*Some fights you must fight … on principle alone. This would be one of them.
This fight is about having standards, knowing when television programming has in fact gone too far or finally found the basement.
The effect and impact of stereotypes can not be denied, from the generalities of racial profiling to the specifics of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Russell Davis; to each time a police officer questions me as to where I purchased my sports car or “why” I’m driving through any given middle-class or affluent neighborhood.
Stereotypes and their impact can not be denied. Ask Muslims about how the world changed for them after 9/11. Ask Latinos in Arizona after SB1070. What also can’t be denied is the disproportionate impact of stereotypes by way of televised imagery with respect to race. Fair or not, the actions of Honey Boo Boo Child and her mother do not serve as a proxy for White women and children. Nor does the sex-tape, jump-started career of Kim Kardashian impact or fuel any long-held negative perceptions of Armenian women. Not all stereotypes are created equal and not all television has equal impact.
The reasonable person is able to distinguish reality television from reality in the world. But then again, there are still millions of people who still seem to think Benghazi is a colossal conspiracy and our president is not a U.S. citizen.
Let’s stop underestimating the power and prevalence of stupidity, stop overestimating the common sense of most people. Let’s also stop denying the influence of reality television on both the participants and viewers.
To the issue at hand…
Oxygen’s efforts to produce, promote and profit from “Shawty-Lo: All My Babies’ Mamas” (the ongoing dysfunction of an African-American rapper and the 10 different mothers of his 11 children) are indefensible all day, everyday. This show simply can not happen and shame on us if we allow even one episode to be broadcast. I could spend all day intelligently explaining how the exploitation of these children is unacceptable, or highlight the troubling irony that none of the executives, producers or writers involved with “All My Babies’ Mamas” is African-American.
I could…but it’s not necessary. In the way it’s not necessary to make long, drawn out arguments as to why racism and misogyny have no place in an enlightened society, it’s also not necessary to overstate the obvious here. This show has no place on television and its production must be halted immediately. The time has come to stop rewarding ignorant, irresponsible behavior; stop exalting foolishness.
It is an affront to anyone living in the land of decency and common sense. It does though beg the question of what Oxygen passed on, along the way. If Jason Klarman (President of Oxygen) said “yes” to this…to what did he say “no?”
Or, if we as the African-American community say “yes” to something so wholly disrespectful and disgraceful, then we as African-Americans have then abrogated the right to be offended at any treatment, media or legislation that uses such stereotypes against us.
What was the chain of command regarding those who said “yes” to this despicable idea? Who if anyone from the African-American entertainment community was consulted in advance? Is it that Klarman and those close to him didn’t know such programming is patently offensive (ignorance), or knew and didn’t care (indifference)? Or maybe it was some sordid combination of both. As of yet, Klarman and Oxygen’s communications department have made no public acknowledgment of the backlash.
Which simply means I have more work to do. This show can not happen and I will not be complicit in this foolishness and passive in my public stance.
I can’t tell you specifically where the line resides as to going too far in reality television. I can though tell you definitively, this is way on the other side of it. Way, way, way on the other side of it.
We pick and choose our battles. I choose this one. Some fights you must fight…on principle alone. This would be one of them.
Do not be confused or misled by the faux arguments that this would be no more disrespectful than any Basketball Wives program, Honey Boo Boo Child or Kim Kardashian. This is something far worse and wholly different This is about having standards. Just because some enjoy a steady diet of programming garbage, it doesn’t mean that then eating straight from the sewer or landfill is the reasonable next step. This is going too far; much, much too far.
Oxygen is free to develop and produce its programming slate as it sees fit. It’s only purpose is to increase viewership and revenue, without deference to stereotypes, disrespectful imagery and their long-term consequences. My purpose is much higher in nature. Our purpose as a community must be higher in nature. We in the African-American community are free to let it be known in no uncertain terms that minstrel shows were a product of the 19th century and have no place in this one.
If you think that a television show featuring the absolute worst in stereotypes doesn’t affect your African-American children, then follow these instructions. Never mention Trayvon Martin’s name ever again. Stop advancing the idea that “Driving While Black” is a real phenomenon. Quit moaning about President Obama being characterized as the “angry Black man” or how a White House watermelon patch email is supposedly racist. Cease with all complaints about how “the face of welfare” is always assumed to be a Black one. Don’t you dare open your mouth as to how unfair it is for Black men to be depicted as lazy, shiftless and sexually irresponsible.
You can either be against stereotypes or for them. It’s one or the other, but not both. Supporting the development of this program on any level by any executive or viewer makes your choice clear.
This show can not happen and I will not ever be complicit in the promulgation of the worst of African-American stereotypes.
Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) is host of “The Mo’Kelly Show” on KFI AM640/XM Satellite and “Mo’Kelly in the Morning” on KTLK AM1150. The Mo’Kelly Report is a syndicated politics and entertainment journal. Contact him at [email protected] and all commentary is welcome.