Oxygen has heard about your upstanding friends’ protest targeting its future hit, All My Babies’ Mamas, and is now congregating in the middle of the network’s floor that houses publicity to declare, “The butterfly, uh uh, that’s old. Let me see you tootsie roll.” in celebration of all the free press their act has generated. Unfortunately for them, the network is not budging.
On the backlash a leaked version of the pilot generated, Oxygen Media tells RadarOnline.com:
“Oxygen’s one-hour special in development is not meant to be a stereotypical representation of everyday life for any one demographic or cross section of society. It is a look at one unique family and their complicated, intertwined life. Oxygen Media’s diverse team of creative executives will continue developing the show with this point of view.”
Translation: Oh, girl. This was only intended to be a one-off special, not an attempt to snatch away the EBONY and ESSENCE covers the First Family gets.
When I first heard of this show, I thought nothing more of it than a twangier, melanin-enhanced version of Sister Wives. Or well, a spinoff of any Maury segment that airs five days a week in multiple countries across the world. Even though I could understand why many would be disgusted by Shawty Lo, his disdain for condoms, and potential interest in young women who may or may not be legally attainable when he consummated their hood love, I was taken aback by the knee-jerk reaction to immediately act as if the show was going to doom the Black race.
As if there aren’t more meaningful ways to target some of the issues the show highlights; as if there aren’t enough counter images available — on more popular platforms to boot.
One addendum to the piece: People can protest whatever they want, whenever the mood suits them. Such is their right. My issues, though, with these, and other petitions I’ve talked about in the past, are two-fold. The first being I sometimes wonder whether some of these protests ignore the reality that depending on your perspective, there might be more counter images to whatever these people perceive as “negative” in a given show readily available than they realize — which ultimately makes me wonder whether we give basic cable too much power.
The other aspect is what frustrates me most — that being the overall tone in these sorts of complains. I know not everyone shares the sentiment. In fact, some people I greatly admire are pushing the Shawty Lo protest. Even so, the petitioner many are quoting to publicize the protest describes All My Babies’ Mamas as a “minstrel show.” As I note in the essay, by definition reality programming wouldn’t exactly fall under the scope of a minstrel. Minstrel is one of those terms many in the masses here and are quick to spit back out regardless of the term’s history and context.
Its inaccurate usage frustrates me on that point, plus the idea of it being used as a means to signal out “those niggas embarrassing us.” That ultimately is the gist of this and other protests like it. It’s an ongoing battle between segments of the Black population and while I don’t deny some network execs do the absolute most when it comes to programming, I hate this notion that many of these people’s lives don’t deserve to be highlighted in certain fashion because it’s seemingly damaging to the race.
I’ve come to accept that if your average toothless, uneducated hick and the white collar asshole with similar racist inklings who emboldens him can both look at President Obama and continue to view him as nothing more than racial slur, those types will think what they want no matter what they’re shown on a network they’re not watching anyway.
Now looking beyond that because really, I could give a fuck what a racist prick thinks of me, my other concern in this quick to condemn something as “minstrel” is that as someone who comes from a southern, working class family, if cameras had documented my kin and presented it to the world, I get the feeling that many of these same folks will paint them under that same dim scope. It’s that sort of classism that makes it increasingly difficult for me to see that point of it. Fact is, tone matters, especially if you’re putting on airs that you’re simply trying to do “good work.”
I wasn’t evne sure if I was going to watch the show before. I will now, though, if for no other reason than I won’t be guilted and I won’t denigrate anyone as a minstrel based on 10 minutes of footage. I might not have grown up with the same means as the Jack and Jill sect of Negronia, but I was certainly taught to know better.
But yes, check out the essay when you have a chance.