Harry and Meghan’s Master Class on Real Change

A few months ago a neighbor and I got to talking about Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, known on this side of the pond as Meghan Markle. My neighbor is like me in a way: much more abreast of the happenings with the Windsors than typical Americans.

“She is going to break under the pressure.” And as for Harry, “I feel like he’s going to stray.”

I wasn’t so convinced, on either count. Let’s take a deeper look at who we’re talking about, if I may as a realist with an optimistic inclination. She’s achieved respectability and success as a TV actress in Hollywood. It’s an industry notorious for subjecting women to intense scrutiny, and doubles down on that scrutiny with extra disrespect when it comes to Black and mixed-race women like Meghan. I’ve seen everything from wildly rude and catty red carpet slights, invectives hurled in the comment sections of women’s online magazines to racist insults and death threats on social media. Hopefully, the devouring pressures of Hollywood might have prepared Ms. Markle for what was to come of life in The Firm, as the British royal family is known? And besides, her husband is a distant heir to the throne. His whole close family would have to pass away for him to ascend. Without the heavy weight of the crown in his future, it seems like the Sussexes could carve their own path in a way that protects their family and confers more dignity to that institution status.

Well, it looks like my neighbor and I were both right, in different ways. Meghan has been unhappy, as my neighbor thought. She isn’t putting on a stiff upper lip and facing down the press, like I thought she would, though.

Together with her husband, Meghan announced a plan to address their dissatisfaction on Instagram.

And then came that clip from the behind the scenes documentary of their travel to Africa, in which Meghan explained to the interviewer that things are tough, and very few people really ask about how she is doing. It should have been a reality check for a lot of royal watchers. But like Americans and their fervent obsession with their guns, regardless of how many lives are sacrificed, the Brits don’t care whose lives are tormented, as long as they get their royal fix. Their feeble and threadbare justification is that taxpayers pick up the tab for the Sussexes’ security, travel and living expenses. I bet none of these mixed-race yahoo-neanderthals even know what kind of an impact crater these costs are leaving in their household budgets. Even if they knew the few pence they have to part with per annum, none of that would entitle the public to their ravenous, voyeuristic obsession with every aspect of the Sussexes’ lives or the openly racist insults that have been hurled at Ms. Markle and her son. But what can you expect from that ilk.

A lot of people conveniently forget that Prince Harry has survived public scandal, had public relationships and he has matured into a grown man who will make his own decisions. More than likely Ms. Markle appeals to an independent streak, and a willingness to be more connected to the world of possibilities, instead of tied to frigid, overcast England, the institutions that come with being the king, and the bloodsuckers called the British press.

Remember all the hullabaloo and fuss after the Cambridges’ wedding, when Will drove that Aston Martin from the wedding, and how the press gushed that ‘this is a modern couple doing things their way?’ The Brits have a pretty low bar for what it means to be ‘independent,’ don’t they? 

What tickles me is to watch some of these grown women barely conceal their bitterness that a commoner, a biracial American divorcee and former TV actress not only married the Prince of England, but “lure him away” so that they couldn’t get their daily “bash a royal” fix.

Oh, England. Take a clue — or several — from other European royal houses and chill.

So! This is a wise move on the part of the Sussexes. Hopefully, all things will work for their advantage for the most part. 

And tell me, if the British monarchy receives the mother of all shake-ups and is abolished, say, before Prince George can take the throne, whom do you think will be better positioned to adapt to private, financially independent lives? A couple where the wife established her wealth, success and respect before she married her prince, or a crown prince and the perfectly nice wife who never did?  

 

Meghan Said ‘Yes’ to Prince Harry’s Proposal!

Blame it on my tea-drinking commonwealth heritage or my love of Jane Austen, monogrammed stationery, and bone china. But when the British royals announced on Monday that American actress and humanitarian Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged, I took notice.

Meghan Markle and Prince Henry of Wales spilled the news outside of Clarence House in London.

We should have all suspected that Ms. Markle was going to get a special ring (and it is special, let me tell you!) when faithful monarch watcher Vanity Fair reported last month that Meghan intended to move to London, give up her acting career and focus on philanthropy full-time.

It’s almost another Grace Kelly type of situation, where an American actress married into a reigning European monarchy and the already intense media curiosity was turned up quite a few notches. Ms. Markle is widely popular due to her work on the successful TV show “Suits,” via STARZ, and her long record of admirable humanitarian and philanthropic work.

Why do we care? Down-to-earth Meghan is one of us.

One of the reasons Prince Harry and Ms. Markle’s engagement is attracting interest — aside from his lineage — is her lineage: She is biracial, with an African-American mother and a white father. On that historical side note, the couple is not a ‘first.’ Prince Harry comes second to Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein in scooping up an African-American bride. He married then Angela Gisela Brown, a New York fashion designer, in 2000. Her Serene Highness Princess Angela is first person of known African origin to marry into a reigning European monarchy. They have one son, Prince Alfons Constantin Maria of Leichtenstein.

They’ve got a growing teenager on their hands!

It’s hard to tell what it is about American women that have these two European princes besotted, but they are obviously happy.

How the news unfolded

Technically, His Royal Highness (HRH) The Prince of Wales – or Prince Charles to the common folk and foreigners – announced the engagement of this very adult couple. Apparently, they will have the ceremony at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and life afterward at Nottingham Cottage in Kensington Palace.

I must say … I like how these Windsors set up their chapels and ‘snug’ cottages.

Kensington Palace, the residence of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, announced the statement from Meghan’s parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle.

The Independent, one of Great Britain’s more well-regarded newspapers of record, has all kinds of details about the engagement and the ring, but here is a photo: 

It’s pretty special, with the large center stone from Botswana (they recently vacationed there) and the two outer stones from the private collection of Lady Diana, formerly HRH Princess of Wales.

You could say that the engagement breaks with centuries of British royal tradition, and it does. Markle is divorced. Also, her African lineage on her mother’s side could make the royal family more diverse and, according to some, reduce some of the stigmas that some Black British citizens have felt living in that society.

I don’t know about that last part, though, racial issues aside. Perhaps contemporary non-white Britons have been so fed up with the other side of what the Windsor family represents — a lineage enriched by centuries of England oppressing foreigners and its lower classes — that the monarchy is far less enthralling as it used to be. One tourist from Los Angeles who was outside Buckingham Palace when the news broke said:

“It’s exciting that he’s engaged to an American, I think that’s every American girl’s dream,” she said. “Now there’s hope for us Americans, for American girls.”

Is it every American girl’s dream to fall in love with and marry a wealthy prince? I don’t agree, for the obvious reason that young girls have a vast array of accessible dreams to them today. Girls of African descent, in particular, are taught to put their hope and trust in their own abilities and not to entertain too many hopes of being swept away by a rich, handsome husband. Especially not in modern American society, where it takes two incomes to live well. That was the case with both Princess Angela and Meghan Markle. They were both super accomplished professionals before their merit landed them in the company of these to-be-smitten princes.

Of course, when Black women grow up they are not above bestowing the affectionate term ‘my king,’ or ‘my Boaz’ on their husbands. But that is for a later conversation about the differences between Black womanism and white feminism.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in Black and White

The other day I went to see “Selma” with a friend of mine (it’s well worth the ticket and the running time), and one of the trailers promoted a new Kevin Costner movie, “Black or White.” Kevin portrays Elliot Anderson, a recently widowed attorney drawn into a custody battle over his biracial granddaughter, whom he has helped raise her entire life since the earlier death of his daughter. Octavia Spencer plays Rowena, the child’s Black grandmother who is challenging Costner for custody on behalf of her son. A crack addict.

First impressions from the trailer are:

  • These are some young grandparents! Costner just turned 60, and Spencer is all of 44. The child looks to be around 9 or 10, so if their characters ages are tracking close to their own, then the kids must have been a couple of wild teenagers when they brought that baby into the world.
  • Why does the father have to be an absentee parent, off somewhere in the streets smoking crack? Look, I know that absentee fathers are a harsh reality of Black life. But it makes the plot so complicated. They could have just kill him off in the same car crash that killed the daughter and landed the baby with Costner’s character. That would put both families on even footing, with real tension about who has the more legitimate claim over the child. But anyway.
  • This bet-not be some ‘White Savior’ shit! This complaint comes from more of my friends. ‘Is Elliot ‘rescuing’ the granddaughter from the absentee, crack-head Black father? Lord.’ I mean I didn’t miiiind “The Bodyguard” in 1992, when Kevin rescued Whitney from that melee in the club, then took a bullet for her. I mean he was the bodyguard, so it was his job. Plus, Rachel was a formidable character, not some irritating little damsel.

“Black and White” would rather not delve into the messy work of race-driven inequality and the attempts to keep Blacks relegated to second-class citizenship. It would rather take a toothless, sentimental look at it, through the events confronting a racially integrated family and the fate of an adorable little girl. The big question about the movie is, what is the grandmother’s angle in seeking joint custody? I researched the movie a bit, and found a clip that establishes Costner’s character as a heavy drinker. His alcoholism worsens after the death of his wife. Piled on top of losing what appears to be his only child and now here comes Grandma trying to take the last piece of his family away. Does she feel like the child would be safer with her, who doesn’t have any destructive vices,? That sounds reasonable, but why stand proxy for the loser son?

Elliott pushes back

I doubt any custody battles will erupt in my family in the tragic event that both Hubby and I die before our daughter is an adult. We have settled on one of his brothers to be her guardian, and as circumstance (and luck) would have it, that brother lives near a dear, dear friend of my family’s, who is Black. We grew up together, and our mothers are longtime friends. We’ve cared for each other’s kids, so there is a lot of trust there. I’m not worried about my daughter being misguided into losing touch with her Black heritage, and all the joys and life lessons that come from it.  (Now, if she were sent to the brother out in Seattle, I’d worry.)

If you want to know if “Black or White” is worth watching, look at this review from “The Wrap.” It basically says the movie is worth seeing because a show-stopping speech at the end raises a fundamental — but dumb from my point of view — question about race in America: “Is it allowed – for a white person to dislike a black person for reasons other than race?” What?!! Is that the kind of foolishness that’s on white people’s minds these days? So after all the deranged, hateful things that racist whites have done to enrich themselves at the expense of others, they want to know if it’s OK for them not to like one of us for reasons other than race? Well, let’s think about that. If they are referring to competitive wrangling in the workplace, public criticism lobbed at Blacks for having too many kids out of wedlock and on welfare, or for being the source of so much crime in inner cities, then yes, I would say whites are perfectly OK with gunning for Blacks for reasons that do not involve race. Whether they think someone else is playing the race card or not is irrelevant. They feel like it’s OK to come for us, because they keep doing it, don’t they? I feel like that’s a naive question — which is not atypical of journalists. Sometimes they have their heads so far up their you know what’s they can’t see common sense at all. If this represents breakthrough thinking in American filmmaking, then it suggests that the cerebral bar is very low, indeed.

I’ve been targeted for petty rivalries all my life, Hollywood! Where you been? Oh, I know. Wasting precious time and money cranking out tripe about long-suffering Mammies, about Jezebels and about Sapphires, or the typical “find love” movie for Black women, instead of digging down to explore how deep people really are. All kinds of catty women from various races and cultures have been perfectly OK with openly disliking me and saying, and doing evil things to let me know. Race alone did not motivate the:

  • Vindictive Jewish woman who detested me because I got the job she didn’t want me to have. This was obvious to everyone in our department. (She was conniving enough to anticipate the “race card,” then she enlisted the services of an Uncle Tom type to help thwart me, “just in case.” I still won. Bloop!)
  • Spinster white chick who stopped talking to me after she saw pictures of my new house. I mean, she repeatedly asked to see them, and then she couldn’t handle it. No wonder men retreat to their “caves” instead of trying to reason with some women.
  • Uppity Brahmin who didn’t think I was good enough for her friend (eventually my husband), and who became overtaken by Indrani‘s uglier traits of jealousy and wrath when she realized that he wasn’t just buying me nice things, but he wanted to marry me, too.

Maybe I’m the kind of woman who rubs other women the wrong way. There is something wry and flippant about me. But I really believe that most screwed-up people are motivated by something bigger than race; the good-old fashioned Seven Deadly Sins, and in the case of our country, Greed especially. Racism has been cleverly deployed as Greed’s handmaiden, and anyone who puts down their PlayStation long enough to think about our history understands that. It’s always been about controlling resources and power.

But in the case of “Black or White,” none of what I’ve said, and not even the show-stopping courtroom speech at the end resolves the central question in the plot: Is it OK for a wealthy white drunk to keep custody of his granddaughter? I say no. If a deadbeat Black crack-head can’t have the baby, then leave her with her grandmother, who seems to be the only adult in her life who isn’t dead or accelerating in that direction.

Keep Calm and Date Interracially

So apparently Robert Pattinson, the heart throb from the Twilight franchise has been broken up from Kristen Stewart, who played the human-turned-vampire girlfriend in the same movie series. You might say, “Lady, this is old news! Get with it!”

But wait! Plot twist!

Apparently, Robert Pattinson has left his vampire lover boy persona far behind, and has gone on to date another woman, the British singer Tahliah Barnett, known by her stage name FKA Twigs. This has severely upset some of the more ardent “fangirls” out there who cannot conceive of a universe, real or alternate, in which Edward and his human prey/girlfriend/bride do not exchange vows in a nighttime ceremony and make a rapidly growing baby on the honeymoon night. Apparently, I’m not the one who needs to get with it, because some of these women have been lobbing racist insults at FKA Twigs, the singer-dancer who is of Jamaican and Spanish descent. Some of the responses are clearly from people who are off their meds, like this one on TwitLonger. It got to the point where FKA Twigs took to Twitter to decry some of the more detestable remarks.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either. Apparently, when Nicole Beharie and Michael Fassbender were an item (how in the world did I miss that one??), some white women apparently took to the Internet to plead to their comrades in lust to “open their legs and save him” from his current state. So now Black women who date interracially are dealing with open hatred and harassment from two groups of people: Black men who defame us by calling us nothing more than bed wenches (led by like the delusional Rush Limbaugh wannabe on YouTube, who makes it his life’s work to smear Black women every chance he gets). And now, slightly incredibly, white women are in on the IR bashing.

Obviously, there is no way to quell feelings of competition, envy and resentment between women of different races when one of the alpha males from one of their groups goes up for grabs. I remember a similar, but much tamer incident that happened in biology class during freshman year at college. We were assembled in the lecture hall during the first few days of class when a hand-some guy, who happened to be tall, white and blonde, strolled in. Every young woman in the class watched him as he made his way through the room and found a seat. I couldn’t help but look around at some of the girls’ faces, full of longing and admiration. When I left off of doing that, I realized that “Seth” had taken a seat near me — close enough so that when the instructor distributed the handouts and there weren’t enough for everyone in the lecture hall, he moved seats to sit next to me. I have to admit, I thought it was cool. Who wouldn’t want to sit next to a good-looking, confident, laid-back guy? Believe me, I wasn’t confident enough to like, create any expectations. It was just a few minutes worth of a simple pleasure, like watching a pretty sunset. But oh, it meant something to a couple of girls sitting a few rows behind me! As “Seth” and I started following the handout, I realized that a couple of girls — who were not Black — were trying to get my attention. I turned around and — oh joy! — they had somehow scared up another copy of the handout. In a hurried and anxious flurry, they tried to pass it to me so that I wouldn’t have to do anything reprehensible like sit next to one of their hotties and have a conversation.

Some girls are just pathetic and idiotic. It’s not like I wanted to “land” the guy. He was a nice distraction for a few minutes. Why they had to stew about it, I’ll never know. I bet they ate their hearts out while “Seth” cracked jokes with me, and carried on in his friendly, neighborly way. And let me tell you, that’s not the first time I’ve met with girls’ hostile c–k blocking. It wasn’t always interracial, either. Girls in general just sometimes shed their integrity and pride when a cute boy unexpectedly pays heed to another girl. But guess what ladies in heat? Guys don’t like to be hunted, and if a girl makes it obvious that she has designs on him, he is likely to seek a moment’s respite with a girl who is not on the prowl. So you have a better chance of getting his attention — and respect — if you just chill.

The whole college biology class incident was way back in the 90s, before the term “thirsty” entered our urban lexicon. Those chicks were parched, hunny. And now that I look back at my early 20s, boys form other cultures routinely crossed the color line to talk to me. I didn’t think anyone cared about those moments back then, but nowadays? Well, whoa! I’m starting to think passions are likely to go off the charts.

But we can take a few gems away from this recent outbreak of venom against interracial love. If you’re experiencing blatant c–k blocking (as mentioned above) or nasty side glances while out on a dinner date (like I have), here are some tips on how to adjust your attitude and change the situation:

  • If it’s a flirtation, expect some competition. But keep your focus on him. Playing into their insecurities is a sign of weakness.
  • If the nitpicking continues, ask yourself if it bothers you enough to retaliate or flee the scene. If you retaliate, only respond to situations that present an immediate nuisance to you. I should have stuck my tongue out at the hostile onlookers from the other table when I was out to dinner with a guy I dated some time back.
  • If you’re out with your date and a white woman calls you something like “African queen,” and not in a complimentary way, tell her to speak up. “I didn’t hear you, what?” A lot of people back off when you shame them loudly.
  • If the situation becomes harassment, prod your Mister on what he thinks about the whole thing. He might not even have a clue as to what’s been going on. Men don’t always see and hear the details and nuances of situations. In the cases of these celebrities, a few wing-nut fangirls are not worth direct responses. But FKA Twigs did fire back at the women in general who were leaving nasty Tweets and remarks online about her. She seemed like a stranger to overt racism, which is probably to be expected in an age where that kind of hatred has been driven underground. Mr. Pattinson was oddly quiet, though. Like I said: Some men don’t get it as quickly as women do. Still, I know it was important for me that a man acknowledge the racial layer of my total identity. I’m many things: Christian, wife, mother, daughter, kinswoman, friend and writer. But being Black has weight in all of those experiences, and I’ll tell you that Hubby immediately understood that about me. He “got” why a visit to see his family in Georgia took an unsettling turn for me when I saw a white boy wave a huge Confederate flag right in front of me. He knows why I won’t venture out into some of these rural towns without him, his parents or one of my brothers-in-law. All white (or other) men who date Black women need to understand that the woman he likes or loves could come under special and withering scrutiny, harassment and even attacks because she had the nerve to be with him. And I’m old-fashioned: A guy should speak up for his lady. He should be her Boaz, sorry, and people should understand that she is under his protection, and that he is looking out for her best interests. I don’t judge the affection in the relationship of FKA Twigs and Pattinson, but the latter’s lack of a response tells me that he doesn’t know what he’s in for. Maybe it’s because they are both British, and over there Black women date out quite regularly. These crazy American fan-girls are only one representation of the real hatred and disgust that some harbor for his relationship.

The world is a less openly hostile place for interracial relationships, particularly any place outside of the U.S. As Americans, we mainly see the venom and vitriol here, where slavery really pit Blacks against whites. But Black women, and even very light-skinned biracial women like FKA Twigs, still need to know how to spot a hater and deflect the poison darts.

Eve and Maximillion

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Nicely done, Eve! Nicely done. The rapper and actress from Philadelphia married longtime boyfriend Maximillion Cooper over the weekend. You know Eve as a Grammy-winning rapper, and as Shelley Williams from the UPN TV sitcom “Eve,” and two of the first “Barbershop” movies.

The celebrations were in Ibiza, Spain, and the two shared a few photos of the ceremony and post-nuptial parting on Instagram and E!, like the photo above. So we know who Eve is, but what about this Maximillion guy? ABCNews has the details on Maximillion:

1. He’s a Designer

Born in Staffordshire, England, Cooper studied fashion at London’s prestigious Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. As the founder and brains behind the Gumball 3000 brand, he splits his time between New York and London. Creativity runs in his family. He’s the son of an abstract artist and musician.

2. He’s a Former Race Car Driver

In 1999, he launched the Gumball 3000, an annual British 3,000-mile international motor rally which takes place on public roads, with a different route each year. For the Gumball 3000′s 15th anniversary, drivers traversed 13 countries and 3000 miles in just seven days. Putting his love of racing together with his fashion skills, Cooper built Gumball from an underground rally into a global lifestyle brand.

3. He Met Eve at the Gumball 3000

Eve met Cooper at his annual racing event when she participated for the first time four years ago. She’s been back every year since and has been officially dubbed the “First Lady of Gumball,” according to the Gumball 3000 website. When they began dating in 2010, it was the first biracial relationship for both of them. “I’ve never been the type of person to discriminate,” Eve told Chelsea Handler in June. “But I honestly have to say I never thought I’d be with a white guy ever. But it just happened. It’s amazing. I’m the first black girl he’s ever been with too.”

4. He’s Been Married Before

While this will be Eve’s first marriage, Cooper was previously married to his former business partner Julie Brangstrup, and has four children, ages 4 to 10.

5. Cooper and Eve Have Talked More Children

At first Eve wasn’t sure about becoming a stepmom, the star of “Barbershop” and her own sitcom “Eve” told Sister 2 Sister magazine this past May. “I was like, ‘I’m not sure this is what I want to be my life.’ You know? But honestly, it’s been three years now and we’ve gone on vacations together, and they’re the sweetest kids.” She and Cooper have even discussed adding more kids to the mix. “We talk about having kids. We talk about marriage,” she told the magazine. “The kids are excited. They want a brown baby sister.”

 

 

While Dencia Seethes, Lupita Lands Another Cover

Wow, some folks are really sensitive. Like Cameroonian-Nigerian pop star Dencia for instance, who is taking yet another shot at Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Readers who are faithfully following this rivalry (Lupita versus who again?) might remember that Dencia took offense to remarks that Nyong’o made in a speech at the Essence luncheon for women in Hollywood. She read a portion of a fan letter, in which the young woman expressed gratitude to Lupita for inspiring her to embrace her dark skin and abandon the idea of buying a skin bleaching cream. Since Lupita’s touching speech, Dencia has made srenuous efforts to take Lupita down.

But it’s not working! Lupita went on to score a lucrative Lancome endorsement deal, and now … the cover of Marie Claire, May 2014. Feast your eyes on her dress, her face, everything …

Lupita Marie Claire May

 

In the latest catty remarks, again on Twitter Dencia responded to a fan praising Lupita , saying that the actress, who also has Mexican citizenship, represents a brand that sells skin lightening cream. There’s more on this over at The Grio.

Listen folks, there is a vast difference between lightening a few spots on your face to match the rest of your complexion, and considering dark skin impure. The latter is Dencia’s line, which I’m not buying for a minute.

Let’s all just keep rooting for Lupita, OK? She’s on fire, and with her talent, intelligence and good looks, deservedly so.