I can tell you I didn’t see this one coming, although I hoped for it. Yesterday, rumors surfaced that Oxygen had decided to cancel its upcoming reality special All My Babies’ Mamas about virtually unknown rapper Shawty Lo and the ten mothers of his 11 children. It was an abysmal premise based in the worst stereotypes of African-Americans, and I’d hoped the gossip was true. Thankfully, it was.
In a short statement, Oxygen said, “As part of our development process we have reviewed casting and decided not to move forward with the special. We will continue to develop compelling content that resonates with our young female viewers and drives the cultural conversation.“
Surely, Oxygen execs got wind of the massive outrage about their desperate attempt for relevance and their willingness to exploit a dysfunctional Black family to get noticed. ColorOfChange.org, an online civil rights organization, amassed a staggering 40,000 signatures on a petition objecting to the buffoonery of All My Babies’ Mamas, and a similar petition launched by author Sabrina Lamb garnered nearly as much support. Rashad Robinson of ColorOfChange credited “Black folk” for getting the show off the air. “[They] sent a clear message that exploitative television shows like All My Babies’ Mamas are unacceptable.”
This is a small but important victory, one that should show us again the power we have to effect change. While we’re all rallied up and fresh off a win, consider making a few more petitions to address other pop-culture embarrassments (in no particular order):
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Alana Thompson, the 7-year-old star of this TLC hit show, is white, but part of the popularity of this train-wreck series is her tendency to behave like a stereotype of an angry Black woman — neck swivel, finger snap and all. She’s a little kid, so I don’t think she’s intentionally doing a racist mimicry — I assume she’s imitating the behavior of Black women she’s seen on reality shows that exploit the angry stereotype — but intentional or not, she’s still doing it, and viewers are tuning in to laugh at her antics. The show averaged 2.3 million viewers per episode for its first season.
I heard about the rapper’s song “All Gold Everything” before I actually heard it. I was out with Black friends who were half-joking about the downfall of the Black race, and part of the chorus to James’s song — rapidly repeating the N-word three times in succession — was Exhibit A.
The song’s video, viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube, is so ignorant that the first time I saw it, I thought it was a parody by Funny or Die. It features James, looking like Jerome from Martin, walking through his Atlanta hood comically draped in gold jewelry (hence the name of the song) and reciting lyrics that include a shout-out to “them bad hos at Spelman.” James was recently signed to Def Jam for an alleged $2 million.
Best Funeral Ever
Clinton Yates, writing for the Washington Post, called this TLC reality show the “most frightening” one to date — and not just because of the bodies involved. Cameras follow the hijinks of the all-Black employees of Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas as they basically make a minstrel-show mockery of death. In one episode, the funeral director instructs his staff on how to fake-cry at funerals to get the waterworks going from the family of the deceased. In another, there’s a funeral featuring a BBQ sauce fountain and a casket that looks like a smoking pit. Just like in the trailer for All My Babies’ Mamas, Black people are made to look outlandish and ridiculous.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk