Brian White Says Negative Portrayals of Black Women are Just a Reflection of Reality

February 3, 2012  |  

When you read the responses from Brian White in his recent interview with Shamika Sanders of Hello Beautiful, you’re either going to feel like he’s dropping knowledge, or he’s dropping hate. I’ll let you decide.

Brian sat down to talk about his role in the new project, “What My Husband Doesn’t Know,” and being that he is an actor and has worked with Tyler Perry, he was asked why he thinks people are so hard on him, particularly Spike Lee—and that’s when he decided to go in on black women:

“Because Tyler holds a mirror up to people. Stereotypes are not stereotypes today. The most popular character [in Why Did I Get Married], is not the one that Tyler picked as the most popular, it’s Tasha! You have Janet Jackson and Jill Scott; my point is Jill Scott and Janet are huge music stars with huge fan bases, Tasha became the most popular because her character is portrayed the most like “Love & Hip Hop” the most like, “Desperate Housewives of Atlanta,” you might as well switch it around and pop in Nene [Leakes]. [Tasha Smith] is brilliant, she’s nothing like the character, she’s just portraying what she sees in society, magnified.[sic]

“And people get mad and say that’s not us. Yes it is, turn on “Love & Hip Hop” and turn on “Desperate Housewives Of Atlanta” those are “reality shows.” You can’t call something reality then get mad when it shows up in the movies as reality but that’s what we’re doing. That’s where the cycle continues. They don’t do that in Africa, they don’t do that in France; they don’t connect with that message. What’s interesting is we, here, in America connect with that message and get upset at it.  That’s what Tyler sees. If you look at Spike, what is his most successful movie ever? successful defined by how much money it made versus how much it cost to make. “Inside Man” and the stars were Clive Owens, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Denzel Washington and Jodi Foster… Four huge actors, two white, one known–Denzel and then another amazing British actor people don’t know here. That is not the type of film that Spike necessarily wants to focus on, right? So what makes money isn’t what Spike makes, so it’s upsetting and frustrating–I would assume. But, what Tyler makes, does make money…$500 million worth of money.”

He’s got a point about about what images we connect with and where we spend our dollars, but he’s alittle off on the next point when he’s asked whether he thinks Tyler Perry only depicts black people in a negative light.

“You can’t call it a stereotype if it’s the majority. The most prevalent image in ‘urban society’ right now is women like Nene [Leaks]. If there’s a fight that breaks out on “Love & Hip Hop” those people are one every blog, the cover of every magazine the next week. It’s not Taraji or Gabrielle, it’s whoever just got into a fist fight. Tyler’s not stereotyping, he’s holding up a mirror and people are mad at him because people don’t want to look at that image in that way.[sic]

“When we use the term here in America, and say ‘black movies,’ that has no reference for the rest of the world. Look at “Luther,” Idris just won a Golden Globe for “Luther,” that is NOT a black show, it’s a British show. British don’t see color they see quality. People who watch BBC don’t go, ‘oo’ there’s that black show, nah. Most African Americans were not even aware of Luther because it’s not a stereotypically urban themed show. Once we in America start focusing on quality first and telling human stories that connect with everybody that might want to watch it, the problems will solve themselves.”

Pressed again about whether he really thinks Nene is a fair representation of the majority of black women, he said this:

“I have five sisters and two moms, none of them are like that! To me, I can say I’m offended if they want to represent that and don’t want to represent my mom, but my mom represents Phylicia Rashād and has been represented on TV all my life. I can’t say that. I don’t watch “Real Housewives,” I’ve never seen an episode of “Love & Hop Hop” I’m not supporting it, I’m not giving it ratings. I’m not making the stereotype exist on TV. You’ve watched it, you’ve added to why it’s on TV.

If you look at Hip Hop, the rappers and their girlfriends, their reality shows look just like “Love & Hip Hop” and “Housewives,” some of them are even on those shows… so we’re taking the line between what’s real and what’s on TV and its all blurred but it looks exactly the same as what’s in Tyler’s movies. That’s not what I see when I go on Rowland Martins show or having this conversation with you, we are not the majority. Look at the statistics in education, only our community not all blacks African Americans we perform the worst along with Mexicans. The rest of the blacks in the world are like second and third. There’s no correlation with race, it’s our culture.”

At least he backs up what he says by not supporting shows he doesn’t approve of, and you can’t knock the brother’s passion, but I think Brian is absolving Tyler of any obligation to show new images of black people. It’s not fair for that responsibility to rest totally on Tyler but if he says the depictions on reality TV aren’t OK and Tyler flips that and puts it in movie form, then that can’t be OK either. Everyone from the creators down to the viewers has to be accountable. Also, I urge him to really find new statistics on what black women are doing from the classroom to the boardroom. What’s the majority in terms of depiction doesn’t mean it’s the true reality.

What do you think about Brian’s mouthful? Is he on point or is his opinion on portrayals of black women a little skewed?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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