Originally, this piece was to be a commentary on the television comedy, Black-ish. Just before the holiday season, December 2017, I rented season one of the program from a local library, and I watched three episodes of season four online. What is all the hype about this program and it's Black creator, Kenya Barris?
A few minutes into the first episode, I starting thinking about the creative team working on this production. Are they fearful of being truly radical? Marketing a product and receiving recognition and rewards for this product is a sure sign of success. In America. It tackles police brutality, the "thorny" issues, according Variety, of being Black in America. And Black-ish is a success, "critically acclaimed"--even if it's main "wife" and "mother" figure, Rainbow, is also a physician, but seen, that is, sold, primarily as a wife (and a mother of five!) to a very successful business executive.
Should the consumers not question what's being sold to them as representing a "woman," that is, a Black woman--part of the package deal representing a Black family?
What about the impact of white supremacy within the Black family? Is Rainbow an ideal Black woman because she is second fiddle in the relationship with her husband based on her gender and her income? Is she to be viewed as a human who is neither of the normative gender or of the income bracket that designates truly successful American? Rainbow is, then, what she lacks. We can all laugh at her for what she lacks.
When does Rainbow have time to study, to improve her knowledge of medicine, to improve and update her skills as a doctor, a surgeon? Where are her books? Where's her computer? For that matter, in what room, in that large home, is family's library? Where's the doctor's medical library? In the first few minutes of episode one, the viewer is to note the husband's expansive wardrobe that looks to take up an entire wall with plenty of pants, shirts, shoes, coats and jackets. He's three green leather jackets alone!
In this massive home, where is Rainbow's study? Where's her room of her own? The place for her to think, create, reflect? Would it be acceptable, that is, marketable to see Rainbow or any Black women just walk out of that huge state-of-the-art kitchen or that massive bedroom, just walk out of the camera's frame and retreat to some space that's her? Why should the kitchen necessarily be her? Why should she be the one who must respond humorously (entertainingly) to the antics of the attention-seeking husband?
She is "woman" in some version of the American Dream--for Black Americans? So woman, intellect is the least favorable aspect of your gender. And intellect, as a favorable characteristic of a Black woman, well" No, you are more believable and marketable entertaining the American public--thus assuring its psyche that America will be made great again--soon.
Abusers of power, of women and children, yes"
This commentary was supposed to be about not seeing Black women in Black-ish. But something happened on the way to writing that essay.
In Alabama's special election held on December 12, 2017, something other than what was expected happened. Ninety-eight percent of Black women in Alabama exert their power and, if only temporarily, the image of Rainbow fades. The forgotten thought! Black women took action! Shocked, Americans thanked Black women for stopping Roy Moore's plan to join the US Senate. I don't endorse politicians or the electoral process, but I was struck by the response of the American public when it suddenly discovered Black women existed!
When has this happened before in US history?
I heard news commentators referring to the Black woman's c-o-n-t-r-i-b-u-t-i-o-n to the national/international dialogue about sexual assault and abuse of power as if Black American women has never ever c-o-n-t-r-i-b-u-t-e-d anything to this country, let alone a discussion about a culture of rape and abuse of power!
White supremacist depictions of Black women erase an entire legacy of the Black struggle. What American expected Black women to send the unconscionable to Washington to join in what is already an unconscionable cesspool? By contrast, over 63% of white females in Alabama couldn't imagine Black women getting in the way of sending the patriarch to Washington DC.
As matter-of-fact as white supremacy, however, some Black women organized in the basement of churches or in kitchens while cooking the family meal or having cookies and coffee. Others hugged and talked on front lawns or in backyards while others, still, standing on curbs, exchanged names and email addresses of the neighbors most likely to be feed up. How many others would have met at the laundromat or on the play ground when they went to pick up their children.
Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner choked to death at the hands of the New York Police, picked up a bullhorn to denounce the injustice and brutality proliferating in images of whiteness that vilifies to either deaden or at least make malleable everything in its embrace.