In this edition of iMiXWHATiLiKE! we discussed the recent episode of Scandal and its portrayal of the state’s response to police violence with Dr. Marva Robinson of the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists. We then talked women in hip-hop, Chicago politics and more with Lah Tere.
I really appreciate the interview with Lah Tere. Too often, the contradictions amongst Black women; and women of color in general. It seems clear, perhaps presumptuous, that Lah Tere comes from a working class community and her politics are informed by her loyalty to the girls that come out this environment. How she moves in terms of funding and her music is amazing and should be highlighted. I mean, how does she really keep an organization going for 8 years without major funding? These are models to be documented and internationalized.
On the other hand, it is curious what so many successful Black women outside of Lah Tede, in hip hop or not, that are not realizing the state of emergency she articulates. Whether one takes state or corporate funding, or are in government or corporations as their main source of bread and butter, are they checking themselves? I know she says she doesn’t have time to check anybody and I respect that. And what I receive from that is an important criticism of the language of women of color feminisms that are grounded in external criticism of “patriarchy” in a way that absorbs us of responsibility to transform from the places of power that Lah Tede demonstrates. If the focus was taken away from the bloggersphere theoretics that are self-absorbed in the “poor little rich (Black) girl” rants that is now the non-liberatory lingo that replaces the best intentions set at Combahee conference to set an agenda for Black women political theory. We would respect more just what co-optation really looks like in terms of the gender question and liberation politics in general.
To that, I slightly disagree on the Scandal analysis. I think that Shonda Rhymes (sp?) has done the best she could from her position and platform. Lee Daniels, on the other hand, or whoever writes for Empire (which is a white guy I believe) do not share this same sense of duty to talk about it. I think that from the art standpoint, that the message is well intentioned. And the corporate factor of Disney’s ABC speaks to the class contradiction that Rhymes is in…one that she never gets called to task on and is at liberty to be in her position unchallenged by the Black community, and certainly not militiant female voices organized for space to air a real agenda that speaks to the crisis. For someone NOT called to task by anybody, she has done a decent job. I’m not saying give her any awards but recognize why her and the rest of the affluent Blacks in various leadership spaces are able to not be accountable.
And so, to be clear, in saying class cpntradictions amongst Black women and women of color, the role of Lah Tede is not the same as Shonda Rhymes. Lah Tede represents legitimate leadership and I would be more disheartened if Shonda Rhymes did any more than she did. It wouldnt be sincere…it would be Talented Tenthish. What we need are more folks making moves like Lah Tede and creating power networks to make people like Shonda Rhymes really make a choice about how to be for a viable liberation quest, if one is actually being made from the grassroots.
Sure Ajamu. For now, just focused on this one episode alone, i could only be struck by the ability of the state, of a capitalist apparatus to use one portion of its media armament, in this case Disney’s ABC, to take the lived suffering it imposes on Black people and turn that into commodity, commercial product that it could then use to sell more ads, promote other programming and offer a polite and sanitized soft, liberal fantasy to quell the bougie audiences (sentiments) it targets. Again, as is often done, rebelliousness is described as young and immature if not fully disingenuous, the violent act is of one lone officer and not the state itself (despite in this show we seeing all the time how often that superstructure kills, tortures, etc) and the state is itself allowed to show as heroic, ultimately good and corrective. The lone nut cop is quietly punished in an act that absolves the constructed context that allows his function in the first place. This, of course, is part of the fantasy since in reality Eric Holder and co. have said they will not prosecute anyone in the killing Mike Brown. i suppose this could be construed as a critique of the real but only if the show itself is read as a critique of the state. i dont know about that.
But then, as i said, following the lead of previous work from Homeboy Sandman, i looked up Disney’s “top institutional” stock holder, The Vanguard Group who we know from Sandman is also the largest stockholder in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) the largest private prison owner in the country. And here, again, is where i thought of the powerful appropriating powers of capitalism. its an episode that is meant to bring peace to the righteously angry but is ultimately delivered by those who profit the most from carceral environments that set in motion the events depicted in it. Materially they make the money generated by the selling of eyeballs to the ad buyers and so on. Immaterially they benefit from people’s anger finding an avenue safely through Olivia’s pipe dreams. Its another lone nut who is not only depicted as his own creation but who is then sacrificed so that his real creators can continue unchecked. Olivia sleeps with those hired to produce killer cops and who produce killer drones, missiles, armies, navies… Malcolm X was right, the police to locally what the military does internationally. Worse still, well-meaning people will heap undo praise on the episode for having produced a critique of reality or an alternative view of these killings. i just dont see it that way. i see almost only the ability of those who should be punished to co-opt or cloak themselves in struggles and criticism that should be used to topple them.
And remember, these shows are not even really targeted to Black audiences (who will of course tune in and be subjected to potential political, ideological, critical thinking ability consequences). The show may be popular among Black women (Black men apparently hate the show) but it stays on tv because it is big among 18-34 year olds, white ones. Its two years old now, but this from the NYTimes (1/16/13) was funny to me, ““Scandal,” now in its second season, has been a success for ABC. Last week the show had 3.52 million viewers aged 18 to 49 and 8.4 million total viewers. Among the group aged 18 to 34 it typically ranks first in its 10 p.m. Thursday time slot. A political thriller set in Washington, “Scandal” has attracted some inside-the-beltway fans like the political strategists Donna Brazile and Roland S. Martin, who have both tweeted about the show. The show’s other sweet spot — one that network executives seem less eager to discuss — is its success among African-American audiences. According to Nielsen “Scandal” is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season.”
Again, 1/8 (roughly) of the audience was said to be Black. thats because these shows are meant to comfort white affluent audiences. and they can only tolerate discussions of police violence against Black people if its one lone cop and the “good guys” (the state) wins in the end.
Dr. Ball would you provide (post) your analysis of the scandal episode in writing? Those were my sentiments exactly! I was reading my twitter feed last night and was blown away by all the Black academics and activist whom were tweeting how progressive bold and forward thinking Shonda was in her writing this particular episode. They all seem to have “missed” the salient points you made. I am still perplexed.