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NBC and Black women: coverage doesn’t live up to the hype

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November 27th, 2007

By Guest Blogger Rose S. Afriyie

I hate to be the person who is “never satisfied.” It would seem that it is a great stride that NBC’s feature on the state of Black women in America is happening at all. But save Essence, editor in chief, Angela Burt-Murray’s sharp new haircut, I can’t help but be utterly disappointed with the first segment on education.

It saddens me that educational triumphs for black women are framed more as a “disparity” than an achievement. Also, I can’t help but shake my head at the way the leading Black woman is covered in the segment, “Mia Jackson likes being in charge.” It’s as if some Type A, dominating, overbearing complex is
why a black woman decides to start her own business. It’s not because she earned it, not because corporations consistently don’t pay black women — or women in general-wages on par with men, not even because many black women can’t wear their hair in styles that affirm their race in corporate settings. It has to be because she likes being in charge.

While the segment droned on about Black female buying power in reference again to Black men, it completely discounted the fact that according to the 2004 Census data, Black women still make 69 cents to every black man’s 73 cents to every white man’s dollar.

The worst of the segment is that it reeked of divide and conquer tactics. Because the producers of this film chose to examine the state of Black women in reference to Black men, it was this constant game of pitting the
former’s success over the latter’s failure. When it came time to explain why Black men are lagging behind, they used the misogynist scapegoat many Black women love to hate: 50 Cent. And while I am no fan of the brother, I think it is completely despicable that in an attempt to big-up Black women, corporate media conveniently brings down Black men.

As far as I am concerned, if they brought black men up as a barometer to measure black female success, the least they can do is offer more than a fragmented truth about black male disempowerment. It did the entire
Black race a complete disservice by blaming rap music/the proliferation of images of men who have not attained a college degree for something that is truly the result of a lack of living wages and a distraught educational system.

Even if the media also plays a role in cultivating attitudes, it’s interesting to me that they show a clip of 50 Cent and not, for example, a clip of Phillipe Dauman or other white males who have far more influence on media content that depicts black people today.

While I am down for black women and sisters of all colors, the work I have taken on as a Black Feminist Nationalist, can’t support a piss poor attempt to focus on black women within a medium that stereotypes them and does more to highlight the failures of black men.

The producers would have done well to present Black women’s gains and losses irrespective of black men and left us to do the math about the obvious remaining portion of the black community. If they wanted to make it a
balanced video about the state of the black community, they should have titled the segment accordingly and spoke about both black men and women with verity.

Guest Blogger Rose S. Afriyie is a young Black Feminist Nationalist that sits on the Women’s Coalition for Dignity and Diversity in Media.

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