Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Reclaiming Our Image

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A few years ago a local writer named Kathy Y. Wilson put a picture of a mammy figurine on her first book.  A small contingent of people were upset and insulted that she would do something like that.  Didn’t she know the history?  It was an affront to black beauty and desexualization of the black female image.  They wanted the image off her book and for her to recognize its significance to history.

To them she wrote,” Get this: The Mammy belongs to me. She’s my lieutenant, my Barney Fife, my road dog, my Seeing Eye Mammy…  How dare I reverse the white-owned concept of marketing my culture back to me by selling it to them first? It’s on my word.   I own the Mammy. I am not the Mammy. ”

Not everyone feels the same way as she does.  For a lot of us the popular images plague us; we worry that it is us.  We scrutinize ourselves in the mirror to see what stares back.  Just because we may wear hip hop clothing, like hairstyles that fringe a bit on the elaborate, or just have the same shade of skin we don’t know if the greater world can see deeper within and recognize that we aren’t all alike.  A backlash is occuring and all that has been written, portrayed and reworked on black images has had war declared on it.

That was the original reason hotghettomess.com began in the first place.  The page’s creator said she created the page to “usher in a new era of self-examination. ”  When I first encountered it a few years ago I was simultaneously amused and appalled, which mean I immediately emailed a few swiped pics and a link to the page.  I even showed it to my daughter who then bookmarked it and passed it on to her friends.  In the subsequent months my black friends regularly look at the page and will email pics with the remarks like “What is up with your people?”  They might be skinfolk, but they ain’t our kinfolk.  No one wants to claim them, but we are ready to laugh at their daring audacity to walk around in neon hair colors and racy clothes which are devices to get attention.   They are a sub group of African Americans.  Make that a sub-sub group that only come out at night (like Whodini said) unless its a big gathering of them in some far off place that they told no real black folks about.  They are not shamed of their sartorial selections and that is the comedy in it.

But to have it as a tv show…

To many, having a show called Hot Ghetto Mess on BET seems redundant.  Do they have any other kind? A lot of people find the music videos aired on BET to be just as visually debasing and embarassing as the pictures posted on the hotghettomess website as they blame the cable station with aiding in the decline of African American culture.  Before the show has been broadcast, media watchblog group What About Our Daughters has begun a letter writing campaign to sponsors in hopes that it can help get the show off the air.  (As of today, State Farm Insurance has pulled ads from the Hot Ghetto Mess on BET site.)

What is it to make of the current African American image in the media?  What was once seen as minstrelsy has now become deemed as part of the African American experience.  Twenty-plus years ago a group of people got together to create the Black Family Reunion.  Across the country, different cities would host this coming together of blacks from around the area in hopes that through small seminars, song and dance there could be a reaffirmation of what was positive about blackness.  I remember seeing Malcom Jamal Warner’s mother on television, denouncing the stereotypes of blacks in the movies and on television as only pimps, players, thugs and hoes.  Fast forward nine years later and a in a lot of black videos and music the portrayal of African Americans are pimps, players, thugs and hoes.  Years ago upheld the image of the Huxtables not just as obtainable but that an actual composite of real black families.  But today what do we have on television?  The hoochies of Charm School?  A banshee of a bachelorette in I Love New York?  Aside from Girlfriends and Everybody Hates Chris (which are both on the WB) does any other show help to counterbalance the negative images of African Americans?

So how can we reclaim anything that is becoming abhorrent to a growing segment of African Americans?  Will the video hoes and thugs of today become the images that young black youngsters try to reappropriate tomorrow?  Will they be able to refine them and find their worth to an African American culture of the early 21st century?  At least with the mammy figures you knew they were representative of the black cooks and maids who worked hard in white homes as well as their own to help make ends meet for their families.  And the black lawn jockeys are actually a tribute to the first race horse jockeys who were black.  But the thugs and hoes are a tribute to the decadence and greed that’s plaguing the black community. 

I hope future black generations will not judge our time to harshly, but then if they don’t take us to task will it be a good thing or a bad thing?

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Written by rentec

9 July, 2007 at 9:37 pm

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