against Howard University, alleging discrimination against her because she was white. Not Black or a woman, but white. I refuse to watch this deceiver derail a much-needed conversation about race in our country and confuse my daughter as she discovers her identity.

Yesterday I read Baby Girl a newspaper story about flooding in the republic of Georgia, which resulted in zoo animals escaping their pens and roaming the streets of the capital. This is a reading family, a thinking family, and I cannot imagine what Baby Girl is going to think after gets a load of this lady!

An Antique Photo, A Lingering Question

While flipping through Flickr, I came across this antique photo of what appears to be an interracial American couple. They seem to be well to do, judging by the smart cut of his suit, and her fashionably billowy sleeves. And she made sure to tell her ladies’ maid, or whoever assisted her, to do her best work on the hair. OK?

Little did they know that one day couples like theirs would flourish in America!

Little did they know that one day couples like theirs would flourish in America!

 

The question is: Are they a mixed couple, and is she Black? Certainly her facial features suggest a strong influence of a Black parent or two grandparents. And we know plenty of dark-skinned people with fine, even thin, facial features. The Flickr caption notes that the previous owner of the card described the woman as an “African American beauty,” but it is not clear how the photographer, F.B. Clench, described them. The curator didn’t think it was clear that she was Black, but no other suggestion was offered. Her hair looks silken, but beyond that I don’t see anything that puts her African descent into question. Her eyes remind me of Ethiopian and Eritrean women I’ve met and regularly see around town or at church. Was she descended from Ethiopians? It is hard to say, since commerce and missionary relationships between the U.S. and what was called Abyssinia at the time was very light. Who knows if Abyssinians had established their networks here in the U.S. and intermarried by 1889 and 1898, when the photo was taken.

In any case, they look wonderful, and I took special note of their posture and smiles. They actually look relaxed, like they wanted to be there and get their money’s worth. They are leaning toward each other, touching, and they even seem aware of the camera, and what a remarkable occasion it was to have their portrait professionally done. Unlike a lot of the other facial expressions you find in Victorian-era photographs, middle-and high-class people frozen in hard-bitten stoicism, stiff and awkward, as if taking a picture was an alien experience and an imposition. I wouldn’t want to be remembered like that for all time. These fine folks are dressed to the nines and happy to be there! Thumbs up.

 

IR Couples Have to Laugh at Themselves Sometimes

I watch Sleepy Hollow on FOX. I do. The show hooked me in its first season last year, because it was bat-shit crazy and lots of fun. Rather, it used to be loads of fun in the first season. But then the writers took things too seriously, all kinds of overwrought drama ensued in the second season, and the show lost its verve.

But there were glimmers of the fun from the good old days, like an incident from “Awakening,” (S2:Ep 17) where an enchanted bell rang and that was supposed to awaken all the dormant witches and warlocks in the town of Sleepy Hollow. One couple, a BW-WM, was sitting in a cafe, when he delivered horrific news to his wife: He had gambled away ALL the family’s financial assets. Wiped them out. At that point, the bell rang and, coincidentally, her eyes went all milky white and when she came to her senses she had somehow choked him. Wiped him out!

PUNCHLINE: This hi-larious tweet from Orlando Jones, who is a regular on the cast:

I don’t know who is writing Orlando Jones’ Twitter feed, but I feel so supported. So understood! Sometimes, when you’re talking about these interracial marriages, even when a big fight is about to go down, you need to acknowledge that the wife is justifiably upset. And if you survive the apocalyptic blowup, you’ve got to look back and find the humor in things.

Sex and Living Single, In Accra

A few months ago a friend of mine texted me a link to a Web series, “An African City,” a scripted Web series that followed the lives of five West African women returnees. They strive to manage successful careers, balance cultural traditions with “First World” sensibilities, and of course, look for love.

I’m looking for more episodes of this series, so I hope the creators bring us a second season! The first 10 episodes were entertaining, if a little derivative of familiar TV series like “Living Single” and “Sex and the City.” My favorite character in the series so far — the outfits. Truly, the costume designer/wardrobe manager is keeping these ladies in some fine threads, and everyone looks great. To me, the epitome of style and fashion is to blend traditional prints with cutting-edge lines, a la Clara Design.

The characters leave a little to be desired, and that’s probably because the writer-director has to leave room for external and internal conflict. A character’s flaws and failings are what drive stories forward. It’s just that the flaws in these characters — like why the always seem to be offended by local customs and local men — don’t seem to make a lot of sense. For instance, in the opening scene of the first episode, NaNa Yaa takes great offense to being mistaken for a foreigner by a customs agent. She indignantly rolls her eyes at him, insisting that she is Ghanaian — yet she doesn’t speak the native language, not even enough to be passably conversant. She is rusty on essential etiquette, like passing objects with your right hand only, not your left. What else is a busy customs agent with common sense supposed to think, except that she might be an Black native of England, Canada, the U.S. or Jamaica?

And that’s pretty much the way the series works. The ladies meet up in trendy restaurants all over Accra and decry the latest affront to their feminist First World sensibilities. It just seems like the characters flew back to Ghana but never really mentally left the big cities abroad. Yes, water and electricity interruptions are aggravating. I drink lots of water. Plus, I wear my hair natural (under my wigs, ha ha) and I can’t imagine not letting a steamy shower help moisturize my hair at night. But during Ep. 9, “#TeamSade, #TeamN’gozi,” three of the women are at a social dinner with highly placed government officials, and they brought oppressive attitudes with them the whole time. Ultimately, storming off and barking at their friend to follow seemed less about empowerment and more about being self-centered and spoiled.

Many of the characters’ flaws and baffling contradictions were all on display in that episode. For instance, let’s look at:

N’gozi: She is a Christian, and I appreciate that she is counted among the group. A lot of West Africans identify as Believers. But why was she written to be so vapid and whiny? I know few Christian women who are as angst-ridden as she is, or who let her harridan “friends” boss her around so much. Also, why do the characters have to heap so much scorn on N’gozi for practicing abstinence and vegetarianism? The former lifestyle choice isn’t a ridiculous one, particularly given the high HIV infection rate in Africa. Isn’t abstinence just another wise option for a woman “empowered” top make choices for the good of her body and her health? Also, N’gozi is not a proselytizing nuisance. She is a conscientious employer, reluctant to keep her driver idling while she goes about her whims about town with her friends. It just seems like the writer is expressing a bias against piety and self-restraint, and it comes through in the form of  a tolerance deficit on the part of her friends.

Sade: I thought educated, resourceful women didn’t need to trade sex for material goods. Had Sade practiced her Accra lifestyle in Massachusetts, she would have been labeled a gold digger a long time ago.

And yet, if a new season is created and posted, I’ll be watching and looking for the same things everyone else wants. Bring on the killer fashions, the beat hair and flawless makeup, and don’t forget the cute guys. I just hope the show’s creators remembers flesh out the characters in a way that makes more rational sense. Return the returnees!