Archives for posts with tag: stereotypes

Hey there readers! DBW has come out from under her brand new duvet to answer all the questions. Well, just one question today.

Am I doomed if I’m a BW and I enjoy friend chicken?

In a word: NO. Now, is there a valid reason one would feel such concern over enjoying such a meal? Absolutely. I’m not going to drag y’all through the history. This isn’t that blog. Instead, why don’t we just take a quick field trip to Google images and see if we can visually trace why BF don’t always feel comfortable claiming fried chicken. I’M DOING THIS FOR YOU READERS. I HOPE YOU KNOW THAT MEANS I CARE.

And so it begins.

And so it begins.

I really am not a fan of Griffith. I can't care that he's the "father" of film. Shot from Birth of a Nation. Black Congressman eating chicken while on the floor. Lord help.

I really am not a fan of Griffith. I can’t care that he’s the “father” of film. Shot from Birth of a Nation. Black Congressman eating chicken while on the floor. Lord help.


Remember when KFC told Oprah to give away all those coupons for free chicken? Yeah, I'm sure some of us are still traumatized.

Remember when KFC told Oprah to give away all those coupons for free chicken? Yeah, I’m sure some of us are still traumatized.

The assumption presents itself.

The assumption presents itself.

Look, like I said, this isn’t a deep meditation on how visual culture and white supremacy linked together to tie fried chicken as a Black pathology. Suffice to say: it is a thing. It is a thing that follows behind BF regardless of socioeconomic class. Like this dude:

If he can’t enjoy a wing tip without recirculating old stereotypes, we are all doomed.

But is it such a thing that you can’t get your 2-piece white meat spicy Popeyes on? Hell no.

I mean, Annie the Popeyes chicken lady notwithstanding you should feel completely free to go grab you a 2-piece.

Sighs. So I’m sure by now you’re wondering why DBW is going to all this trouble to legitimate BF relationship with chicken? Well, it’s because sometimes we forgot our own selves that it’s not the chicken that’s the problem. It’s the circuit of representation which often times we get NO Say over. That chicken thing? It’s gonna be linked to BF regardless if we eat and continue to stampede each other at KFC in Oprah’s name or if we decide to as a collective go completely vegan. Representation is not based on what folks actually do or don’t do–it’s based on imagination and lore. Remember my example about BF not riding bikes? Yeah. That. (Sidenote: DBW knows that BP ride bicycles. Before y’all get in a tizzy about my ignant generalization, please actually read the damn post first. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, all this talk about representation is tied to this:

So…DBW is about to mildly defend Orange is The New Black (OITNB) from this well-meaning but petty, overly reductive, non-nuanced article. The author makes some valid critiques:

  1.  Piper Kerman’s success is built on the backs of Black and Brown bodies she knew in prison
  2. The fact that Assata Shakur’s autobiography of being in a male prison is not already a television series is indeed a shame–although if the author honestly thought a network exec would make that happen she really hasn’t been paying attention.
  3. The fact that the show is at least initially centered around a white lady.

However, her analysis (because you know…she quit halfway through which isn’t a terribly complete analysis–let’s call it a “lysis” because it’s half done) of why she didn’t enjoy the content of the series is based around what she read as the show being full of tropes/stereotypes: “With very little exception, I saw wildly racist tropes: black women who, aside from fanaticizing about fried chicken, are called monkeys and Crazy Eyes; a Boricua mother who connives with her daughter for the sexual attentions of a white prison guard; an Asian woman who never speaks; and a crazy Latina woman who tucks away in a bathroom stall to photograph her vagina (the pornographic image is indiscriminately paraded throughout an entire episode).”

But here’s the thing: All of those types she lists and simplistically describes are wholly out of context–context, by the way, that is NECESSARY in understanding how what could be initially seen as one-dimensional character stereotyping is actually more complex AND dimensional as we watch the characters develop.

The fried chicken bit? Taystee taking ownership of loving chicken both served the scene AND was a mild form of what we media studies/cultural studies lovers of Stuart Hall’s sexy ass (May the Lord watch between me and he while we are absent one from another)

DBW loves her some Stuart. She can’t be the only one who watched those Media Education videos both wholly enthralled with the information and the speaker.

describe as a transcoding strategy of “contesting from within.” What does that mean? Well, instead of the tried and FAILED way of trying to annihilate a stereotype (because well, we never can annihilate it. We can superimpose something over it but that doesn’t eradicate the old type–it just gives us TWO) contesting acknowledges it AND playfully demonstrates that the issue isn’t with the group in question but the group who decided that, for example, enjoying fried chicken is a problem.

For another example of contesting from within go here and here. DBW loves Beau Sia. It’s brilliant.

For the record: DBW does not think that moment was minstrelsy, neither a simplistic stereotype. The way it was written was a smart negotiation. But since the author didn’t actually know what a negotiated reading (Lord Jesus deliver DBW from folks who never learned about encoding and decoding) was, all she heard was “fried chicken” and ran away. Sad.

But not only that. We got one of the best examples of code switching ever. I mean, for real, it’s the best of what BW do: we observe. We take note. We discuss. Flawless moment is flawless.

Moving on: Crazy Eyes:

My all time favorite moment with Crazy Eyes aka Suzanne aka the lady with the Bantu knots whose parents are white Quakers. I DIE EVERY TIME she sings this song. Because why can’t vanilla and vanilla be a swirl?!

Yes, we initially watched the character from the perspective of Piper. And, yes, the woman we would come to know as Suzanne (if you’re worried about spoilers after all the news stories about this show please climb out from under the pop culture rock you hide under more often) was initially viewed as “Crazy.” But again, if you stop there, you miss the depth and nuance that the writers and the actor brings to the character. Even to the point where the character has a meta moment and asks the character we initially viewed her through why she is called Crazy Eyes.

I’ma pause for a minute and let that sink in with your spirit for a minute. Don’t worry about me. I’ll wait.

Sipping tea and eating a dill pickle.

Sipping. Crunch.

Have you caught it yet? It’s called NUANCE and SYMMETRY folks. But again: You’d have to finish the show to get that reward.

Finally, for time’s sake, I’m going to pull one more distorted type from the list: “a Boricua mother who connives with her daughter for the sexual attentions of a white prison guard.”

So, the author is talking about this:

Aleida and Daya Diaz. Daya ends up in a situation and Aleida and other prison women folk come up with a solution that solves a host of problems.

Okay, so there are actual story reasons that do make sense within the logic world of the series supporting this decision–which, I mean, given the powerlessness of these women leaves them precious few options. DBW sees it less as reinforcing a stereotype and more like using the foundation of that type to showcase so many other things between these women. These women are not dumb but very knowledgeable about how the world operates.

She would be right if…Oh DBW will never step foot in a hot tub again. NOT AGAIN.

And they get to be playful young women:

I just love these girls and their terrible ass dance routine.

Look: Jenji Kohan admitted that she bait and switched what the show would be about when she initially framed the series around Piper and then actually made it about all the other women in prison. We know that. It’s not revolutionary; it’s just a strategy that enables a plethora of women types to be on television. We WOC have not yet hit the pinnacle folks. We still fighting with the same folks for opportunities to be in the same 5 parts. So when a part that is actually culturally specific and smart comes along, we need to try to figure out what it’s doing before we run off to talk about things that are tangentially related and don’t actually take into account the complete dearth of representation WOC suffer from.

Is it perfect representation? Hell no. There are many problems with the series to pick at. Also: Representation in and of itself is faulty because duh–it’s a RE-PRESENTING OF A THING.

So what does all this mean? In short: If you get upset over a character wanting some chicken, you’ve missed the damn point. Go back and start over again.

Or to say it like Piper:

Preach girl. Preach. Even though I still don’t like you, you make a good point.


Dear readers, dear readers, dear readers. It is now winter and I’ve left you all summer and fall without a post. And I do feel horrible.


I’m Sorry Okay.

I often think of you all when something happens in the newspaper (that I read online) or in my television shows or when I am in a conversation with someone else about something foolish. I think to myself—I need to share this with the five of you who read this blog so that y’all can get as big a kick out of it as I do.



I have pretty good records for “holding my breath.” But when I hit the goal, I often come up for air and then think, Oh my lord I was under water for a long ass time. I’m just gonna float for awhile and then awhile is the whole summer and fall and I have to remember all over again how to breathe under water and REASONS.
Now, you probably don’t care about any of that but that is the only excuse–aside from laziness–that I have to explain my whereabouts.

In any case, I’m here ‘nah. So let’s get to the question. A reader asked me to answer the all too damn difficult question: “Why do black guys go for white girls.” Haa.

And I’ve just gotten real specific by listing the two people I would have the most problem with in the world to get together: Idris Elba and Zooey “I want to physically accost her” Deschanel.


Sighs. If God is merciful he won’t let this wonderfulness…


connect with this because that upsets the order of the universe.

But seriously: Lord, if I had a nickel for every time someone has tried to answer the question of BM and white women I’d have as many nickels as Tami Roman (Team Tami FTW).


Yes, because I love this woman and she rose from rags to riches to rags to riches again. Selah. Also: she’s messy as hell but she’s good for snatching the necessary wigs when necessary. Look at her in this picture! I just…I love how little of a damn she gives about all of us.

The problem with the question is that we honestly have no idea. At the core, it seems to be personal choice and desire. And, yes, desire is informed by a multitude of stuff–history, culture, assimilation, integration, self-hatred, etc. Remember when Hollywood tried to beat us over the head in the 90s with all the “deep black people movies”? Like Higher Learning (which I loved).


And Zebrahead (which I slept through but tell people that I love),

Zebrahead 2

Save the Last Dance (which I refused to see for fear of setting fire to the movie theater),


Jungle Fever (which I watch but skip past the Snipes/Sciorra scenes in favor of the BL conversations shot in full closeup)


Wait, wait…let’s stop and watch this clip:

I do deeply love the harshness and realness of these BW talking about the state of Black relationships. It’s mean; some of it can be offensive; it’s crude–but it’s real. And few of us can deny that we’ve had this very conversation even though Jungle Fever came out in 1992.

Back to the list…Mississippi Masala (which, I mean…do *you* remember Mississippi Masala? I thought so).


What did these movies try to teach us? Essentially that it’s none of our damn business anyway. “Love sees no color” and all that foolywang. And I suppose that half of that BS early post-race formation logic is sorta kinda true: It’s not my damn business. So, please, before you send me comments about how you and your loved one break the mold–and for the love of God and all that is holy do not send me comments about how the only race that is important is the human race. I will tell you to take a seat in the lake of fire–realize that I’m not talking about y’all personally and individually. This whole “atomized” individuality is how we all got into this mess to begin with. Bygones.

Here’s the thing dear readers: Just like Flipper’s wife said at the end of the Jungle Fever clip, at the end of the day (BW love saying that expression nowadays. I blame reality television), whatever color woman took her man away. But that it was a white woman just made it sting worse. Why? Because it’s about not feeling first. At the end of the day? It’s about not feeling first. Lemme explain.

So, since BF came to this country (involuntarily I might add), we’ve essentially been embroiled in what I will shallowly call an Image war for our identities. We were enslaved and it seemed that to keep us enslaved (I’m not even talking about that Willie Lynch stuff so don’t ask me about it), some reimagining of identity had to take occur. So beautiful people begin to be called ugly and dumb and beautiful BW who are raped and producing children for their white slave owners are drawn as overweight, asexual mammies to disavow desire because “who would want to lay down with THAT when you have porcelain skinned beauties in overly tight dresses to woo??!”


What we’re used to when considering mammy.


More likely what many BW looked like during that era.

After slavery, beautiful BM are reduced to bucks and coons and toms and mandingos and BW are mammies and Jezebels and Sapphires and Tragic Mulattos–identities marked by stereotype more than real dimensional characterizations. What’s more? These are not “good” identities; rather, they are fraught with hypersexuality and hyperviolence and neglect and abandonment and ineptness.

What’s that got to do with my arch nemesis Zooey D? Be still and watch me work.

Zooey Deschanel 07-07-2009Zooey Deschanel 2009-07-07

Have you ever seen someone who looks more happily confused about their place in life? Me either.

So, BM and BW identities are frozen in time. They rarely change and grow and even if a new identity arises (the black nerd or the black hippie or what have you) they don’t erase the old identities–they just lay the new ones on top of them.

But white people? Oh my goodness, white people have a myriad of identity types. Not even the damn sky is the limit! Anything you wanna be! Any way you want to be it–it’s fine! In order to get to a particular identity you have to give a descriptor–think Southern or Granola or Hipster or F*ckin Hipster, or Midweseterner. Get it? In order to think about the particular identity I have to give you a clue because white signifies very little on its own. A FRAKKIN AMAZING THING.


:: DBW takes a deep breath and lies down for a few minutes ::

Okay, okay I’m back. So, I don’t like quirky for all those reasons I screamed at you just now. But more than that, there’s an earnestness and an innocence to quirky that I don’t think all the people (read: people who look like me) get to access. There’s a cavalierness to being able to ride around in a cotton dress on an old school bicycle and think about how good your life is and how much you really enjoy record shops and playing tunes on your beloved BUT BROKEN piano because your father is a world renowned cinematographer and you have access to a dietician so you can lose your baby fat. There’s an elvishness to the quirky identity that I found grating because again, it’s completely dependent upon naivete and the fact that one doesn’t have to be aware of Others because they are the most important ones.

Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about so specifically? This.

I just want to contrast this quickly with Jazmine Sullivan’s Cotton ad to show some difference (pun intended):

There are some similarities in how both ads show these women dreamily contemplating their lives in coffeeshops while journaling and such but even at the level of lyric, Sullivan’s is about achieving the “dream” while Deschanel’s is about you know, what she did that day. (I also recommend looking at Miranda Lambert’s cotton ad because the descriptor of difference–in her case Southern and country–makes her song and visuals markedly different.)

Anyway, anyway: that quirky identity that Deschanel makes for herself is one of many that are accessible to her and one that she can switch out for another whenever she’s ready to switch into “takes myself serious ingenue” or whatever. There’s little fixity to her identity persona.

And more to the point of this little diatribe  blog entry: PEOPLE LOVE IT. They eat it up. She is valued beyond measure for being quirky and “oh so cuhyute.” She is accessed value and worth and is allowed to be at the top of the totem pole.

But we BW who are fighting this Image war? We don’t get the same privileges. The attributes mostly associated with us are “turn offs”; things that people don’t love. Things that make us hard to deal with. I refer you back to the Jungle Fever clip if you need a sample.

I know some of y’all remember hearing about Wesley Snipes (enjoy your prison stay! BF, pay your income tax for the love of God and all his holy baby angels) and how he said that BW have too much attitude. Even if he didn’t say it and it’s urban legend right up there with Tommy Hilfiger and Oprah and Liz Claiborne, the fact that it exists and that it has lingered for so long stresses just how undervalued BW are perceived to be.

Too much attitude. Why pick someone who has too much attitude when you can have quirky all day long!? (Yield sign to my white friends: I don’t think any woman comes off particularly unscathed in Snipes’s remarks–especially Asian ladies)

Now, over here at DBW, she with the intellectual letters behind her name recognizes that she’s just created a really strong binary that has little nuance. And yeah, you’re right. These things are simply not that simple. But you asked why it seems to hurt BW when BM go for the white ladies. And my answer is because it feels like we’ve lost the Image war with the very people we’re allied with. I didn’t say it was rational or logical. It’s not betrayal; it’s a question of WORTHINESS. Put simply: are we worth the effort? And many times, it seems like the answer may be no. 

This is why…OH THIS IS WHY..that new ABC show Scandal is so interesting. Oh readers, do yourself a favor and hop on the Twitter on Thursday nights at 10/9 c and SEE for yourself.  (Seriously: Black Twitter is where it is at y’all. Pop some popcorn and watch the foolywang.)


Flawless makeup Kerry Washington.

The opportunity to identify with (colorblind until the most recent episode where Olivia called herself Sally Hemmings which yes we can talk about but not now because who has time to write THAT novella?!) a BW who is madly in love with a white man (and the white man is in madly–like bordering on obsessive–in love with her) that makes all of us consider our life choices and decisions? Of course we’d take that bait.

HERE! Have some pictures and gifs and stuff so I can prove my point.




tumblr_mfbgphtLvT1qftw7ko3_250 tumblr_mfbgphtLvT1qftw7ko4_250 tumblr_mfbgphtLvT1qftw7ko5_250

Who cares that he’s married?


Hell who cares that he is a REPUBLICAN!? All I know is that when he told her that she didn’t belong to him but he belonged to her I think BW all over America had to drink their second glass of moscato juice because that was…yeah.

Why is Scandal so successful with BW? Outside of it being the first show with a black lead in for-damn-ever, it taps into the worthy/value piece. This woman’s identity is scrubbed clean of the others and it’s like this aspirational world where there was never a mammy or a Sapphire but we are really all the same and stuff. (Don’t get me started on the race problems. Like I said, ANOTHER BLOG POST.) And: this fine ass white man and this black man (who looks too much like Bill Cosby for me to take him seriously but I mean, yay Norm Lewis! I’m glad you have a job.) want her affections and IN WHAT WORLD HAS THAT HAPPENED ON OUR DAMN TV SCREENS?

Tony Goldwyn. I don't even know what happened to our good sense when that man utters syllables and vowels and uh...commands.

Tony Goldwyn. I don’t even know what happened to our good sense when that man utters syllables and vowels and uh…commands. That scene with the shotgun was both terrifying and a little quiver-inducing.

Edison Huxtable as the Scandal fan community calls him.

Edison Huxtable as the Scandal fan community calls him.

I shall stop with this for now except to say that really, if Zooey D hooked up with Idris Elba I really would burn Sunset Blvd to the ground. KILL IT WITH FIRE.