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?
Ok, I did my part in supporting Red Tails by goingon opening day and not to a matinee. Is my Black card safe? Have I contributed to saving the race? On a certain level, I kinda felt emotionally blackmailed into supporting the film — as if a choice in not going would signify a disloyalty to the race.
I love the movies, have several friends who work in the industry and am fairly intelligent. So I “get” the significance of this film. Of George Lucas’ involvement, the historical/educational aspect and yes, the overall impact to Black filmmaking. I enjoyed Red Tails. Mission accomplished, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Hemingway! Was it the best acting or writing? No. But I do think that it was a solid action movie. The young actors will get better with experience and I appreciate that a Black director and writers were given this opportunity. If nothing else, I appreciate that none of the Black male characters wore a dress onscreen.
What I do not understand as much, is why, the Black community has to go through these emotional hoops, online debates and Twitter wars over the “State of the Race” almost every time a Black film is released or Black actors/actresses are up for awards. Go see this or else we lose!
But gear up for these predictable conversations to occur again when Tyler Perry releases his newest film "Good Deeds" next month and when the Oscar nominations are announced. Help us all if Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer don’t get nominated or if they do get nominated and don’t win? Hollywood is racist! (we know this, man…!) Let’s think back to the mornings after Denzel, Halle, Jamie, Monique or Jennifer won their Oscars. Did Black people suddenly gain something that we didn’t have the day before to warrant all the drama filled conversations and angst that we put ourselves thru prior to the event? Do White people have these issues when The Hangover was released or Kate Winslet nominated for an award and we just don’t know about it?
And speaking of Perry, did I need to get an email from him and see headlines proclaiming that "all black casts are on the verge of becoming extinct"?Okay, Henny Penny! The pressure! And wait…. Dear Tyler… don’t YOU have a studio that cranks out at least one Black film every year to 18 months? If no one else knows it, you and Lionsgate know that there is a Black audience. Psssst, you have enough influence to continue to prove Hollywood wrong about Black audiences. Didn’t we go through this 20 years ago when Malcolm X came out? If I remember correctly, we were asked to take a day off from work/school – to support that to prove the same point.
As a side note, I saw this in a Black neighborhood with an all Black audience. I loved it for the fellowship and because we were adding to our collective experiences. For all the issues that I have with Perry, when I lived in less urban cities (Phoenix and Denver), I knew I would be able to find folks that looked like me in the theater to fellowship with when he released a film. And when we watch these movies, we are able add to our lexicon… When we want somebody (usually a woman) to do something, we say… "Just eat the damn cake, Anna Mae" and know exactly where the reference comes from. Most of us (over a certain age at least) know who “Sunshine” or “Eddie King, Jr.” are… or how to use "Marcus, dah-ling" in an appropriate sentence while knowing that "mo betta, makes it mo betta!" When you want to place a curse on someone? "Til’ you do right by me? Everything you touch gonna fail! My personal favorite is, "I am here to help you find, take back and keep your righteous mind!" And now we add to that, "To the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man… We fight! We fight! We fight!"
At the end of the day, I would prefer the heavy handed emotional tactics to cease with the release of a Black film — a good marketing campaign, story and acting should suffice. Can we move some of the social outrage/urgency and advocacy about what is shown on a movie screen to what is not in a textbook as a means to also get our stories told?
Anyhoo, this is an interesting clip (from a 20th anniversary documentary of the making of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”) which shows Bono explaining that he originally didn’t want to sing his line, “well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”… which, I can understand why… and Bob Geldof’s explanation on why it was important.