This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

May 21, 2009

Reflecting on Race and No. 1 Ladies’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 12:35 pm

I did not fully realize it until I excitedly checked my DVR for this past Sunday’s episode, but The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is finished for the season! I plan to search around the web for any information on whether the program will be coming back for a new season—I certainly hope so. To keep me occupied in the meantime, I am planning a series of posts inspired by the series reflecting a little on race, cultural authenticity, and depictions by Whites of people of color. Racialicious has a good post up about this very issue.

Some random thing I may cover:

  • The first book I read that (to my knowledge) was by a Black author was Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which I read while in high school. It would be an understatement to say that this book changed my life and reading habits forever. But I am often annoyed that it took so long for me to read a book by a Black author. I am trying to ensure that my own children do not suffer the same fate.
  • An experience I have had as a parent is rediscovering children’s books I loved as a child, only to discover how incredibly racist the books are. Also, I have found some books that I loved that I know now were about White characters, but that as a child I had somehow “read myself into” them, recreating lead character in my own image. To me, for example, Pippi Longstocking was a little Black girl (though her non-Black image was clearly illustrated on the cover and throughout the pages).
  • I struggle with the idea that there is an “authentic” Black experience, or authentic anything experience. I am not sure what that means, or who is to judge, or what happens to those experiences that fall outside of the realm of defined (by someone) authenticity. Yet I have very definitely read and seen depictions of Black folks that rang absolutely untrue to me. (And not all of these depictions were by White folks.)
  • Along those lines, it used to annoy me in the 80s when some folks (Black, White, and other) complained of the Cosby Show that it did not depict a “real Black family.” In many ways, the Cosbys were much like my own family growing up. We were all Black. But somehow were we not “really” Black? Of course that is a ridiculous notion. But I am intrigued by what I think that statement and claim of inauthenticity really means.

Those are some of my thoughts right now. I welcome any other thoughts you may have. In the meantime, I do not know what I will do without both “Heroes” and “The No. 1 Ladies’.” So if you have any suggestions for summer TV viewing, I’d appreciate that as well.

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3 Comments »

  1. Wow, pprscibe, you brought back so many memories with this post. But first, I know how much the “detective” series meant to you and I felt you pain as soon as I read the title to this post.

    Speaking of rediscovering childrens books, that too took me somewhere. Well, there was this Disney movie that I just loved as a child, it was The Song Of The South. Okay, I couldn’t wait for my children to experience the same joy. It turned out that they hated it. They said it was about a greasy looking Uncle Tom that sang to birds *lol* “zippty do dah, zippity day”. I am afraid to go back and look at it because it just might be as racist as you mentioned about the childrens books you read.

    Re: The Cosby Show. I am feeling you on this. I hate the statement “they weren’t keeping it real”. What the heck does that mean?!

    Comment by careycarey — May 22, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  2. On of my concerns with television is how they put blacks into boxes and try to keep us there. The Cosby Show was realistic but because we are put in this box (some shows attempt to keep us in this box as well) it was looked at as unrealistic. My concern isn’t with black childrens books or black books. These days there are enough black authors to be able to find childrens books which is a good thing since in my day that wasn’t the case. My problem (albeit off point) is with television. My wife watches “The Hills” and in the back of my mind something doesn’t sit well with me. I would hate to have a young daughter watching this and idolizing these characters. But then again they put young black folks on television and they gave us “College Hill”…damn shame!

    Comment by citizen ojo — May 23, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  3. Thanks to you both for your comments. CareyCarey, I feel you about “Song of the South.” I have gone through the same thing with movies with my kids as with books. But my favorite was watching the original Disney “101 Dalmatians.” There is a line where they are trying to hide the puppies and so are having them roll around in soot. The one dog says for them to take another dip, saying “The blacker the better!” I was rolling and kept re-playing the line. My kids thought I was bonkers.

    Citizen Ojo, the teen years will be another whole battle for me with my daughters. I also agree about “boxes.” There are all sorts of “Black experiences” but because of past depictions many think of some as “really” Black and others as not.

    Anyway, I do hope to address these issues in my future posts.

    Comment by pprscribe — May 26, 2009 @ 1:33 pm


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