What do Tavis Smiley, Al Roker and the magazine Marie Claire have in common? Within the past month or so each has been dragged into a noble crusade to stomp out racism and ignorance.
We all know Tavis' story -- BET did not renew his contract, bringing to an end his five-year talk-show reign on the network. Al Roker was damn near accused of Uncle Tom-min' when, during a recent airing of the Today show, he shared that he didn't know where Hampton University is located. And Marie Claire -- the general-interest (read White) magazine that covers women's issues, and makes a point to include women of color in their stories -- was called flat-out racist by a reader when Lisa Gaye Hamilton's face wasn't on the front of a fold-out cover of all the women from the TV series The Practice.
Now, I know what I'm about to say will probably get me kicked out of the Militant Black Woman club, but I just have to chance it. I think we done took things a bit too far. Black people have become -- dare I say it -- overly sensitive. Maybe we don't realize that Bush has been in office for less than six months, and he's already curtailed a woman's right to choose (the Global Gag Rule), decided poison and water are a good mix (by pushing to relax standards on levels of arsenic), and pushed for a tax cut that will mainly benefit the wealthy. Nobody seems to be paying attention to early signs of what will probably be a reign of terror. But somebody's beefin' because we're not on the front cover of a White woman's magazine? C'mon y'all! We've got bigger fish to fry.
What's the agenda?
Don't get me wrong. I know racism is alive and well in this country. Many of us struggling to move from poverty and despair often find our way is blocked by racism and the legacy of slavery. But instead of focusing on an agenda to move us all forward, some of us waste our time (and our credibility) fighting marginal issues. Stuck in a negative, reaction mode, we stay playa hatin' on ourselves on the regular.
But we can't go pointing fingers when our own stuff ain't even correct. Folks are all up in arms about the loss of "quality programming" on BET, but we don't even see that it was partially our fault that Tavis' show got bumped. The reason the network has such poor programming is that we'd rather look at the same 10 videos that BET circulates on various programs that show one thing: a bunch of half-naked women shaking their ass-ets, and getting pawed at by platinum dipped hip hop "artists." And we're calling Viacom racist? Gimme a break. We promote and support our own stereotypes.
Al Roker doesn't know where Hampton U. is located, even though they knocked out Iowa State in the NCAA championships? Big deal! (And I'm a Hampton alum) Let's educate the brother. How many of us know where all the Black colleges are located? I know I don't. We're not on the cover of yet another White magazine? Who cares? We got our own mags, and we need to support them even when the girl on the cover is dark or light, or her hair's short or long, or her features are just "too Black" or "not Black enough". If we don't show us some love, where do we think we will get it from?
For years we've been hollerin' racism. But while we're checking other people, we need to turn the mirror around and check ourselves.