In the Americas and black people are celebrating 151 years of the emancipation proclamation but one cannot help but wonder what the slaves would make of the current portrayal of black women. I have always been an advocate for authentic black voices that portray black life in its authenticity and am a strong believer in the arts being a large part of the narrative of the whole global black experience. I understand that being black is not a monolithic experience however, I am alarmed at the way in which black women are being portrayed on screen. Why can’t they have normal love lives? Yes there is such as thing as normal.
When Keiffer Sutherland created the character of President Palmer in TV drama ’24’ he gave us a competent black man in the office of the Presidency and made the Obama presidency attainable at least from a perception perspective. Perception has an influence on reality. Many people believed a black man could lead these United States because President Palmer on 24 was believable, competent and commanding of respect due to the black man. It was a good break from the stereotypical rapper or drug dealer that America had been accustomed to whenever black men had been cast in the media.
Given the portrayal of black women in entertainment, it begs the question when shall black women receive their respect?
WOMEN IN MUSIC
Recently Bill O’Reilly the Fox News Anchor asked the question that all black people have been asking: Why does Beyonce portray herself as an independent empowered woman yet gyrates her body into all sorts of lewd and lascivious motions wearing only lingerie in front of millions of people as a means of making a living? How is she a legitimate business woman who has to take off her clothes to make her money? Every other society on planet earth have a name for women like that, and it is not a respectable one either. It was refreshing when white feminists disowned her, after all what feminist takes off her clothes onstage?
The portrayal of women in hip-hop has always been a bone of contention. It was refreshing a few years ago when the Spelman College women challenged BET to present more positive images of black women on their station. BET is Black Entertainment and at the time was being run by a black woman Debra Lee who continued the degradation of black women because sex sells and it had to take some children to correct her behavior.
Debra Lee, Beyonce and all those women in rap videos obviously need to be emancipated in their minds so they can learn to use their brains and not sex appeal to get the job done. It is not women’s empowerment it is social irresponsibility. Where is the village to teach Beyonce that beauty fades but RESPECT is forever? As a community we cannot afford to celebrate an artist who wears lingerie and dances crude dances in the name of entertainment. In the same regard I have to say that Michelle Obama and her husband are also to part of the problem when they invite these kinds of people to birthday parties, inauguration ceremonies etc. This legitimizes the behavior exhibited by these artists. It certainly takes black people 151 years back.
One of the benefits of the Emancipation Proclamation was that black men and women could marry and raise their children the family which is basic unit of any society. Strong families where the father sets the values and teaches their children how to function in society as a responsible citizen. Unfortunately there was a generation where children were raised on the street with street values from pimps and drug dealers who controlled the streets. This counter-culture has crept into mainstream but is not representative of black America.
During the 1960s and 1970s men who sold women to the highest bidder were known as pimps. They tried to call themselves business men and yet their commodity was young black girls. Slavery was in the past but these pimps were selling off innocent girls to anyone who had money. This is how AIDS spread like wild fire in the black community. The practice is still going on in some urban areas according to black American media outlets and police records. What happened to dignity of a black woman who wanted to be judged by her talent and not by her sexuality?
WOMEN ON SCREEN
Tyler Perry a self proclaimed Christian has stories that celebrate single parenthood and the ‘strong’ black woman, but it begs the question-strong for who and strong for what? One of his characters played by Tika Sumpter in the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) soap ‘The Have and Have Nots’ makes a living as an escort/stripper to pay for law school as if the end justifies the means. Then there is Mara Brock Akil who proclaims that she is a practicing muslim woman with high moral values yet she creates a dysfunctional character like Mary Jane (BET) celebrating sleeping with married man and claiming that the character is complex. Then there is Shonda Rhimes who produces a quality mainstream show but gives us a lead character who is a competent adulterer. In another show Rhimes is developing, she has cast renowned actress Viola Davis as a Law School Professor who carries on an adulterous affair. AIDS rates are highest in the black community. Why then the celebration of adultery which promotes disease , poverty( every child born out of wedlock equals 5 years in poverty) and view that black women are good as sex objects increasing rape and debasing of image of black women in society? If these characters had been created by white men in Hollywood people would have viewed them as racist but because they are black in skin color everyone decides to turn the other cheek. Why has it become a competition to see which black producer will produce the most morally depraved black female character? We love to see black women as lead roles on television but if it means they have to be half naked most of the time then it might not be worth it. What are we teaching young girls to emulate?
The majority of black people in America would prefer women in entertainment to keep their money and just respect their own body, that would do more for young girls in the ghettos than their millions in charity. Young girls who emulate these women of influence would know that a truly gifted woman can wear dignified clothes and that her music or her work will speak for itself. If the only reason that people will pay a black woman is if she takes her clothes off then multi-culturism has failed.
By Ana Mosi-Oa-Tunya 2014
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