So I came across a clip of Erika Alexander best known for her role as cousin Pam on The Cosby Show and Maxine Shaw on Living Single speaking on racism and Hollywood.
What stood out most in the clip is where Alexander states:
The industry has almost successfully segregated television. That did not happen until after — I’d say after the Living Single years where we were still on Fox and you could find a so-called “Black cast show” sitting right next to Ally McBeal. Now to find those same casts you got Black networks…That’s a problem. As long as they can say there are Black shows, they can put them in a Black context and they can discriminate and marginalize the show and it’s importance
– Erika Alexander
What is so profound about the insight that she’s making is that she has successfully seen through the sheep’s clothing of “equality” and recognized the wolf for what he is. While it appears to work in our favor to have “Black shows” that appeal to our interests and have representative characters that look like us, the truth it carries the same danger that school integration had when it was instituted.
School integration appeared to be a civil rights win for Black people; however, in it’s wake school integration perfected segregation. Along with some other changes following the civil rights movement, integrated schools transformed the face of discrimination. The language and terms became racially coded and the discriminatory acts became institutionalized. So instead of saying ‘Whites Only’ it became all geographical economics. They didn’t have to make a school for coloreds when they made it so that the White and/or well-to-do could choose to take their kids from the local school and place them where they wanted. Leaving the minority and/or poor families who cannot afford (in time or finance) to send their kids to a school outside the local district. So, ofcourse, the schools in the those poor and/or minority communities end up with a majority if not completely inority student population. Ta-Da…successful re-institution of segregation only now it has the protection of appearing to be objective and non-racial. This is the similar effect that Alexander is eluding to in the television/film industry.
By labeling a show or movie as “Black,” it appears that we are being given out fair share of the market. In truth we are being marginalized to a section of the market, which, ofcourse, is less profitable and less mainstream. So then it can be justified why these shows and films have smaller budgets, lower quality writing, and shorter life spans. Eventually, we will see less and less Black faces on the screen (unless they are “3rd or 4th leads in a few liberal programs and films and Black actors and actresses will be relegated to that small sector until the last 20 years of progress will be dismantled.
The face of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and disenfranchisement is yet again morphing before our eyes. In times past we have not recognized or taken the changes seriously until it was too late to effectively annihilate them. I have always said that prejudice is like a virus: if you do not strike it hard and consistently with the first course of antibiotics, it will mutate and find a way to become resistant. That remedy that once would have worked perfectly, will never kill it again.
The time is now to identify these changes, study them, project where they are headed, and kill them before they come maturity. Otherwise we will always be a day late and a dollar short in our battle against racial prejudice and discrimination.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man