Ain’t No Turning Back Now: Primetime Television is Unapologetically Black

Photo: The Atlantic

 

 “The writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of reeducation and regeneration that must be done. In fact, he should march right in front.” -Chinua Achebe 

 Representation is important, but if the narrative isn’t written for us, or by us how can the truths of our stories be told? Three weeks into TV’s 2017 Fall Primetime Line-up the unapologetic Black stance has never been more present and vocal.

Black-ish bust through its season opener screaming “I’m Blackey Black Black Black, and I am your American history.”  It made no attempts to white wash or water down the disgusting facts of this country’s beginning. From exposing the veracity of Christopher Columbus being a barbaric, thieving, murderous slave trader to the truths of slavery, marginalized freedom and the reality of who really made America great, it gave tough truths with no pity for those who would rather turn a blind eye. It gave the nostalgic 1970’s Saturday morning educational cartoon “School House Rock” a much needed and blunt overhaul. It showcased the harsh facts of how little our founding forefathers thought of African Americans and stripped all comfortability from the audience with Black Thought of the Roots cartoon singing “I am a slave, yes I’m only a slave, they’ll place my body in an unmarked grave.” In a post Obama era living under a Trump administration of hate and discrimination Black-ish creator and writer Kenya Barris made it a point to celebrate the strength and beauty of our enduring spirit and culture with the bold stance of Dre the lead character wearing “I am My Ancestors Wildest Dreams” T-Shirt.

Scandal broke barriers in its inception in 2012, casting Kerry Washington as the first African American to be female lead in a network drama in over 40 years. In its last season Shonda Rhimes has not let up in showcasing the excellence of Black women and their struggle against racism, and sexism as well. In a drool worthy dialogue between characters Fitz and Marcus, Marcus made a resounding affirmation we all know to be true, and that is the ever present white privileged and elitist mindset of Whites whose accomplishments were those of Black women that they marginalized and used to gain the power and success they brag about. “You’re Accomplishments are Olivia’s! A Black woman held you up, and now you gloat to everyone about how well you fly… You took the first woman to successfully manage a presidential campaign and turned her into another homewrecking Black Ho!” These words dripped with the pain of truth that Blacks have had to endure since America’s birth from the building of Wall Street to the inclusion of our intellectual smarts in some of America’s greatest achievements (Cue Hidden Figures) to our influence on pop culture from fashion to music and trends.

To understand the power of being unapologetic in telling stories of African American history in America and of everyday life to the masses I didn’t have to look much further than watching tv with my mom or grand aunt or even my own past memories of TV growing up. These stories were not told, these characters didn’t exist. We were the side kick, the best friend, the token Black person to the White main character and star. We were lucky enough to even be at the table let alone acknowledged in any way. I remember watching on Youtube Lupita Nyong o on Sesame Street with Elmo talking about how much she loved her dark skin, and seeing my mom’s eyes swell up. She turned to me and said “Wow, times are surely changing. I would have never seen anything like this back in my day as a child”. Thinking back when I was younger I had hardly seen it myself. The only representation I had of my myself, my cousins, and friends were Kenya dolls, or the occasional token black boy or girl sitting next to the one Asian boy or girl and sea of White children.

More than ever before thanks to writers like Lee Daniels, Kenya Barris, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae and others stories of me, my friends, and of other Black men and women are being told. They are not one dimensional, they are witty, funny, serious, heart breaking, truthful and relatable to all. So, here’s to making primetime Blackey Black Black Black and proud.

 

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