Sunday, August 8, 2010

Black Media for the people, or for the dollar?

I am happy to hear the discussion that has come out of Essence magazine's hiring of Ellianna Placas, its first white fashion editor - as muted as that discussion as been.  It is always a good time to talk about how well - or not - Black media is serving the Black community.

I have long opined the lack of a Black forum among the national issues discussions.  Soledad O'Brian gets a couple of specials every year on being Black in America; Donna Brazile, Rolande Martin and Tavis Smiley are the official talking heads on all matters related to the dark-skinned; and BET has apparently given up on doing any substantive programming.  There is no place where issues of national interest are discussed in the context of their effects on Black people in America.  More than not acting in its best interest, some Black media are actually doing a disservice to the community.

Trite entertainment trumps valuable information on radio shows like The Steve Harvey Show and the Tom Joyner Show.  Director/Producer Tyler Perry has proven that he can pull an audience to the movie theater with an interesting story, but seems to prefer to dumb-down his characters and his content on television.  (Does any character on Meet the Browns represent you or anyone you know?)  There are more pages dedicated to consumer products than education or edification in O, Essence and Ebony - despite the fact that Black Americans make less than 58 percent of what Anglo-Americans make in salary and are in more debt.  On the Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys, Pat and Gina Neely never discuss healthful alternatives to their fat and sugar laden recipes, though African-Americans are particularly at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Long before Essence Magazine thought a white woman could represent the fashion tastes of its audience, popular Black Media has been absent in any movement for the betterment of Black people - or any people.  We have been satisfied with just seeing color representations of ourselves on television and on magazine pages, and have not held the people who hold our eyes and ears to their social and political responsibilities.  Selecting Ms. Placas is only the latest disrespect and disregard of our community.  Frankly we deserve it.  We have not thought to demand more.

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