Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ebony & Ivory

"Ebony and Ivory live together in perfect harmony."-Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder

Unless one comments about a sensitive article on Facebook with something that could read as being racist. That's where social networking with “friends” outside of your race can go awry.

Today, I read an article calling out VH1 for its horrific depictions of black people, particularly women, through its various forays into the reality show genre. My favorite quote from the article was "We now have more people of color on television than ever before, and most are acting like damned fools. Who needs Jezebel when you've got Evelyn Lozada, coons when you have Flavor Flav, tragic mulattos when you have Emily Bustamante and Kimbella, and black bucks when you've got Chad Ochocinco? How did a network that launched on New Year's Day of 1985 with the video of Marvin Gaye's legendary rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" fall so far from grace?" If you ask me, VH1 is more detrimental to the reputations of black people than BET with its current line-up of reruns of black sitcoms and “106 & Park”.

I posted a link to Facebook and my more enlightened friends agreed with the article’s contents. And then it happened. One of my white peers from graduate school commented with the following: "As a white person who honestly did not grow up with many black people (there was 1 in my hs class of 300), I have never understood why so many on tv like to perpetuate the awful stereotypes. Of course this is true with all races/sexes but it seems to be worse for blacks and females. I could go on forever on this subject but I'm just glad I was exposed to The Jeffersons and Cosbys growing up and not reality shows for my first "experience" with black people. My grandparents did live in Flint but we almost always saw them at their cottage in Gladwin and, outside of going to church and Crossroads Village, they never really took us anywhere when we were in Flint.”

Insert record scratch here.

It wasn’t even the first sentence that got me because I'm especially tired of the stereotypes on the reality shows. It was somewhere around saying that stereotypes for blacks and women stand out as worse than others. Then she goes into how she visited her grandparents' cottage in the Flint area. Her grandparents never exposed her to the minority-filled, economically-deprived town known as Flint.

The truth hurts and people always say that the terrible characterizations of black people on television lead to how other people perceive us. However, I can say that a good 90 percent of my FB friends are black and what could have been a great discussion on media stereotypes and why people love such shows came to a screeching halt. And this is not the first time I've seen this happen. Even though FB is a public domain, many of us like to think that when it comes to such discussions, only those who know us well with engage. Or at least know us ENOUGH! And there are certain discussions black people tend to only like to engage in with other black people.

I told someone that if she had been a close friend of mine, I would've taken on the role of the appropriate black friend and sent her a message about how there are certain things that just shouldn’t be said in mixed company and there are certain ways of saying certain things. If we’re really close, I would’ve just said “you know what you just said came off as racist, right.”

We are far from a post-racial America. It’s not that blacks and whites can’t have discussions with each other about race. But it only happens after the two people discussing have an understanding about each other. Because it will almost inevitably end in agreeing to disagree and most people aren’t cordial enough to do that with people they don’t know.

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