Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of back and forth between African-American men and African-American women on some old nonsense television show called “Scandal.” From what I’ve heard and read (I’ve never really actually seen the show), its about some African American woman with a PR firm who’s involved with a white man who is supposed to be the president. Everyone is up in arms because of the interracial relationship and what he or she thinks it represents. A lot of African-American women are saying they are empowered by the representation of a ‘powerful’ black woman in the media. Black men are saying that African-American women are being depicted as ‘negro bed wenches’ through this character. Here’s what I say.
First, I’m not going to bash the show’s creator(s). I will not presume to understand the reason or vision that drives the creator(s) to come up with such a story. However, I do take issue with those in power who selectively choose certain voices and visions to promote to the general public. Let’s be clear: there are many visions, voices, and ideas that exist in our world. There are many stories waiting to be told through our various artistic modes (movies, television, music, dramatic theatre), but I notice that certain voices are silenced and pushed to the back, while others are promoted whether they are profit bearing or not. The powers that be in the media who have deliberately selected this “Scandal” program to be delivered and promoted to us have done so for a particular reason (Think back to what happened to rap music, and how the artistic, socially conscious rap was eschewed by record companies who favored ‘gangsta’ rap, despite artistic rap’s increasing popularity and profitability). Regardless of the creator’s vision, the media machine has decided to spin this program in a certain way to create social influence. Since Hollywood is involved, you know this can’t be good for African-Americans. I believe the show is being used to stir up tensions between African-American men and women. It is a propaganda tool that was deliberately created for African-American men and African-American women to project upon. I know some of you will laugh and think, “Here we go with the conspiracy theories. It’s just a show!” But check this out - throughout history regimes have employed the media to achieve social aims. Just think about how the Goebbels used the newsreels to trick an unsuspecting public to support the despicable agenda of the third reich.
The powers that be, which funded the dissemination of this program, know us all too well psychologically. They know the mental scars that we suffer, which have their roots in slavery and institutionalized racism. Shows like this serve as propaganda to exploit that pain and further divide us. “Scandal” is not the first of such propaganda – just the latest incarnation. That nonsense started with the film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” – which upon viewing almost seems like an infomercial with all of the extended monologues and speeches from all of the characters. Whether it’s a black man/white woman or black woman/white man, interracial romance in Hollywoodspeak follows the same script. Allow me to elaborate:
1. The black person in the romance has to have some quality that makes them different from all the ‘other’ black people. They are either really smart like the character in ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner’, or really rich like the ‘Scandal’ woman, or they ‘are able to understand things from a different perspective’ like Halle Berry’s character in ‘Monsters Ball’. The message to the mainstream is clear – the average black person is basically an animal and only the ‘special’ ones are ok to deal with. Meanwhile, the white person or other person involved in the relationship is merely average, or in the case of ‘Scandal’ - obviously incompetent and/or wicked (which is, from what I hear, the reason why he needs the black woman to clean up his messes).
2. Relationships are all about control, power, and politics. There’s rarely any ‘romance’ involved. No sweet courtship. No sacrifice of one to save the other. No moments where you go, ‘aww…they’re so in love.’ In most cases the relationships are characterized by lofty insincere speeches on race, conflict, arguments, threats, violence, lots of rough sex, and you guessed it – that Tom and Jerry-cat and mouse-soap opera nonsense.
White love interest: I bet I can make you love me more than I love you!
Black love interest: No you won’t – I’ll make you love me more than I love you!
White love interest: But you missed me when I went away – you love me more!
Black love interest: Oh, yeah! Well now I’m going to run away and then you’ll miss me and you’ll see that you love me more!
In other words: Don’t expect the story line in Scandal to look anything like that of, say… “The Notebook”
3. The relationships usually never end in marriage, and if they do the marriage is short lived. In ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,’ there was lots of talk about marriage, but no ceremony was showed – just an allusion to an ‘upcoming’ event. The audience is allowed to believe that maybe by the time the wedding day arrives, the white girl will come to her senses and get rid of the black dude. Same with other interracial Hollywood-style romance garbage – Kirk never married Uhura, Scandal woman will never marry the president (I hear he’s already married). I could go on, but I have limited time. Overall message to the mainstream – It’s okay to sleep with blacks, but don’t marry them unless you have to.
4. The partner of the African-American character constantly humiliates and or abuses him/her. Sidney Poiter’s character was taken by the fiancé to be subjected to an interrogation by her parents. When he meets them in the movie, it almost seems like he’s at a job interview. In contrast, his mom is just so sweet and accepting. She can’t wait to have a white daughter-in-law. Don’t even get me started on what happened in Monsters Ball. That just seemed like plantation rape to me. This ‘Scandal’ thing seems to be the same. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what’s so romantic about some guy who’s always either threatening you or holding you at arms length. Also, you would think that in the process of cleaning up this dude’s messes, the Scandal woman would see just how ratchet this guy is. Why would she even want him knowing all the crap he’s been involved in? Doesn’t really sound like a strong black woman if you ask me. Anyway, given the humiliation and abuse they endure, it seems as if the African-American character has to ‘prove’ his dedication or worthiness to the other in the relationship, while the other has nothing to prove. That’s not something I’m willing to swallow folks.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t believe that there can be genuine interracial relationships based on love. In real life there are probably a few. I just don’t think our mainstream media will ever fund or allow such a relationship to be broadcast through any medium it controls. Our mainstream serves to reinforce the existing socio-political structure, and I think even innocent TV shows and movies are used for this purpose. With regard to our community it has always been ‘divide and conquer’ and here’s how it works.
Most of us African-Americans eat this poisoned media bait. We then project our racial insecurities onto the films. Black men and Black women crave and desire acceptance into the mainstream. Black men prefer the black man/white woman interracial romances because they get to pretend to be ‘the desired’ by mainstream. When they watch these films, they get to feel as if they are ‘chosen’ or ‘special’. They feel as if they are being validated by the mainstream. The reverse happens when black women watch the black woman/white man interracial romance. Conversely, when the black man watches a black woman/white man interracial romance, he feels as if he has to compete with the black woman for a place of acceptance in the mainstream. She is being preferred, but he is not, creating a jealousy. He is not feeling protective of the black woman, (like some are disingenuously pretending to be in this ‘Scandal’ debate), but envious of her apparent position in the mainstream. The same can be said for the black woman when she watches the black male/white female interracial romance. Then she’s the jealous one, thinking it’s the black male that’s keeping her from being accepted. In the end it’s a lot of wishful thinking and fantasizing about being accepted into a world that will never accept us. But they hold out the illusory carrot stick to us in this form of banal escapism and we eat it up. But there is a price to pay for this escapism – it costs us our sense of self-respect, our sense of unity, and our sense of self-preservation.
In the end Black men and Black women end up fighting each other when we should be helping each other. We accuse each other of cooperating with the mainstream to hold one another back. Black men and Black women – wake up! It’s time to be honest. You’re not fighting about ‘Scandal’. You’re not fighting about ‘Guess Who?’ You’re fighting over something neither of you are going to get. You will NEVER find acceptance in the mainstream. I will repeat – NEVER! Get over it already! This society defines itself on the basis of African-Americans holding a bottom-rung status. To allow those of us of African descent to have real access would mean an upheaval of the whole system – and this is something the mainstream will not tolerate. It’s simple self-preservation. Likewise, we need to preserve ourselves. We need to do like we did in the old days. If they won’t let you into their hotel – make your own! You can’t eat in their restaurant – make your own! It’s called nation-building folks. But we can only do this if we work TOGETHER!
Why is it that we don’t fantasize about being accepted by each other? Why doesn’t the black man fantasize about a beautiful black woman? Why aren’t black women fantasizing about a wonderful, do-right black man? Sometimes I think it’s because we equate the mainstream with power. All that the mainstream has is illusory. It is a very loosely stacked deck of cards that is kept together by what they are able to make us think about ourselves. It cannot control us or shape our destiny unless we allow it. Like the character of the Scandal woman, we never stop to think about if what we are pursuing is actually worthy of ourselves. Too many of us hide in the secret of our heart, a desire to be chosen, to be that ‘special negro’. Too many of us would rather be a doormat in someone else’s reality than to live with dignity in the reality Christ has purchased for us. What’s so special about the mainstream? Why do we have to be a part of it? There are many cultural groups in this country that eschew it, to make and preserve their own cultural mores and traditions. Why can’t African-Americans do this? We know that the messages the machine sends us are always destructive to us. So why do we keep on imbibing things like ‘Scandal’? Why do we keep drinking this poison- even when we know it’s poison.
Some people will say it’s harmless fun, or it’s just entertainment. That’s what people say about weed and heroine – drugs that take away our inhibitions and lull us into a false sense of security. For some people ‘Scandal,’ and media junk like it, is their drug. It’s a coping device that makes living in this hard, cold, discriminatory world a little easier. For an hour one can pretend to be the Scandal woman and have the mainstream’ s limited and grudging admiration and be ‘special’. But as with any drug, the security is temporary. When the hour is over, we have to go back to facing reality. ‘Scandal’ changes nothing. It does what all other drugs do – keep us so that we do nothing about the things that really bother us. It keeps us from enacting the real changes that can move us from being a subjugated minority to an independent people.
So I say to African-American men and African-American women - stop arguing about scandal. Instead, start working together to do the things that can help us move forward. Both of us need to start taking responsibility and stop finger pointing and blaming each other for what’s going on in our community. The real culprit is the mainstream’s use of institutional racism. African-American men and African-American women must work together if we are going to find ways to undermine this insidious influence. Both of us need to start listening to each other’s points of view and stop reacting like victims. Both of us need to start loving ourselves. Finally, both need to stop serving the god of the mainstream (with all of its pernicious vices like lust for power, money, sex, leisure and material goods) and serve the True and Living God, who controls the mainstream and everything and everyone in it. There is no other authority than that of God. When you serve Him, all other ‘so called’ authorities lose their power over you. Then you begin to ask the important questions.
You start asking the real hard questions like, “Where are our other stories?” Hollywood and the mainstream media only show very few facets of our complex community and most of which are usually negative. Though many want to say that the prevailing media fare is ‘real’, I must say as an African-American, I have a hard time relating to most of it to the point to where I just can’t watch TV anymore. Instead I wonder, “How come no one has attempted to make an endearing, down to earth, African-American love story that revolves around the lives to two everyday people without all of the ‘booty-call’ sex? The closest we got was “Love Jones,” and that was still pretty shallow (at least in my opinion). I’m sick to death of all these black romantic comedies where the main characters are acting as if they’re trying on relationships like sweaters at the mall. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would love to see an enduring romance with two African-American characters connecting on a more spiritual and emotional level.
I would also like to see stories of African-American friendships that involve men and women who care about each other being put on the big screen and not just a bunch of black women who sit around complaining about black men (Waiting to Exhale) or black men who sit around complaining about black women (The Best Man). I want to see an African-American sci-fi story, and an action adventure flick that doesn’t revolve around robbing someone (Takers, Set it Off) or driving fast cars. Where are the stories that celebrate the strong black fathers who are taking care of business? Where are our black children’s films? In fact, where are the stories that tell our children’s view of the world? Where are our films of faith that are about getting to God and not getting a husband? These are stories that promote healing and a real dialogue. These are stories that will give us hope as a people. These are the stories that allow us to see our own humanity and cause us to value each other. They are out there, but we as a people need to fund and promote them and stop waiting for what comes from the Hollywood machine. We have to do it, and we have to work outside of the system, just like we did with rap when it first came out. Yes, its harder this way, but still doable and most of all – its necessary!
DON’T BE FOOLED – THE MAINSTREAM HAS NO PREFERENCE TOWARD EITHER GENDER when it comes to race so don’t bother bringing up false evidence like interracial marriage statistics and such. (If you’re not sure, really think about what the owner of the Clippers said during a racist rant while in a relationship with a black woman, nonetheless. Racists will date and, on occasion, even marry African-Americans – doesn’t mean they like them) It is determined to reinforce the subjugation and eventual DESTRUCTION of all people of African descent (male, female, young, old, rich, middle class, poor, Christian, non-Christian, intelligent or otherwise). It’s time for us to stop arguing about and fighting for someone else’s validation (which will never come) and accept the validation God has already given us through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Now that’s FREEDOM!
Whether you want it or not, there’s my $.02. Peace.
P.S. – It is not my intention to undermine the work of the talented African-American actors who derive their livelihood from this program. As actors, Ms. Washington and the rest have my respect. While I do not watch the program, I recognize everyone has a right to make their own choices with regard to the matter. Rather, I am stating my opinion not just of this particular show, but of the entertainment industry as a whole. I just feel that we need to be more discerning when it comes to what we watch on TV and analyze what we consume rather than sit back and be passively entertained.