Jessica is a 12-year-old girl from the suburbs. She plays basketball and softball, in addition to being a co-captain of the school Drill Team. She has plenty of friends and loves to hang out with them, especially in the summer months at the pool to escape the heat. She is really cool for a black girl!
21-year-old Bryan is a recent college grad working his way up the corporate ladder at his new job. Bryan quickly makes friends with his male co-workers and begins spending time with them outside of work. They frequent bars in the trendy part of town, and host barbecues at each others’ homes. His co-workers love him because he’s not like other black guys.
Angelica is the child of a Spanish father and an African-American mother. She has a caramel complexion and good hair. She is popular with the boys in school because of her exotic looks. One evening on a date, she is told she is really pretty for a black girl.
Does anyone else see the problem with these statements?
If you are black, you know the phrase “…for a black girl/guy” all too well. It’s a phrase that is carelessly thrown out like Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, or Donald Trump’s wives: too much. Normally I don’t jump in on issues facing our society, but lately I have been finding it awfully hard to bite my tongue. What brings all this on? Black-ish, a brand new show on ABC that follows the Johnson Family. The Johnsons live in an affluent white neighborhood, and while the kids want to assimilate, their father “hilariously” and desperately attempts to keep his family centered in what he perceives to be black culture. (In other words, The Johnson family needs to be blacker!) Check out the trailer for Black-ish, and we will continue shortly.
Before I go any further, I need to make a few things perfectly clear.
- I am not writing to tell you not to watch Black-ish. Watch it. I don’t care. Go for it. It is your constitutional right to live long, prosper, and binge-watch television. I am, however, giving you my constitutional right to an opinion. Do what you will with it.
- I believe it is AWESOME that I can see someone who looks like me on prime time network television that is not a murder suspect on [insert-every-single-cop-show-ever], or in a rerun of The Cosby Show.
- The issues on Black-ish do hold some weight, and are things we as black people have to deal with.
- I love Joan from Girlfriends, a.k.a. Tracie Ellis Ross! I am, however, here to question the ideals of the higher-ups at ABC.
When did being black become the butt of the joke?
All my life (I had to fight…) I have heard comments like, “You’re not really black!” or “You talk like a white girl” from so-called friends, teachers, employers, and even my own mother. I hate it. I don’t even know what that means! When you get asked what race you are on applications, do you literally get to choose what you want to be for the day? The last time I checked, the answer was no. The United States of America is a country where we celebrate our cultural backgrounds and patriotism all at the same time. In the U.S., we get the freedom to be Scottish- American, German-American, French-American, and whatever other mixture you can think of, and we wear it like a Badge of Honor! Hell, if you’re pretty or famous enough, you even get to make commercials about it! Maybelline, anyone?
The issue is that we in the U.S. still find it okay to question black people for being just that: people. Don’t believe me? Turn on the news or open a history book. Rather than get on a soapbox or attempt to start a revolt, I’ll tell you what I tell all people who speak unapologetically from ignorance:
- We are so much more than the stereotypical images you have in your brain.
- Just because you mean well doesn’t mean you say whatever you want!
- Like all people of all races, there are bad people who do bad things. Have you ever watched an episode of Maury? Not all white people are serial killers, not all Hispanics are illegal aliens, not all Asians do nails, and not all black people go to jail.
- No, I will not act blacker for your amusement, nor will I “coon it up.” I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve heard that one as an actor!
GROW UP! It’s 2014 and yes, the struggle is real, but how much longer do we have to keep saying the same things?
I HAVE AN IDEA!
New to ABC: JEW-ish! It’s a show about a family of Jews who move to a primarily Christian neighborhood. Viewers will follow the kids’ struggle with wanting to assimilate to the lack of religion kids have today, and the father’s need to make the kids live a more JEW-ish lifestyle (or what at least he perceives to be more Jewish). Offended yet? If not, simply change the channel and tune in to Muslim-ish. Working now?
In one of my favorite plays by Thornton Wilder entitled The Skin of Our Teeth, a lead character by the name of Mrs. Antrobus writes a letter to throw into the ocean that contains the facts of womanhood. As I write this post, I can’t help but think Mrs. Antrobus’ letter also applies to the topic at hand.
“I have a letter…and in the letter is written all the things that a woman knows. It’s never been told to any man and it’s never been told to any woman, and if it finds its destination, a new time will come. We’re not what books and plays say we are. We’re not what advertisements say we are. We’re not in the movies and we’re not on the radio. We are ourselves!”
No one wants to be reduced to just being a race or a skin color, guys. I don’t have white friends; I have friends. The phrase “for a black girl/guy” needs to be deleted from your mind. ASAP.
Let me leave you with this clip from Raven Symone while being interviewed by Oprah.