I’m craving—-craving more positive representations of our Black community to be highlighted in mainstream media, specifically on TV. I’m sure that my upbringing during the era of The Cosby Show and A Different World is a large part of why I’m feeling this nostalgia. And yes, I know that you’re probably tired of hearing endless references to The Cosby Show, me too, but unfortunately relative to the number of shows with primarily Caucasian casts, the number of “good” Black shows is and has always been minimal and now they are practically extinct.
The days of the Black 90s sitcoms are long gone and fading fast from our memory. I miss shows that reflected the diversity of our complex culture. Though, there’s also the glaring fact that most if not all of the shows from the 90s were just sitcoms, not dramas. When I tried to search for Black dramas, I couldn’t find any on network TV. Too bad Soul Food(which was on cable TV) was canceled. Kudos to cable TV networks like TV One, Centric , Aspire and OWN for providing some positive programming. “Black” Entertainment Television(BET) used to be the place to go for positive programming centered around Black America. Sadly BET has fallen from grace, its programming integrity has fluctuated over the past 10-15 years. Fortunately, it is improving with shows like Just Keke and Sunday Best.
In 2014, you have to search diligently for positive images of Black America on TV. Oh yes, there are positive images out there, but they’re not receiving the same adulation, recognition and promotion as their Caucasian counterparts. The ubiquitous “reality” show is now the flavor that people savor. We love to watch the messy dramas unfold and judge these dramas as if we’re above the fray, when really our faithful viewing of these shows suggests that we are right in the thick of it. I shamefully admit that I had fallen into the bottomless pit of these “reality” shows. My DVR was set, making sure that I didn’t miss a moment. I looked forward to discussing the shows with my fam and friends. However, lately I’ve found myself pulling back because I felt my mind withering under their influence. What I saw on these shows was tainting my thoughts and my perception of reality. I found myself transferring the negative energy from the shows into my own life and Lord knows that the devil is busy enough without me helping him.
I remember a few years back when the show Detroit 187 debuted. People were über excited about a show that was based on Detroit and filmed(mostly) in Detroit. It represented new jobs, publicity and recognition for the city. I was one of the few detractors of the show. Not that I don’t love my city, I’m a D girl through and through. I proudly tell people that I was born and raised on the eastside. However, I was disenchanted by Detroit 187, because it was not a positive reflection of my city or my people. To me, it was yet another cop show that only fed into the negative stereotypes that outsiders easily accept about our city. It was also yet another contribution to the negative reflection and perception of Black America as a whole. I had several heated discussions about the show. In my opinion, there could have been a different show developed about Detroit with a better premise. What about a show like Boston Public; a show that reflected achievement despite struggle? People told me that I was hater and negative when I said that Detroit 187 wouldn’t last; it was cancelled after one season.
Can you name one current TV show that features a primarily Black cast that reflects a positive perception? There are shows like Exhale on Aspire and News One on TV One, however those are talk/news shows, not dramas. There are a handful of Black sitcoms and of course Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots(which is one of my guilty pleasures, but not a positive reflection of our Black America). There is not one positive Black TV show that is heavily promoted within mainstream media. The images perpetuated in today’s entertainment era are not a fair representation of who WE are as a whole. Yes, Black America has a plethora of issues that plague us. There’s a whole ‘nother complex discussion to be had about the state of Black America; I’ll save that for later.
For now, I am committed to seeking out and supporting more of the positive images of Black America. The messy part of me still likes drama because to be honest, drama is exciting! But, moderation is key. As a Black women with children, who loves being Black and is more proud than ashamed of my culture, I have a desire and responsibility to feed my mind with more edifying elements than a “reality” show or cliché sitcom can give me.