White, who stars opposite Tyler Perry in Good Deeds (out this Friday), says his comments were taken way out of context, and as a brother to five sisters; he’s far from a Black woman basher. We caught up with the actor to dig deeper into his thoughts on Black women and reality shows (especially NeNe Leakes), and find out whether his interracial marriage may affect how people perceived his comments.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve caught a lot of flack for your comments about Black women, so we just have to ask — do you hate Black women?
BRIAN WHITE: No, come on. I’m Black Carpenter [the tile of his book and youth development program]. I’m out making sure kids have a future. I did that interview on speakerphone and my mom was in my car with me. I said the majority of what we, as a community, celebrate in the media, isn’t worthy of our women. Not the ones that I know and love. I’ve been out on the road with the UNCF, NAACP, and National Urban League doing Black Carpenter or working with little girls and boys in schools. I’m about that, more so than anything else. I’m not trying to be famous; I’m trying to make a difference. That’s all I meant to say. I apologize for any confusion.
ESSENCE.com: Why do you think the story of you hating on Black women picked up so much steam?
WHITE: I don’t know. There are probably lots of reasons, but I feel like that’s what sells. In our community, it’s very difficult to sell substance. I’ll say this: anything that can be construed as negative gets a lot of play but if it’s super positive getting actual creditable media and then that extra blogger is much harder.
ESSENCE.com: Speaking of substance, you were very critical of reality TV and said something like; ‘You can’t call it a stereotype if it’s the majority.’ What did you mean by that?
WHITE: I’ll use my role as Randy in the movie ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself.’ People get mad and say that’s a stereotype of Black men. I’m saying guys like Randy might be a stereotype but when I go to the club on Friday, I see 150 of them grabbing sisters by the wrist going, “Yo, come over here.” That’s not how gentlemen act. We support those images because they a little closer to truth than we care to admit. Let’s take a character like, Madea, who is based on Tyler Perry’s aunt. She’s like 6-feet-tall and probably has a gun in her purse right now. Tyler is holding up a mirror. In traveling across the South doing plays, I met a lot of Big Mommas, like Martin Lawrence’s character. Sure, we’re exaggerating a little bit, but there’s some reality in there.
ESSENCE.com: Your comments caught the ire of NeNe Leakes who said you were “jealous” of the success of reality stars. What did you think?
WHITE: [NeNe] responded to the blogs. I know that they were inflammatory on purpose. I think she handled it very well. I’m not saying anything negative about NeNe the woman. I want to her succeed. I want all Black women to succeed. I just don’t want it to be at the expense, or the example set for our kids. I’m so happy for people who have success on reality TV, but I don’t know how to tell my little sister to follow in their footsteps.
ESSENCE.com: Your comments may have been taken the wrong way since you were also criticized for marrying a woman who wasn’t Black [his wife Paula is Latina]. Do you constantly feel like you have to defend yourself?
WHITE: Yes, I do. I have five younger sisters. My sister Ashley has a Caucasian husband and my sister Erin has an African husband, from Liberia. My other baby sister is a sophomore, and she’s dated every race from all over the world. And that was why I popped-off about my wife. Because that’s the biggest love of my life, acting is second. It made me uncomfortable to be challenged on who I love. I thought, ‘There are 31 flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins, can I like one?’ Does it mean that I don’t like the others? No. It’s just confusing because I try to be positive and I think I’m about something that’s valuable, and to be slighted for love, or whatever, it’s frustrating especially in 2012.
What do you think of Brian White’s comments about Black women on reality TV?