Serious Question: Is T.I. The Best Representation Of Black Fatherhood On Television?

August 6, 2013  |  

Today, Clutch Magazine published a piece about how T.I.’s new clean, fatherly image didn’t sit so well with the record industry. In a recent interview with XXL T.I. spoke about Atlantic’s response to “T.I. and The Family Hustle”:

With your reality show and even your books, there’s been a real shift in your image. Do you think you’ve changed?
I do, but a lot people want to take that change and connect it to entertainment. “Oh he got all this money and changed, or “He got in trouble so he changed.” When I got introduced to the game, I was 19. Right now I’m 32. You could take anybody man, police, fireman, journalist, radio personality, actor, producer, from 19-32, he’s gonna change. But my change is publicized. So instead of connecting it to a natural, organic growth, they want to connect it to prison or something else.

Was Atlantic Records happy about the new family-friendly T.I.?
Nah, they hated it. Labels love hardcore T.I. That keeps the cash register ringing. They don’t want me to go to prison and [get] caught though. They want me to be the Teflon Don, and I can’t blame them. That shyte’s se*y. But I’m older, man. I’m wiser, I’m calmer… I’m better, stronger. I’m ready for whatever tomorrow got coming.

I’m giving Atlantic the side eye right now. Surely, they’ve seen enough black, male artists, and know from their own personal lives, that there is–or there should be– a duality between work and family life personas. I get it. Atlantic is about selling records and making money and they probably fear that with T.I. playing the good guy on TV, folks might question his credibility. But I’m a bit surprised that they think showing a black man not only financially providing for but taking care of his kids would cause people to stop buying his music. The black man is truly pigeon holed in this country. Just one of the reasons why young, black men can’t seem to navigate maintaining manhood and masculinity and raising children, society tells them, it’s either one or the other. It’s really high time we, society in general,  redefine our definitions of manhood. If a black man taking care of his children can’t be respected, we’ve got this whole life game twisted.

In that same Clutch article I mentioned earlier, the author said:

“Moreover, as crazy it sounds, T.I. is one of the most positive representations of black fatherhood on TV today.”

The instant I finished reading the sentence, I doubted its validity. “No, that can’t be right…there’s gotta be someone else.” But then I started trying to think of positive, black fathers on television. Who is there? It took me a while and I even had to ask my friend. The only person I could come up with was Anthony Anderson on NBC’s “Guys With Kids.” Umm, yeah, that show was canceled earlier this summer. When I asked my friend she came up with Cedric the Entertainer on “The Soul Man.” He is a father but the actress who plays his daughter went from a main cast character in season 1 to a recurring character in season 2, so clearly fatherhood is not the focus here. Then there was Malcolm Jamal Warner, former Cosby kid turned sitcom dad in BET’s “Reed Between the Lines.” The show has promise, though it’s on shaky ground since one the principle actors, Tracee Ellis Ross left the show after season 1.

Then the more I thought about it, besides Heathcliff Huxtable from “The Cosby Show” and maybe James Evans Sr. from “Good Times,” the track record for positive representations of black fathers has always been far too slim.

I’m not saying that real, life black fathers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to because there aren’t any on television. But we all know how influential media can be. We saw it when black college enrollment increased after School Daze and “A Different World.”

Regardless of what Atlantic thinks, I’m glad T.I. is showing folks there’s honor in being a father.

Can you think of other positive, black fathers on TV?

 

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