Proving once again that knowledge, history and books are valuable tools, I highly recommend the following for anyone interested in politics, pop culture or the representation of African-Americans in the media.
The first book is by Tulane University Professor and newest MSNBC talk show host, Melissa Harris-Perry. Her book, “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America (For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn’t Enough)” (2011) was an insightful look at “black women’s political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images”.
The second is by television historian, Donald Bogle, “Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television” (2001). In light of current slate of reality shows featuring African American women and the controversy surrounding them, I found a 1951 NAACP bulletin referenced in the book, interesting because it protested “The Amos n’ Andy Show” (1951-1953). How many of us are even aware of the history of “The Amos n’ Andy Show”?
The NAACP protested the show because of “the perpetuation of stereotyped characterizations” of Black (Negro) people. On an otherwise white programming schedule, the show took on a significance it otherwise wouldn’t have had. When viewers [see] Black faces rising from a sea of whiteness, those particular faces come to represent an entire race of people (Bogle 2001). 61 years later, some points could be applicable to the shows that air today.
“Why The Amos and Andy Show [or, insert any current show title here]Should Be Taken Off The Air”:
It tends to strengthen the conclusion among uninformed and prejudiced people that Negroes are inferior, lazy, dumb and dishonest.
Every character in this one and only TV show with an all Negro cast is either clown or a crook.
Negro doctors are shown as quacks and thieves.
Negro lawyers are shown as slippery cowards, ignorant of their profession and without ethics.
Negro Women are shown as cackling, screaming shrews, in big mouthed close-ups, using street slang, just short of vulgarity.
All Negroes are shown as dodging work of any kind.
There is no other show on nation-wode television that shows Negroes in a favorable light.Very few first-class Negro performers get on TV and then only as a one-time guest.
Amos n’ Andy on television is worse than on radio because it is a picture, a living talking, moving picture of Negroes, not merely a story in words over a radio loudspeaker.
Millions of white Americans see this Amos ‘n’ Andy picture of Negroes and think the entire race is the same.
Millions of white children learn about Negroes for the first time by seeing Amos n’ Andy and carry this impression throughout their lives in one form or another.
Since many whites never meet any Negroes personally, never attend any lectures or read any books on the race problem, or belong to any clubs or organizations where intergroup relations are discussed, they accept the Amos n’ Andy picture as the true one.
An entire race of 15,000,000 Americans is being slandered each week by this one-sided caricature on television.
Click here for a link to a documentary that was done in the 1980’s that analyzed the 1950’s controversy.
Do you think that a successful boycott and protest could be mounted against offensive shows today? As most of these shows have become unbelievably popular amongst the youngest and most impressionable minds, what would we even constitute as an offensive to Black people in 2012? Where are our Black organizations, newspapers and responsible citizens in organizing such protests?