Apr 24, 2012

**WARNING*** SENSITIVE SUBJECT MATTER 

 You have been warned.  I have touched on some issues on here that have turned into tinder boxes even when I didn't think they would be...BUT I am telling you up front, that I am taking the gloves off on this one and MOST of you are not going to like it.  You are definitely entitled to your opinion and that's what the comment box below is for but I am also entitled to mine and I am expressing it today.

I'm throwing Savvy Sista under the bus on this one because I really believe that she is the one who convinced me to watch Single Ladies last season (but I may be re-writing history, I may have brought it up to her).  Anyway, the point is, I watched it.  And though I didn't think there was anything ground breaking about it, I supported the show the entire season for a couple of reasons:

1) We complain about the lack of roles for Black actors/actresses and this show was giving them a paycheck and so I wanted to support that;

2) Although, I found the acting to be a little lacking, I liked the concept and loved that it was filmed in Atlanta, which meant my city was getting an economic boost and some positive exposure.

Now when I decide to support you in something, I also become one of your biggest cheerleaders, so I didn't just watch the show, I mentioned it to other people and recruited new viewers.   One of the new viewers I recruited, happens to be a long time friend of mine.  We'll call her "X".   X and I have been friends for well over 13 years now and we aren't the friends in I see you once in a blue moon kinda friends.  We are the meet once a month for lunch, talk on the phone at least once every two weeks kind of friends.  And because some of you may or may not feel this is important later in the story.  X is a white woman.

Anyway, with VH-1 promoting it up for the new season of Single Ladies, she hit me up on messenger today and this is how the conversation went.

X: New Season Single Ladies, where are we watching the season premiere, my place or yours? We can order Chinese food.
Me: uh, doesn't matter
X: What's wrong?
Me: Nothing, just not as excited about it this year.
X: Why?? Because Stacey Dash is gone? You were always complaining about them giving the skinny girl all the cute clothes while the curvy girl got the frump wear anyway.
Me: LOL!! I did say that. They did Lisaraye wrong.
X: Okay, so again, what's the problem?
Me: We can watch the show... besides you don't really want to know why I'm annoyed about it
X: If I didn't want to know I wouldn't ask!! DUH!! I am well aware of the fact that you need medication for your neuroses
Me: Okay, when they named the new actress a few months back, I had never heard of the chick so I googled her and the first things that came up were her interviews where she refers to herself as Latina instead of Black.
X: WTH are you talking about???
Me: She says she's Puerto Rican, Dominican and Greek
X: Wait a minute, you discriminating against her because she's MIXED??? You're MIXED!!
Me: I AM NOT MIXED!!! I am a BLACK woman.  I happen to be a by product of several interracial marriages.  And you are  missing my point. Puerto Rican is not a race, it's an ethnicity.  There are White Puerto Ricans who are descendants of the Spaniards who colonized Puerto Rico.  The are Native American Puerto Ricans who are descendant of the Taino Indians, the original inhabitants  of the Island and there are Black Puerto Ricans who are descended from the slaves that were brought to the Island.
X: I don't get you. I have met your family... and quite frankly they are a mixed bag.  You have white relatives, like as in your grandparents are not Black.  Your grandmother lived on a reservation until she got married, you are descended from Indian Chiefs, so if you are Black then why isn't SHE??
Me: That's my whole point. SHE IS!! But she doesn't want to be identified as such, so why is taking a role that was written for a Black actress??

After that we had to take the conversation offline so that I could explain myself.  In the end, we agreed to disagree. I will say that she brought up another interesting point on the phone.  According to her, I am ashamed to admit my white heritage (I don't think that I am, I just don't feel the need to broadcast it because at the end of the day, I'm still a Black woman) but I am now penalizing her for being on the other side of the coin.

Okay so I know people are going to have many thoughts on this subject and some of you will be too shy to say anything but the truth is that the only way we tackle these closet issues is if we pull them out on the floor and discuss them.  Maybe I am missing something but I just think that if you are actively seeking roles written for Black women, you should at least identify yourself as Black.  Years ago when Angelina Jolie was cast in the role of Mariane Pearl, people had plenty to say about a white woman playing a Black (Bi-racial) woman but there is nothing said when women who at least appear to be Black, deny that they are Black while taking roles meant for Black women.  Enlighten me as to why this okay...I'll be waiting with an open mind....
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11 comments:

  1. I think the root of the problem is with casting and the tv show executives. Why is ok for them to slight black women with women who do not identify as black or truly African American when that is the "experience" that they are trying to portray? Dominicans, Cubans, and many others are black Latinos. They may or may not have had the typical "black in America" experience. If that is the experience they want on screen it only makes sense to go with the ones that have that experience. In the purest, ideal sense if her acting skills are on point and she can pull it off then oh well...but we all know that we are far from pure and ideal when it comes to race in this country especially when it comes to tv and filem. So to me they are slighting black women because the black Latinas that they will likely cast will fit their "acceptable" image which further perpetuates disdain for black women.

    As for her not referring to herself as black...I'm reminded of football Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson's speech when he was inducted. he is biracial with a white mother and black father. His ultimate message was that no one should be forced to choose. He married a white woman, which he probably got some flack for. But the woman that he loved the most who loved him was his white mother...Our President identifies as black but has a white mother. Why should he have to choose one and by default downplay the other? Halle Berry's mother, a white woman, raised her daughter as black because she knew that is what the world would view her as. Tiger Woods got alot of flack for his Caublasian idea trying to fit all of his heritage int one word because folks thought he was denying the fact that he was black.

    If you have mixed heritage, you shouldn't have to be forced to choose. At the same time, you shouldn't deny any aspect either. I do not know this actress and have no interest in the show. Giving her the benefit of the doubt she may have just been inarticulate. I don't know what is in her head and her heart regarding her darker colored skin. Is she denying it because of shame or is she really trying to shed light on all of the aspects of her ethnicity? Alot of people,black people especially will write her off because of what she has said and done by taking on acting roles of black women. But if we want people to look beyond our skin color, why can't we look past someone else's?

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  2. I think your first point is very interesting and pretty insightful... I can't bring myself to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly but one of my neighbors does and he always bring me his magazine after he reads it...and the casting calls listed in there are sometimes very detailed so I think you raise an interesting point that I had not considered... that they could specifically ask for actresses with the Black experience

    I really think my disappointment came from the fact that there is no acknowledgment that she's Black... I understand Ronnie Woodson's point, that he shouldn't have to choose (in an ideal world anyway)... but (and of course it is my interpretation of the written interview I read) to deliberately avoid using the word Black when you are a Black Latina gives me great pause..

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  3. You totally introduced me to the show...LOL!!! I can't believe you threw me under the bus like that. I couldn't get past the bad acting at first and you convinced me to stay. Like you said, you are a wonderful cheerleader!

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  4. LMBO!!!! I said I might be re-writing history...LOL.. But I blame you for every bad tv show I have ever seen... it's good to be consistent!!!

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  5. I am glad that you all found a deeper reason to support the show. I could not hang. Tried watching a few times and could not watch even one complete episode.

    Real talk though: I think race vs. ethnicity is a worthwhile discussion. We are socialized to treat people a certain way and expect certain behavior based on their skin color. And there is this myth out there that black Americans and Latinos are joined at the hip. I sat in on a presentation by two men, one Mexican and the other Puerto Rican, about Latinos in America. They stated that Latinos do not reaaly relate to blacks and relate even less with whites. The play Platanos and Collard Greens highlights this idea.

    Which brings me to the idea of alot of cultures being embraced except African American Culture. For Latinos, Mexicans specifically, the immigration issue puts people on edge, but culture wise, I find other groups being more accepted but blacks are always low on the totem pole. So while I can accept the purest perspective, I am quite skeptical that for some people there is some level of shame associated with having darker skin.

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  6. Johanna...once again you are making sense to me...I grew up in the South where everyone lives together but I can certainly see your point in large cities where cultural groups can isolate themselves... I remember going to NY and my friend taking me through Little Cuba and then saying well these blocks belong to the Puerto Ricans etc... I am glad that you mentioned that...it adds another dynamic to it BUT it still makes me sad for them because it means they don't understand their own history... Everywhere there was colonization, there were slaves... I was having a conversation with a colleague who is Mexican and she was talking to me about the Spanish war against the Native Americans there and I'm like yeah if they had just banded together with Yanga's army they might have stood a chance. She looked at me with a blank stare who's Yanga??? I was annoyed and I know I shouldn't be but I'm like this is YOUR history... but hey what can we expect our former President went to Brazil and asked if they had any Black people living there *blank stare*

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  7. Brotha Otis would be so proud...his gansta-boos actually finding some common ground LOL!!

    It is sad. I am definitely not a history buff though I am always willing to learn. My observations as of late regarding diversity is that as I said before everyone else seems to be liked more than Black Americans. I've even noticed more coverage for missing Latino children on the news. Whereas I do not know that I have ever seen national network coverage for a missing black child. Well we did hear about the little girl in Arizona but once out of my entire life? If I hadn't grown up in the hood then I could've easily grown up thinking that black kids just don't go missing.

    The contempt for darker skin is very real. The question I have is why does the denial of "blackness" strike such a nerve with black people? What is the internal process that takes place that makes us so angry to hear comments like what this actress said? Intellectually I get it and I can point out its effects, but it doesn't make me angry or upset. If she is in fact ashamed of her darker skin, then I'm sad for her but for me, not phased in the least.

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  8. I can't speak for all Black Americans but my anger is two fold... Like you said, Black Americans are treated as the low rung on the totem pole. Black Latinas benefit from the struggle that our ancestors put in and yet, they (some not saying all) feel as though they can disparage us, label us as lazy. We put in work and you now reap the benefits of that work so I am angry that they have the nerve to feel superior especially when Hollywood and the media see Black Latinas as Black and that is why they are given Black roles even though they do not want to be identified as Black women. Secondly, and forgive me if I sound uppity, but I see it as a perpetuation of ignorance. They are ignorant about their own history and I am not saying everyone has to be a history buff but to not know your own circumstances and then act on that ignorance irritates the hell out of me no matter what your race.
    And then there's what lurks in the background and that is the notion that Black by itself just can't be equated with beauty. And that I do take extremely personally. It is the reason, I am ready to fight when people try to proclaim me mixed or multi racial. As long as I live, I'll never forget being 8 years old and my parents deciding that I did not have enough self confidence. Their solution was to put me in beauty pageants. They even paid for me to go to a pageant coach. I overheard the pageant coach tell his assistant that I could probably win the title because I was just Black enough to look exotic but not African Black. Even that young I knew that was wrong...but I know some grown women who think it is a compliment. There is this complex that Black needs something in the mix to make it prettier. I look at women like LaLa Vasquez and Zoe Saldana and I think that they look like average Black women to me, if they never told me they were Latina, I wouldn't know it... Now they are what they are but there is the perception that throwing in the Latina somehow explains their beauty and I'm sorry but it just ain't true. They are Black women whose ancestors hapen to grow up in another country but they're still just pretty Black women

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  9. I think this is a strong contender for the topic of Sunday's show.

    Brotha Otis is not the only one who's prod. Now if I could get you two ladies and Antonio Merrick to agree of something...now that would be a feat...LOL!

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  10. I think it would be a good show topic... can you do it next Sunday though?? I am on a voter registration adventure this weekend (I'll explain why it's an adventure later)....

    Now onto this Antonio madness where you are just kicking up dust... First, he tries to take credit for everything Johanna says anyway...which tickles me to death... because he will say something...she will counter and then he will say that's what I just said... Uh see dude, just the fact that she said, I disagree because...tends to lead one to believe that was she is about to say is NOT what you just said
    and Secondly, I do agree with him on 2 points 1) he is a republican and 2) he is out of touch with Black America ...those seem to be his favorite 2 lines and I agree with him whole heartedly... the other stuff he says...eh, not so much...LOL

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  11. LOL! We are taking over the comment section like it we are in a chat room. Y'all leave ol' boy alone now...lol!

    It is definitely a worthwhile topic. Whether this is the topic for Sunday or the following week, we need a show Savvy!! Even a day of hot topics. I think there is alot to talk about.

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