The Paula Patton Debate: Reactions From Around The Web

October 25, 2011  |  

by Selam Aster

One thing never, ever surprises me about the news – a headline and a few words can illicit fiery, misguided reactions. Many readers allow their assumptions to take precedence over reading a whole article and comprehending what the author is trying to convey or what the actual news story is about. That’s what happened with the Paula Patton piece I wrote for this site a couple of weeks ago. Readers had knee-jerk reactions, Clutch wrote a vehement editorial opposing it, and The Grio recently republished Clutch’s piece, further promoting the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of my thoughts.

A lot of you have asked Madame Noire to bar me from ever writing again and the majority of you didn’t get what I was trying to say at all. I will take the blame for not spending enough time in making my point more clear but I don’t take any blame for asking readers to truly consider how Blacks are portrayed in the media.

The main concern I was trying to communicate in my article about Patton is that Black producers themselves are trying to pander to white audiences by casting the most, dare I say it, bland characters in the lead and prop them up with a colorful cast. Of course, Patton is a Black woman but of all the Black talent out there, I do not think that she should be cast as the lead character in a Black film unless she can drop the whole bland, white girl act. “Sass” does not mean acting like Shananay, rolling your neck, snapping your fingers and talking street. Sass is a birthright. Sass, to me, is what defines Black speech, rhetoric and swagger. And yes, even if you talk “proper” you most likely still have some rhythm and sass. Why else can you always tell whose Black on the phone?  It’s a natural affliction, but not a bad thing.

Colorism is a very sensitive topic in the Black community. I made a clear point that my criticisms of Patton had nothing to do with her complexion or even the fact that she “speaks well” but nonetheless, many commenters assumed that I did without reading the full post.  I would challenge all the readers and critics to really go beyond knee-jerk reactions and be thoughtful when reading any piece of work. I’m not about attacking Black people or Black culture. If anything, I’m a true believer that we can really do better and embrace our distinct and wonderful culture while moving forward.

In any case, here are some of the most interesting, critical and illustrative reactions from around the web that I collected from the boards of Clutch, The Grio and Madame Noire.

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