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Toward the end of the four-part The Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion, host Andy Cohen tried to help Phaedra Parks save herself from herself.

Phaedra—who had been outed by cast member Porsha Williams as the source of a rumor that another cast member, Kandi Burruss, had once contemplated drugging Williams and taking her home, along with Burruss’ husband, Todd, for a felonious act of fornication—sat stoically as everyone else around her cried in disgust at her actions. Parks offered nothing more than another half-assed apology that pleased no one and permanently soiled her standing with Cohen, her castmates and the public watching at home.

Parks refused to truly own how trifling, how vile and how pathetic she behaved. She wouldn’t say that she might have been angry with her former friend Burruss and her husband for embarrassing her by way of continuing a friendship with her ex, the scamming Apollo Nida, and that maybe, just maybe, she wanted to get back at them, and her attempts at doing so got way out of hand.

Like, one imagines that Parks watched, with understandable fury, Burruss’ mom, Joyce, dressed like Inspector Gadget, filming a scene about consulting an attorney regarding Parks’ divorce proceedings. It wouldn’t have excused Joyce’s actions, but at the very least, Parks could have sized up her gossipmongering as hurt people hurt people. Nope. She just sat there, looking stupid, when “everybody knows” Ms. Parks is anything but.

Since then, Parks has reportedly been fired from the show after violating the “morality clause.” Yet it is also now being reported that the rumor Parks spoke of was not her invention. Even so, regardless of whether or not production did lend a hand in starting a false rumor centered on sexual assault, Parks is ultimately responsible for going with it.

However, when you read Parks’ recent interview with People magazine, you are reminded of how image conscious the attorney-turned-reality star is. Likewise, you are reaffirmed in your feelings that Phaedra Parks is so full of shit.

On the ominous question of Parks’ reality-TV legacy, she answered:

“I really want to show that you can be well-educated, you can be a professional and you can solve conflicts without being ratchet. You can be a lady, you can have dignity in your dealings—whether it be personal or professional. I think sometimes as black women, we’re stereotyped in categories of being overly sexualized, of being the aggressive black woman and of being this ratchet sort of character that doesn’t know how to behave herself.”

Parks went on to add:

“I want people to know that there is definitely a real kind of black woman who conducts herself in a certain way. She’s not out here screaming and cursing and acting crazy. She does things differently, and people love her for it.”

Therein lies what’s always been so frustrating about Parks: She is more concerned about appearances than the truth. For her, representation matters more than merely being yourself. It’s exactly why so many have long referred to her as “Fakedra.”

Parks buys into the notion of what a “respectable” black person, and specifically what a “dignified” black woman, looks like. Although battling stereotypes is important, it should not come at the expense of one’s truth. So while it’s great that Parks did bring more serious matters to the show throughout her run, she forgets one important thing: We can see her.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Charles Barkley is like that black uncle you find amusing but limit conversations with at family gatherings to select topics such as sports, Gap Band songs and brown liquor. When it comes to more serious matters like politics and, specifically, racial politics, the phrase “Stop, drop and roll” is an immediate survival guide to sparing your last nerve from a fatal end. If, however, you find yourself cornered, you grit your teeth and try to remain respectful of your elder before you end up screaming, “Nigga, what the hell are you saying?” in an effort not to upset your mother.

I recently found myself engulfed in the press equivalent of that situation as I attended a luncheon and panel discussion in support of Sir Charles’ new TNT series on race, aptly titled American Race.

When I first got word of this show, my immediate response was that I would rather watch my own cremation than subject myself to Barkley’s musings on race and racism. After all, this is the same man who, only a year ago, claimed, in the wake of the sniper shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead, that black people have “got to do better.” Yes, in that ESPN radio interview, Barkley explained to Dan Le Batard that police “have made some mistakes; that don’t give us the right to riot and shoot cops.”

No, it doesn’t, but Barkley then went on to claim that we “never get mad when black people kill each other,” before adding that “there’s a lot of blame to go around.” Sure, but aim it at the institution that has consistently abused black women, men and children since its inception, not “black-on-black crime.” Anyone who still cites intraracial violence to deflect from the issue of state-sanctioned violence that targets black folks is a person who by and large needs to shut the fuck up and go read a bit more.

Toward the end of the panel, Barkley mentioned how he would always rally behind the cops and proceeded to offer anecdotal evidence of something that data has long supported: Yes, there are plenty of great law-enforcement officials. Indeed, we can have fruitful conversations with individual police officers. However, that will not stop the problem. See any police-union statement wildly defying calls to end racial profiling and various patterns of abuse.

Combine this with Barkley’s other previous comments—a lot of black people are full of shit, his condemnation of “unintelligent” and “brainwashed” black people, and purported “dark secrets” within the black community about “acting white”—and one wonders what, exactly, is Barkley’s aim with American Race?

According to Michael Bloom, who is senior vice president of unscripted series and specials at TNT, Barkley came to him a year ago in earnest, wanting to use his platform to explore why so little has changed in terms of race in America. Of course, this is a black man who has routinely used the platform he already has to speak of his own in such false, dehumanizing and totally unhelpful ways. Did Barkley need a promotion?

Barkley himself said that he wanted to present “positive programming” and that he had been “bothered by negative stereotypes about people of color, especially blacks on television.” In 2017, there is a wide array of depictions of black folks on television. The situation is not perfect, but certainly it is much better in terms of fictitious portrayals of black people. In unscripted programming, well, we have a ways to go. This is a case in point.

As attendees were presented with various clips from the series, along with a screener of the first episode, the biggest takeaway from American Race was that Barkley had an inquiry and created a television show around it. Whether or not you take anything from it depends on how little you know about the world around you.

It was repeatedly stressed throughout the event that the intent was to engage in “thought-provoking conversation.” This is a line that is so often repeated by those serving us the same old cyclical bullshit that has long bored us. The same goes for the line about how the show features “real people,” as opposed to those in a “New York studio.”

New York is a real place, although, as a Southerner, I am constantly amused by how advanced New Yorkers and their coastal cousins in Los Angeles continue to believe that they are far more progressive than they actually are. The 45th president of the United States—more or less George Wallace on steroids and with far greater political success—is a New York native.

Likewise, we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, which were rooted in the fact that the police officers who beat Rodney King managed to get off by virtue of nothing more than their lily-whiteness and the power of their badges. The types who order these shows can’t even see the prejudices surrounding them, but we’re supposed to entrust them with the cameras going to “real America.”

What the fuck ever.

Read the rest at The Root.

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No shade to the Kremlin, but if you have to pay for a psychological dossier on Sunkist Stalin, there’s a reason Muva Russia has gone from global superpower to Broke-Bitch Nation. Yes, such a declaration may lead to my emails being hacked, my nudes being spread like a dope Spotify playlist and God knows what else, but the truth is the truth, любимая. According to the Google, that’s “beloved” in Russian.

This week, various news reports, including one from NBC News, claimed that a psychological makeup on 45 was being prepped for Russian President Vladmir Putin. According to the preliminary findings, the new American president is “a risk-taker who can be naive,” according to “a senior Kremlin adviser.” Other revelations include that 45 “doesn’t understand fully who is Mr. Putin—he is a tough guy.”

No. 45 doesn’t know a lot of things, including the basic functions of the U.S. government; the Constitution; how anyone not white, male, well-off and boosted by nepotism lives; and anything that requires the intellect of someone above a fourth-grade reading level. Oh, and apparently “many in the Kremlin believed that Trump viewed the presidency as a business.”

I wonder whether this dossier—compiled by retired diplomats and Putin staff members—also tells us the color of the sky.

Its intent, it is said, is to properly prep Putin for his first meeting with 45. However, considering the growing evidence that 45 is the mutt he helped housebreak into the White House, you would think he would already be quite familiar with a man who literally is inescapable within media. What else is there to learn about an erratic narcissist who’s never shown allegiance to anything besides himself and maybe his daughter?

I’m not in the habit of assisting comrades, but since I’ve always wanted to play redbone Frasier Crane for a spell, I’d like to help out.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Whenever Kanye West offers naive and infuriating racial commentary—a hallmark of his career—fans often wistfully recall the one powerful thing he ever said about race. It’s what many referenced yesterday while trying to make sense of the sight of West standing alongside our president-elect and noted bigot, Donald J. Trump. It happened in 2005 at A Concert for Hurricane Relief, the hour-long, celebrity-filled benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina victims during which West declared on live television: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

As moving a statement as it was at the time, it has long deluded people into thinking West cares more about the plight of black people than he’s ever proven to. West standing alongside a man whose political career started in earnest with questioning the legitimacy of the first black president isn’t the anomalous act—his remarks about Bush were.

Kanye getting cozy with Trump is no political about-face. This is the culmination of man who, outside of a single action more than a decade ago, has only spoken about racism when it impacts him directly. In 2014, while performing at London’s Wireless Festival, West had this to say about racism and how he’s treated as an aspiring designer: “I’m just saying, don’t discriminate against me because I’m a black man or because I’m a celebrity and tell me that I can create, but not feel. ‘Cause you know damn well there aren’t no black guys or celebrities making no Louis Vuitton nothing.”

On its face, this seems like a brave indictment of bias in the fashion industry. But look closer and it becomes clear that West is not for all; he is for self. Despite these critiques, West reportedly gave his blessing to A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou, who chose to include the word “nigga” in a fall menswear presentation. West also once donned himself with Confederate flag imagery, claiming “It’s my flag.”

And we know that West fancies Vanessa Beecroft, a woman who has used blackface in her work and once declared it was “very stressful to work with black women.” West may not find it quite as stressful, but he shares Beecroft’s habit of questionable statements about women of color—like, say, when he tweeted his casting call for “multiracial women only” for his Yeezy Season 4 fashion show.

Beecroft—like Trump, like the Grand Old Party, and like many people who dabble in racism—often use black people for cover. In an interview with W magazine, Beecroft argued: “I am protected by Kanye’s talent. I become black. I am no longer Vanessa Beecroft and I am free to do whatever I want because Kanye allows it.”

There are those who condemn racism because they genuinely want equality for all, and there are those who only do so because they want to belong. Never confuse the desire of wanting to be treated equally with the desire to enjoy the perks of white manhood. No wonder West feels a kinship with Ben Carson, whom he praised last year in an interview with Vanity Fair. “As soon as I heard [Ben] Carson speak, I tried for three weeks to get on the phone with him,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is the most brilliant guy.’”

Reminder: Carson is a black man who has likened Obamacare to slavery and, in a 2015 op-ed about Obama’s new housing rules, wrote “These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse.” Now, as the likely next head of Department of Housing and Urban Development, Carson could very well be the black face behind a vast expansion of housing segregation. Men like Carson and West appear more than willing to align themselves with prejudiced elites for self-gain or white validation.

It’s not just the company West keeps—it’s also what he says. In the same year West was touting Carson, he referred to racism as a “dated concept.” After he voiced support of Trump’s presidency, West told concertgoers to “stop focusing on racism,” adding, “This world is racist, OK? Let’s stop being distracted to focus on that as much. It’s a fucking fact. We are in a racist country.”

Read the rest at Fusion.

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Whenever some seismic event in pop culture is going down – some celebrity feud or drama is “breaking the internet” – there’s always a contingent insisting that there are “more important things” to care about than the entertainment story du jour.

If you are one of these folks, allow me the honor of telling you that you’re annoying, condescending and a self-important jackass. You know, the Ted Cruz of everything outside of politics. The same goes for those who feel compelled to announce that they “don’t care” about whatever pop culture moment is happening at the time. If I had a big batch of cookies – ideally, really stale ones – I’d throw it at them and encourage the group to eat their treats as slowly as possible so that they each can enjoy the attention they’re so clearly seeking.

The first complaint – “there are more important things to care about” – grates most on my nerves. It’s not like celebrity news fans are claiming that Taylor Swift v Kimye is the most seismic event in history. If anyone says as much, they are probably headline writers at entertainment media sites using hyperbole to get the clicks that will keep them employed.

Also, in a year like 2016, which is drowning in melancholy, violence and strife, maybe – just maybe – some of us need a break. Some of us want to enjoy a bit of levity in these emotionally trying times. If you are black and living in America, you are subject to constant reminders that those who look like you are unjustly dying at the hands of the state, typically without any consequences for their killers. As if that weren’t enough, this year has also brought the death of legends like Prince and Bowie in addition to Donald J Trump’s so-far-successful candidacy.

To that end, do some of us want to laugh at Kim Kardashian dragging Taylor Swift on a Sunday evening? Or cackle at Blac Chyna scoring one up on that entire familyby locking down the only boy of the bunch? Or be entranced by whatever Beyoncé is doing at any second of the day? You’re damn right we do. We need that escapism badly.

Read more at The Guardian.

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Unless you have been living under the largest rock in the world with no cable or internet access, when it comes to the Kardashians, you know what it is.

If anyone asks you what they do for a living, they’re being insincere and smug. We know what they do: They tell us every tidbit of their personal lives in front of a camera crew for professional gain. Everything they do and everyone they surround themselves with is readily available for public consumption. This has been the case for several years now. One doesn’t have to like that they make a living this way, but the cheapening of celebrity has happened and that family was shrewd enough to monetize it.

To that end, anyone who enters any of Kim Kardashian’s or her kinfolks’ spaces knows what they are signing up for. So when I heard Tyga’s recent interview with Los Angeles radio station Real 92.3, my immediate response was, “Negro, please.” My follow-up comment was, “You gotta shut your black ass up.”

On how the relationship impacted his career, Tyga said: “When you’re in a very public relationship like that, it’s hard for other people to see you differently than that. Being in that … it took a lot, careerwise, everything. It overshadowed a lot of my talents and a lot of things that I worked hard for.”

Tyga went on to add: “She’s young. When you’re young, you’re going to make mistakes. All of those mistakes are going to be in the public eye so that puts a lot of strain on the relationship. Right now, I want to focus on what I need to do. I just wanted to get back to just me. I think for her as well.”

Indeed, Kylie Jenner is young—she’s 18—and Tyga is 26. Although Kanye West once said, disgustingly, that Tyga was “smart” for getting in “early,” I join the likes of Amber Rose in being disgusted by his relationship with Jenner starting before she turned 18. There is a reason West made that claim, though. As much flak as the Kardashian-Jenner ladies (minus Kourtney Kardashian) get for dating famous (black) men, the reality is, many of these men are just as opportunistic and strategic as the women.

The Kardashians like to date men who just love being part of a much larger family setting. If they’re not dating that kind of guy, they’re dealing with men with marginal fame compared with theirs who wouldn’t mind an upgrade. The kind of guy who feels like he’s sitting in coach and wants more than just free nuts in his cramped middle seat. Tyga is that man in the middle who can’t wait to move on up. Why? Because the second he dates someone like Kylie Jenner, he becomes instantly famous.

This man was willing to risk his own episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for the sake of netting more headlines than his rap skills got him. Yeah, as catchy as “Rack City” is, Tyga ain’t exactly going over people’s heads with his incredible vocabulary, penchant for metaphor and overall great skill. Even if we’re going to pretend that Tyga does care about his music career being overshadowed, if that is the case, why is he still talking about a relationship that’s apparently over?

Read the rest at The Root.

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There were many ways to handle frustration over the Oscars being whiter than a Donald Trump political rally, or you know, as white as the Academy Awards typically are any given year. Some created art as a tool of advocacy in response while other others used their star power to shed light on matters in which racism has more haunting consequences. Personally, instead of watching the Oscars, I danced to “Formation” multiple times with Latinos, Blacks, and drag queens — the sort of intersectionality Hollywood stubbornly fails to produce.

Still, like many of these people angry over our erasure, I did have hopes that the host of this year’s Oscars, Chris Rock, would serve as an echo of those feelings directly in front of the people who needed to hear it. Rock, who has long possessed the ability to make white people squirm as much as he does laugh with his thoughts on race and race relations, seemed like the perfect person for the perfect moment. Unfortunately, he failed and I found myself fidgeting more at home than the white people in the audience who actually deserved uncomfortability .

There was an outright pandering in Rock’s remarks that one wonders was there any intent there besides pacification of a primarily white audience?

At one point, Rock compares the Oscar protest of 2016 to ones of yore, quipping that “we had real things to protest at the time, you know” before adding “we’re too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer.” I don’t find a room full of white people gleefully cheering such lines to be at all amusing. Not only is it ahistorical to act as if Black people haven’t leveled protest of discrimination on multiple fronts, it doesn’t give Black folks the credit we deserve. We can two-step and chew gum at the same time. We can be mad about what’s happening in Flint, Michigan and our own communities as much as we can be pissed our contributions continue to be viewed as less than.

Whiteness is centered in each of these examples, hence the problem, so who is anyone, much less a comedian of all people, to downplay the importance of calling a wrong a wrong no matter its level of “seriousness?”

Then there is the matter of Rock’s comments about two famous Black women Jada Pinkett Smith and Rihanna: “Jada said she’s not coming. I was like, ‘isn’t she on TV show?’ Jada’s gonna boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”

Motives aside, Jada Pinkett Smith used her platform to bring awareness to a longstanding barrier that Blacks in Hollywood face. To his credit, Chris Rock has recently spoken out about the plight of Black actresses, but Smith’s efforts didn’t need to be downplayed. It speaks volumes that a Black man failed to hit hard at Hollywood’s racism directly in its face, but managed to invoke Rihanna’s name for a sexist joke.

Chris Rock is hilarious. Chris Rock has said many astute, important things about race through his comedy. Chris Rock last night at the Oscars felt like a missed opportunity to be the aforementioned.

I did enjoy Rock’s observation that “Hollywood is sorority racist.” He explained, “It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’ That’s how Hollywood is.”

And though Blacks may never actually bet let into the sorority, last night proved Hollywood might invite us to the party every now and again, but they’d prefer we not make too much noise.

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Last week, it was confirmed that Abigail Breslin will play Baby in ABC’s Dirty Dancing TV movie musical. My immediate response was, “Oh, I’m not watching that.” However, for a person who does not like musicals but will occasionally watch one – i.e. The Wiz – I have a few suggestions on musicals that ought to happen sooner than later. Before you even say “Enough musicals!” give it up, turn it loose. They’re happening throughout 2016 and beyond. Let’s just all get a piece of the action.

SWV: The Musical

For one anyone that’s watched the new cancelled WeTV reality series, SWV Reunited, you know those women are basically three aunties who love each other but don’t always like each other. I, for one, would love a musical version of their journey complete with Coko cursing out LeeLee and Taj in song. And vice versa, of course. I also want to see them perform “Downtown,” “Can We,” and all of the other sex songs it took Coko years to start singing again after she got all extra Christian on the world.

Bebe’s Kids: The Musical

I would say the members of Mindless Behavior could star in this, but I assume, 1. they’re 45 now, 2. that wouldn’t get this green lit in 2015. Round up some badass kids who can sing or lip sync for their lives to do this. Oh, wait. I know: book those kids who play twins on Black-ish. They are everything.

Read the rest at VH1.com.

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