On Sunday night many of you watched the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honor some of the best programs on television with Golden Globe awards. In the days leading up to that prestigious ceremony, however, one reality program earned heaps of press from critics who say it is among the worst shows television has to offer. The Oxygen network's "All My Babies' Mamas" is the subject of boycotts from civil rights groups and online petitions. Why? The show features an African-American rapper named Shawty Lo and the eleven children he's fathered with 10 different women. Groups such as ColorofChange.org say the show promotes racist stereotypes of African Americans and wants Oxygen to pull the plug on the show before it event airs. CoC released the following statement about the show:
"We already know that only a narrow range of black characters or personalities ever makes it onto America's television screens. When combined with the overwhelmingly negative representations of Black Americans we see on the daily news, shows like 'All My Babies' Mamas' reinforce ugly stereotypes about black men and women -- that we're hypersexual, combative and unfit to parent our children."
The group contends that racial stereotypes promoted on television have "dangerous real-world consequences" that result in blacks experiencing police violence, substandard healthcare, higher unemployment, loan discrimination and more. CoC says that the show is "dehumanizing" rather than "daring," as it's been billed. For its part, the Oxygen network says that the show is not meant to be representative of any one group. Others say that shows such as "Jersey Shore" and "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" promote stereotypes about whites, so why should blacks be spared.
The fact is, negative stereotypes of blacks have been featured on a number of reality shows--from "Basketball Wives" to "Real Housewives of Atlanta." "All My Babies' Mamas" is just the latest example. Moreover, while a few shows may feature negative stereotypes of segments of the white population, white Americans as a whole don't suffer because of these stereotypes. While whites have the privilege of being viewed as individuals, minority groups are often subjected to generalizations. Hence, educated, accomplished minorities are still largely viewed as criminals or service people or drug addicts because that's the public perception of people of color as a whole. Television shows not only reinforce these perceptions but perpetuate them as well. The term "baby mama," for example, is already widely associated with black women and has even been lobbed at Michelle Obama, despite the fact that she birthed her two children while married to their father. A show called "All My Babies Mamas" will likely just perpetuate the idea that blacks are a reckless and irresponsible people who have babies at the drop of a hat and make others pay for their indiscretions.
Update: Oxygen has ceased development of the show.