Last night I while preparing for my MLK speech at Oklahoma City University Tuesday night, I was in the room with my wife who was watching Bravo’s Housewives of Atlanta. I am not a fan of the show, but became interested in the episode after overhearing the cast members talking about taking a trip to South Africa, which got my attention because I have family there, really enjoyed my time visiting there, and generally excited anytime mainstream TV promotes Africa. Yet, my excitement was short-lived. See, just when I thought this show could not get any more demeaning since it already exploits almost every negative stereotype Black women face in this country; the Bravo Network, the show, cast members, and producers sunk to an all-time low by making a mockery of the enslavement of our (and their) ancestors. Wow, I can’t believe that while looking at an enslavement exhibit scene at an African-American museum that showed a Black male mannequin in chains, two of the cast members, (one who is actually a practicing attorney) were making jokes about the mannequin’s “genitals” and even (the lawyer!) physically looked under the loin cloth of the exhibit to see “what he was packing” which further plays into the “hyper sexuality” of the African-American community.
This is an outrage and I am disgusted. Exploiting stereotypes is one thing, and while I do not expect positive and uplifting content from these shows, I certainly do NOT expect to have the deadly and brutal chattel slavery era—that saw upwards of 100 million Africans forcefully snatched husband from wife, mother from daughter, father from son…forced to endure the horrendous middle passage…forced to suffer the humiliation of being sold at auction blocks like chattel…forced to work from “can’t see morning, to can’t see dusk” for the total enrichment and empowerment of others…forced to work under the consistent threat if death, rape, beating, or kidnapping…forced to breed with each other like beasts of the field— mocked by “educated” African-Americans on national TV!
In closing, can you imagine a Jew or (anyone for that matter) going to a Jewish Holocaust exhibit or museum, laughing and making sexual jokes about the topless exhibits? No you can’t because it would NEVER happen, and if it did it would be national news and the person/s responsible would be immediately escorted (rightfully so) out of the facility. As I reflect on all that the Civil rights generation went through, the beatings, the lynching, the jailing, the marching, and the killings, I am saddened to have to think: is THIS what Dr. King and others fought and died for?!? So, we could have the freedom to trivialize our plight and struggle for TV ratings and a few dollars. I guess Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month and author of Mis-Education of the Negro put it best by stating in 1933 “when you control a man’s mind, you don’t have to worry about his actions… [he] will find [his] proper place and will stay in it…you do not need to send him to the back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.” For whatever reason, the Atlanta Housewives felt that their proper place was to make it ok for the nation to find humor in the enslavement and oppression of Black people, their people; I can only pray that they find a way to become educated on why this is not the proper actions for such beautiful “southern belles.” Lastly, I’m sure the former enslaved African below would find no humor in their actions.