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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.

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