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My Television is a Racist

April 6, 2011

Yup, that’s what’s on my mind today. So if you clicked in hoping for a pearl or wisdom about “Om”…let’s say Buddhism (hence the blog name rougeBUDDHA) nope, not today. But in the spirit of trying to spin it with a Buddhist flavor, I wonder what Shakaymunni Buddha would watch on TV, if he were alive today?

As for me, I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately and the observations really have been getting on my nerves.

Was it just me or was last week’s trauma-opera episode of Grey’s Anatomy just an hour of life none of us will ever get back? I watched it like watching an accident I just couldn’t look away from, saying, “you gotta be kidding me”, after each ridiculous song! I’m creativity’s biggest cheerleader but Shondra Rhimes you really busted a rhyme on that one – YUCK!

Then Sunday, I settled in to watch Secret Millionaire and my race-o-dometer began to rise.

The conservative Curves® empire billionaires shared $450 thousand dollars of their wealth among 3 Houston charities, but the distribution was sketchy.

The charity helping adults on the autism spectrum got the largest gift – $250k. Good for them. I don’t begrudge them one dime of it. It is written, “where your heart is, there also will be your treasure” – the Curves® power couple have an autistic grandson, so if you’re like me you saw their gift as paying it forward to help their kin. Poignant.

Their 2nd largest gift ($100k) was to the fitness center dedicated to serving a largely HIV/AIDS affected demographic. I got no problem with that either. They are Mr. and Mrs. Fitness, so it makes perfect sense they would put their money where their mouths are.

But the smallest gift is what pissed me off. $60k to the charity helping children of incarcerated parents. Ok we all know that means BLACK People. Yes, BLACK people, not the politically correct “African-American” people, because frankly who knows if “Black” people are African Americans or not? They could be NATIVE Americans or CUBAN Americans or CARRIBEAN Americans, we just don’t know for sure thanks to the transatlantic slave trade.

What we do know for sure is that Black people make up only 12% of the U.S. population but they disproportionately make up a whopping 45% of it’s prison population. So it’s fair to say and if you watched the show you saw that the charity receiving the smallest financial gift was the charity that served mostly Black people – WTF? Come on at least try and make it “look” balanced. And was it just me or did any of you catch the recurring camera shot of the tote bag hanging on the bookcase, with the graphic “erasism”? Oh gimme a break! I once heard a philanthropist admit that rich white people will give $5000 to save the whales while giving $500 to put 1 computer in an inner-city school. He was right.

But the there are 3 other television shows that have my race-o-domoter on high and I just have to say it out loud. In full disclosure I must concede that I in fact enjoy each of the 3 shows I’m going to tell you about, but I see what they are doing and if no one else also sees it, it is my self appointed job to point it out to you. So here we go…

The 3 television shows worth viewing in a “different” way are the NBC drama Harry’s Law, the ABC drama Detroit 187, which aired its season finale last week and if my theory is correct will not get picked up for next season and will be replaced with the third show I’ll talk about, the ABC drama, Body of Proof.

Harry’s Law is premised upon a successful white middle-aged female patent attorney, played by Kathy Bates, who’s had enough of meaningless cases and through a bizarre twist of events opens a law firm in a defunct urban shoe store. There is gang violence, and po’people, not poor people, but people so poor they are po’, who Harry saves each week when she puts on her white lady lawyer cape and goes to the rescue of clients who pay with coins in a sock. Yeah right.

The good news is that each week there are Black actors working who haven’t had union jobs in years. The odd news is the message the show sends about Black people, which loosely translated goes something like, ” oh we sho’ is glad massa done cum to save us – thankyasur”. BTW what’s even more odd is how my spellchecker just advised me to capitalize massa – lol!

Moving on to Detroit 187, which I love, love, love! And if this little blog has any kind of weight with ABC please pick up that show for next season. I lived in Detroit briefly in the 80’s and visited for the first time since then, last summer. Ya Gotta Love Detroit. Sure there are a lot of things she is not but there is so much that she is. And those new Chrysler ads with the music to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” makes me want to run out an buy a shinny new car made in the motor city each time I hear em…

What I love most about Detroit 187 is the diversity among the cast, no wait what I love most about Detroit 187  is the executive producer, Kevin Hooks, no what I love most is Kevin’s father Robert Hooks (old school yum!) Detroit 187 is premised upon a Detroit Homicide precinct and OMG the commanding lieutenant is a Black female. And she’s not your Beyonce-Halle Berry-Vanessa Williams Black female, that the media force-feeds us is the only kind of Black female any one of us should strive to be. She’s the yo’ cusin Velma Black female, played by Aisha Hinds, who has strong striking features, has the respect of her detectives, is raising a daughter alone and wears her hair in a crew cut – and glory, glory hallelujah they have NOT made her character a lesbian (lesbians don’t write in it’s not about that, its about real black women don’t look like Beyonce and because of our racist televisions Black men expect us too and– it’s exhausting).

Detroit 187 does for the crime drama what The Cosby Show did for the sitcom. It debunks the stereotype. The commanding lieutenant is a strong real looking Black woman. The most senior detective is a Black man who wants to retire to Italy and speaks fluent Italian at some point in each episode. And speaking of Italian Gotta Love FITCH played by former Soprano’s bad boy Michael Imperioli. Hot damn – He’s da man! And Fitch’s partner played by Steppenwolf Theater’s emsemble member Jon Michael hill, has the smile I could watch for days! Then there are 2 the spicy Latinos, 1 male and 1 female, would you would believe really do live and work in Detroit. The season finale showed us the loyalty they have for one another and how they do what it takes to get the bad guy. Kudos to Detroit 187…

…which I have an nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach will get bumped for, Body of Proof, or as I like to call it Dana Delaney’s consolation prize for her exit from Desperate Housewives.

Body of Proof, is premised upon a neurosurgeon turned medical examiner who is Sherlock Holmes with a scalpel and makes you wonder ok how’d you get so good at crime solving when you were supposed to be “neurosurgerying” over the last several years?

Watching the premier episode I was hooked…but the next episode raised the race-o-dometer and last night’s episode confirmed that I am not merely hypersensitive but that my TV is in fact a racist and it’s out to get Black people – seriously, I put a white sheet over it and I’m not turning it on until time for Modern Family tonight.

Ok, I chanted (ahh, more Buddhism, hehee) mantras of you go girl, when the neurosurgeon now medical examiner solved the jogger’s murder by sifting through the clues to determine the jilted wife was the killer. Brilliant.

Then the next week the Black girl in love with the white boy was killed, albeit accidentally, by her Black father –really? – Not the skinheads…oh come on!

And last night, the breast milk, the Black mother using cocaine and not the slimy arms dealer or the boss who couldn’t get the nooky – ARUGH! Nope not watching anymore.

Television is a powerful tool. Television shapes the way you look at me and the way I look at you. For some, the only people they know who are people who do not look like the people they are most familiar with are the people they see on television…just so you know what you see most is rarely what you get. For now I’m not watching and to quote ABC’s sexy, Latino, John Quinones, “what would you do?”

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