The weirdest sort of hypocrisy is happening over this “Sorority Sisters” reality show, which I find particularly mind-blogging.
And ye,s I’m talking about the selective outrage over the series while completely ignoring or even championing other alleged counterproductive images on the screen – and I say alleged. I mean we’d had several reality and scripted television shows with other non-Claire Huxtable-like representations of Black women on screen in between the time that folks were originally upset over “Sorority Sisters,” which was scheduled to air earlier this year and earlier this week, when the series premiered its first episode. And I don’t recall petitions or boycotts, or demands to get advertising pulled.
But let television commentator Roland Martin tell it…more specifically to Tom Joyner Morning Show:
“But let me just say, it was embarrassing. It was shameful. It was degrading. It was so ridiculous to watch, so called grown ass women act a complete fool on television. And talking about how sophisticated they are and talking about scholarship. One of the women, actually, ‘scholarship’ came out her mouth and she couldn’t probably even spell ‘scholarship.’ And here is my fundamental problem: I don’t watch that crap. The Real Housewives of Stupidity, I’m sorry, The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I don’t watch that ignorant Love & Hip Hop: LA, New York, Atlanta, Charlotte…I don’t care what you want to call it. Because I have respect for myself as a Black man. I have respect for my wife, respect for my nieces, for my momma as well. And here we are for years: we have fought this ridiculous Amos and Andy blackface images and what we do is turn around and watch this crap in support of it.”
Yeah what’s up with those people watching drama and being entertained by television? Why they should only be watching television to read books. Or to watch “Scandal.” Or “How to Get Away With Murder.” Or anything else attached to Shondaland. That’s something that Martin himself knows all too well. He was even dubbed by US News & World Report as “Washington’s Preeminent ‘Scandal’ Corespondent,” which I’m certain had some stiff competition from the lunch ladies in the Capitol Hill cafeterias.
Listen, I’m not one to say that Olivia Pope is a bad representation of Black women. She’s a television character and as such, is designed to be in conflict for the purpose of moving the plot along (or else you are just reading books on television). But again, the force of hypocrisy is pretty strong when we somehow view “Scandal” as acceptable, while treating other representations of Black women on other television shows as some sort of corruption of values. As obviously Black women are mindless and childlike and can be easily swayed by a pied piper tune played by Mona Scott Young. I mean, isn’t it all just guilty pleasure?
Martin had a response to that as well, specifically adding:
“When I hear Black folks say, ‘this is my guilty pleasure’ Yeah but what you are doing is furthering the degradation of our people. It would be different if we had a hundred shows on TV. White people got Honey Boo Boo, the duck people and all of these little folks walking around naked, but guess what? They got 97 other shows that they get to see, they fill them with images. We got six or seven shows and five of them ig’nant.”
And this is coming from a man with a big ol’ country Black person name, who speaks that ol’ Black country grammar while dresses like every day is Easter Sunday morning. Seriously. Nothing about that man’s overall presentation says “reserved” or that he’s the least bit concerned about Black folks’ images over the past hundred years or so. What it does say is that there is still a golden ticket to the Chocolate Factory somewhere left in the world. So fingers crossed…
I kid Martin’s gaudy suits and dress shoes, but I’m serious about the exceptionalism. For the record, I don’t buy in the least that Martin, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, is this upset over “Sorority Girls” based upon how it represents Black women as a whole in society. How could that even be possible when BGLOs are exclusive members-only groups? And if I ain’t invited, you can’t speak for me. Instead, it’s pretty obvious that his and all the other petition wavers, are upset about the association, which certain kinds of Black women have with the Divine Nine.
As I sincerely doubt that if this was Olivia Pope with her government job, high level access to important people, freshly permed hair and long perfectly white 100 wool blend trench coat, who was throwing up triangles or raising the pinky before running off for a weekend getaway of stealing the people’s votes, helping bad people hide dead bodies and having wild sex with the married White Republican (hello?) president, would Martin (among others) have a problem? In fact, I’m sure her fictitious face would be inducted as a real life honorary member among some chapters.
But instead “Sorority Sisters” gives us Black Greek women with names like “MeToya” and “Priyanka,” who dress like Black barbie dolls and have professions like aspiring model and burlesque dancer. And what used to be exclusive and elite institutions have become a little more inclusive, which is a good thing. However the presence of these commoners in the midst of so much “prestige” really bothers folks because how else would they feel special or different than the rest of us?
And this is not a defense of “Sorority Sisters”; that show is horrible on its own without the selective outrage over how it represents us. Seriously, they did nothing the first episode but argue about dumb shit. Call me a reality show purist, but I like my drama more subtle and with an actual plot. However, let’s be real here: some of us really get off on being different. It’s how some folks compensate from not being able to fully assimilate into mainstream White supremacy culture. And not every Black Greek is about scholarship, volunteering out in the community and sister or brotherhood. Some folks’ main interests in these organizations revolves around the step shows, the parties and of course, the identity, the Black Greek affiliation can bring them.
In fact, what’s interesting about “Sorority Sisters” is how the entire premise of the first episode centered around a bunch of women feeling superior to other BLGOs and even members within their own organizations all because of their letters. Tacky? Yes. However I’d be lying if I said I haven’t met and/or known plenty of Black Greeks, who acted just like what we saw on television. And just like Roland Martin’s suits, they too don’t think they are ghetto as hell…
I get that no institution is perfect. In fact that’s the entire premise of my argument: no institution is perfect. When you think about it, for years Black Greek Letter life in both film and television have been mostly portrayed as positive (with exception of School Daze). Therefore acting as if these institutions are sacred and beyond scrutiny and even mockery does not sit well. Secrecy and exclusivity are both breeding ground for some very dysfunctional and dangerous behavior worse than a bunch of loud mouth Black women arguing over, who’s more Greek than the other.
And yeah I’m hinting about hazing. But again, I’m talking about exceptionalism. The kind that wages wars and finger wags about the effect a reality show has on television while sitting silent and dormant while some other Black representations collect checks from a network, which might have paid the killer of a young Black teen for his exclusive interview. I have not heard a peep from Washington’s preeminent ‘Scandal’ corespondent about giving up Thursday nights for that. Talk about respectability (of us) issues.