Black Folks, Media Ratchetness & Humanity in Question

A frame from VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta

Let’s face it. As human beings, we are attracted to foolishness. Whether it’s watching some poor schmuck light his farts on fire and burn his ass in the process to seeing disgruntled sports fans duke it out in public for the honor of their teams, people will be watching and cheering.

It shouldn’t be shocking to see that my brothas and sistas, like any other human being, would watch our own engage in outlandish behavior. We call it ratchetness. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise why it’s not as fast to check that kind of entertainment in the media. Sure, there are interviews, conferences, seminars, papers and books, but for the most part, they examine the issue and explain how not to let it get to you.

The movement for more balanced and positive programming is not as cut and dry as it seems. There are black folks who ask and beg until we’re blue in the face for more positive programming. Yet, we’ve ‘got’ to watch shows like The Bad Girls’ Club, Love and Hip-Hop and especially the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

The cast of RHOA with Andy Cohen in the center.

Don’t front. Some of us would prefer to watch that over anything ratchetless. Some of us would listen to Lil Wayne and Rick Ross as opposed to Dead Prez and Mos Def. There’s nothing wrong with that. But some people who cry for more positivity end up seeking negativity instead, sometimes on purpose.

Anyhow, there are black folks who rush to tune in to programming where we are not at our best. Then again, our worst brings in big ratings. We are likely the only people seen on talk shows where (mostly) white men are the hosts, where the subject is either relationships and out-of-wedlock births and black folks are the ones with those problems. We are likely most of the people in reality cop shows, not as cops but as suspects, and the cops are mostly white. And we are most likely the people starting shit on mostly any given reality TV show. In such shows where the racial make-up is mixed, it seems the most passive are whites (but still cray-cray) while black folks fight. In short, human problems become racialized and turned into black pathologies.

I know. It’s painful that it’s the truth. But some brothas and sistas seem to have to watch and talk about it. Is it a symptom of unsuspected internalized racism? Or is it basic human behavior? How many see it as mere lowbrow entertainment? How many take in such programming and apply it as the identity of blackness? How many nonblacks take in those images as indicators to how black people really are? How does it affect not only their thinking but their behaviors toward black folks? And what are the consequences for such thinking?

It’s no secret that such shows illuminate negative stereotypes about black folks. But negative stereotyping black folks is as American as apple pie. The media just helps to move the crusade full speed ahead.

Idiocy comes in all colors, including white. In today’s reality TV show where whites are the main cast, you see them argue, fight and go wild and crazy. And people turn on their televisions to see the drama unfold, curse words yelled and the fists fly. It becomes a hot topic online or at work. However, there’s a little thing called white privilege that absolves them of any collective judgment due a simple fact. They’re white. And white people are individuals, not monoliths like us negroes.

Black folks behaving badly is white racism’s crack. It’s all they need to feel superior and stay in their comfort zones of hate. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see them checking out the media for those kinds of images and use them as references as if they’re using the encyclopedia.

Should there be a complete overhaul in today’s media when it comes to the images they produce? Absolutely. Should there be more balance? No question. But will it ever happen? Not as long as racism runs the show.


53 thoughts on “Black Folks, Media Ratchetness & Humanity in Question

  1. @BrothaWolf
    Great post! I think about this subject a lot and ponder as to why black people continue to complain about how we are portrayed in the media, myself included, but continue to watch. While these shows are tempting to watch I decided that I need to stop watching these shows because they are not good for the mind and spirit. I’m to the point where when I see so much ratchet behavior among black people in mass media my thoughts immediately go to how the world sees us and judge us based on these images. The most disturbing part is how these negroes in the entertainment industry keep on portraying black folks as the ratchets of the world for millions of dollars while not giving one thought as to how they are making it that much harder for themselves and the rest of us. *sigh*

  2. It’s like looking at a bad accident. Just can’t turn away. Mimi and the shower curtain and Porsha and Kenya throw down. It the spirit and zeitgeist of the times. I think we are just voyeurs and foolishness is just the flavor of the times.

  3. One thing all slave narratives, movies, first hand accounts have in common is that the master seldom carried out his rage as he/she had slaves, willing or unwilling to crack that whip on other slaves.

    Now ask yourself who’s Mona Scott-Youngs’ boss?

  4. Mona Scott- Young is about making the money, and she doesn’t care that it’s at the expense of black people. But as long as black people watch this ratchedness it will continue. The day everyone just turns it off then that’s when it goes away.

      1. There is one reality show I felt was worth watching: The Heights on MTV. All the kids on that show had a dream, goals, some direction. Checking hard and can’t find it now. I guess dark Dominican & Puerto Rican kids getting high on aspiration not drunk off violence didn’t equate well to either profit, benefit of wp nor the destruction of you pickaninnies.

        Program yanked. As you were nigglets.

  5. These shows are disgusting! They are NOT a true example of black life. Most black folks I know don’t behave like these fools do. And VH-1 is laughing all the way to the bank making fun of black people. A few examples of how they are destroying the minds of black people:

    1) You’re now helping people to sell sexx tapes? It’s one thing that the 44-year old single mother Mimi Faust is celebrating her inner freak by promoting a dirty tape, that’s her right. But it’s another thing that VH1 is helping to promote the tape in order to improve ratings for her show. Maybe this is where the FCC should step in and say, “Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t have a show on the public airwaves that mass promotes the idea of making a dirty tape in order to pay the bills.” Maybe someone needs to stand in front of their building with picket signs. Maybe a group of psychologists should come forward and share the findings of research showing that marketing messages actually do impact the thinking of young children. Should we do something about this, or should we just act like none of this makes a difference in our society?

    I won’t even talk about Mimi’s poor daughter, whose friends at school are going to be able to look her naked mother up on the Internet. I hope Mimi’s daughter knows how to defend herself from bullies, since the rumors in middle school are going to be so vicious that she’ll need both Dr. Phill AND Iyanla Vanzant to get over the trauma. I should probably call my mother up and thank her for not becoming a 44-year old p?rn star.

    2) Making unhealthy, self-destructive people into role models in the African American community: Seriously, can you please explain what talent most of the members of Basketball Wives possess other than being able to get a rich athlete to sleep with them? Wait…maybe that is a special talent….the kind that men pay for on street corners late at night. From what I understand, most of the “Basketball Wives” were never wives at all. Shouldn’t they just be called “Basketball Baby’s mamas” instead? Most reality TV stars aren’t famous for having a talent…instead, they’re just famous for being famous.

    Also, we can’t be upset with people who are simply responding to whatever mental illness they developed from the trauma they endured as children. Stevie J, the man who’s piled up so many baby’s mamas that he’s now a million dollars behind in child support (I’m not joking), says that he is a womanizer because his mother abandoned him. I feel bad for him, I really do. But when we celebrate the self-destructive manifestation of a person’s untreated mental illness, we turn it from something that must be confronted to a thing that is now being celebrated.

    3) Do black people REALLY need more violence right now? Most of the Reality TV shows feature some kind of drama and the celebration of violence as a way to promote themselves to the public. Porsha Stewart hitting Kendra Moore upside the head had people talking. Evelyn Lozada got famous for climbing up on tables and chasing people around the room like a horny zoo animal. Rappers get famous by talking about how they got shot. Effectively, we’ve turned the most tragic parts of the black experience into a comfortable and profitable norm, and big, white corporations are able to profit from it. If I were a white man running one of these companies, I’d probably spend my time thinking, “What in the hell is wrong with these people? Don’t they realize that we’re making fun of them?”

    4) We’re becoming a pack of brain dead vegetables obsessing over things that really don’t matter: My friend (just last night) told me that her friends make fun of her for not watching “Basketball Wives” and the “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I told her that it’s OK that she has better things to do, like working toward her goals, taking care of her kids, going to the gym or planning a mission to Mars. The point is that, maybe we have to ask: Is it a GOOD thing that black people watch more television than everyone else? Maybe it’s not so healthy to sit in one spot and stare at a screen like a mentally-disabled puppy for 8 or 9 hours a day. That might not be good for the spirit. A consumer/viewer is a bystander in life: Rather than making things happen, they are WATCHING things happen. For the consumer/viewer, your life isn’t what you make it out to be….it’s what some television producer has decided that it’s going to be. You are effectively living in the matrix.

    5) Yes, let’s start marketing more broken families and pretending that this insanity is normal: A dude with nine babies with seven women? Yea, he’s a playa. The mother who can barely take care of the kids she keeps making with men who don’t know how to wear a condom? God tells us not to judge, so you should just mind your own business, even if she’s eventually begging you for money to take care of the kids she could never afford to have in the first place.

    Anybody who doesn’t understand the devastating impact of broken families in the African American community is out of their mind. White America did this to us with the War on Drugs, which is why Michelle Alexander and I both agree that reparations should be paid for the mass incarceration holocaust. But to have the same network that owns VH1 and BET (Viacom) celebrate the genocide of our families is entirely unacceptable.

    6) The selling of dysfunctional relationships: I often wonder how many little girls are seeing the women on Love & Hip-Hop make some of the most horrific relationship decisions and thinking, “I wanna also be with a promiscuous rapper with 40 tattoos and six babies mamas, who smokes a pound of weed every day when I grow up.” The hypermasculinity of corporatized hip-hop has taught young black men that being dismissive and disrespectful toward women is the way to express your manhood. We know that the opposite is actually true: Self-discipline, education, and honorably protecting those you love is what makes you a man. This deforming of the black male psyche is making us the weakest in our communities when we should be the strongest. High-testosterone women who grow up expecting to be both the mother and the father of their kids don’t help the problem either. We MUST learn how to have healthy relationships if we are going to survive as a people: Yes, fathers do matter in the life of a child.

    I wonder if there is ever going to be an episode where someone is killed from domestic violence or it gets out that one of the cast members has caught HIV…..I’m sure VH1 will be ecstatic about those ratings. Whether it’s physically, spiritually, or emotionally, they seem to love watching black people die. What’s even sadder is that we’re happy to let them do it, because they’ve always known that our dignity is for sale. A damn shame!!

    1. *standing ovation* I REALLY miss television shows from the 80s & 90s. There were a lot of Black tv shows with POSITIVE Black characters. Even the predominately White shows had at least one positive Black character on it. The Cosby Show, A Different World, 227, Amen, The Jeffersons, What’s Happening Now!, Living Single, Family Matters, Roc, Diff’rent Strokes, Webster, Saved by the Bell, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, & Cosby were spread across various networks. I guess someone thought, “Okay, enough already! These niggers have had it too good! Let’s bring back the good ol’ days when these darkies made us laugh and had no idea that we were laughing AT them instead of WITH them.”

      Hence, Cooning & Buffoonery 2.0 – 21st Century-style.

      1. I hear you. Television for black people was much better in the 80’s and early 90’s. I loved 227,Cosby Show,Amen and Fresh Prince. It’s a forgotten era. The stuff on now id a total cesspool. The coonery has reached an all time high! It has to stop!

      2. Mickey, the 2000s had some good shows, two of them I remember were Sister Sister and That’s so Raven

    2. “I wonder if there is ever going to be an episode where someone is killed from domestic violence or it gets out that one of the cast members has caught HIV…..I’m sure VH1 will be ecstatic about those ratings. Whether it’s physically, spiritually, or emotionally, they seem to love watching black people die. What’s even sadder is that we’re happy to let them do it, because they’ve always known that our dignity is for sale. A damn shame!!”

      the HIV part I think someone from an episode of Black Ink Crew (hate that show with a passion) has it.

  6. great post. I have never watched rhoa but I did watch a few episodes of basketball wives out of curiosity a couple years ago and was disgusted. I never could get into those kinds of shows. it’s nothing but drama and fighting over dumb things, the episode I saw of basketball wives was the one where tammy flipped out on Jennifer just because she’d never seen a food stamp. It is sad when people think being in a state of dysfunction is acceptable. People complain about the wrong things or they say one thing yet do another. people complain about black people being shown in a bad light yet they will not stop watching this dysfunctional garbage. Black people have become enablers to the ones that cause harm.

    I know it sucks not seeing people that look like u on tv and different media, but come on there are other options, on the internet there are shows that we can watch and see people that look like us without the drama, lies, cheating, dysfunction, and stereotypes. it is ironic that people of the older generation didn’t see people that looked like them on tv much and they turned out better than the people now. It seems when we saw ourselves on tv and thought oh we have arrived, while overlooking HOW we are being portrayed. And on a subconscious level we have learned to accept it and associate those things with blackness, that is why black folks will call another black person ratchet yet have no word to describe a ratchet non black person.

    These shows do affect the way people view us, when we are quiet they think we are naturally loud. when u speak a certain way they say u sound white. Black folks have brought into this stuff and thinking black= dysfunction, example, toni Braxton said she is having a white divorce, because it is not dysfunctional and dramatic, but a civil divorce. while apparently a black divorce is dramatic, dysfunctional, and u can’t be friends after.

    the 80’s and 90’s had the best shows, my favorite cartoons were static shock, little bill, dragon ball z, the cosby show, 227, sister sister, reading rainbow smart guy, etc. The shows for black kids are gone. I remember watching reading rainbow and loving to read, what show do black kids have like that nowadays? where they can watch and a brotha or sista hosts the show, so they learn and see somebody that looks like them doing something educational. What show can they see a black superhero like static shock, or a cartoon about a black child like little bill? can they watch shows like smart guy and family matters, where they can see a black nerd and not feel like they aren’t supposed to be smart nerdy and black . there was more of a balance then, now it is completely off.

  7. Still love “Reading Rainbow” (it’s on my ringtone), and Levar was thE best host of that show! I also remember that show called “The Heights” on Mtv (though I didn’t really watch), the theme song was a hit that year-“How do you talk to an angel?” was the title. The biggest criticism that I always heard people say in the 90’s about it was they thought it was too cheesy, however to be fair I didn’t really watch it so there may have been another cause why it didn’t last long (?) As far the ratchetness that is Love and Hip Hop (amongst others), all I can say that Mimi is like the hypocrite of the Year after she talked all that shizz about ex-stripper Joseline..I stopped watching them last year, but it’s kinda hard to ignore the whole sex-tape debacle as it’s plastered all over the internet! lol

    1. It’s like the network execs don’t care about anything except ratings as opposed to much needed and balanced images. What’s worse is that there’s a public who tune in to such images. And some of those people would rather watch them than anything else.

  8. Yeah, I have noticed that a lot of network execs seem to be about shock value as opposed to having a balanced image of their “reality stars” as well. Taking the easy, lazy route has long been the American way, I suppose..

  9. another show you neglected to mention Brothawolf, Preachers of L.A with that deplorable Diedrick Haddon

  10. oh and I almost forgot, Black Ink Crew, makes me wanna hurl and one of them he calls himself “O’shit” if you see his face he rightly deserves that name, got quite a few baby mamas and is facing prison sentences

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