By: Zach Fulwood
If I’m going to be completely honest, I have to admit that I loved sitting back and watching Reality TV. Although I am a college educated, Christian, and overall sensible man, I definitely had time in my day for a little ratchet entertainment. For a while, I was watching every city of Love & Hip-Hop, Basketball Wives, and the Atlanta version of housewives. I didn’t miss an episode of any of them. There was just something so appealing about a bunch of beautiful Black women arguing and fighting all the time. Even though I knew that none of these women could possibly be living these lives that they portrayed, it was fun pretending that they were for an hour each week. Unfortunately, I was completely oblivious to what these images were doing to the integrity of not only myself but of Black women.
Coming up, I’ve often heard about the negative images that circulate throughout our society about Black women from overly provocative music videos to the loud talking, neck-snapping portrayals of them on television shows and movies. Although these proverbial warning signs were out always there, I never payed them much mind because I was Black. I was able to differentiate what was entertainment and what was real concerning my community. The problem was, I was under the impression that everyone who wasn’t Black could do the same thing.
The truth of the matter is that most people take what they see on television as the real deal. When they see the title Reality TV, they immediately begin to think that what they are watching is in fact, reality. Too often however, the reality is so far from the actual truth and is incredibly damaging to the perception of Black people and Black women especially. Black women are much more than the images consistently shown on supposed Reality TV shows such as Love & Hip-Hop. All Black women don’t argue everyday or double as a singer and a stripper. They don’t all sleep with every man they know and they don’t all make fools out of themselves just so they can collect a paycheck.
Sure, I could go on the “Black women rock” rant but we already know this. Or at least, we’ve been shown this throughout recent memory. Our most recent First Lady, Michelle Obama was the epitome of what a Black woman is capable of being. This is a woman who grew up on the south side of Chicago and went on to graduate from Princeton and Harvard Law School. While her resume is impeccable, she’s far from the only phenomenally accomplished Black woman when you consider names like Cathy Hughes, Debbie Allen, Issa Rae, and Tina Knowles just to name a few.
I can’t speak for every reality show out there but the majority of them are made up of predominantly all Black and White women and while the content in each of them are relatively the same, the only image that seems to take a hit is that of Black women. Black women just aren’t afforded that luxury of audiences writing off these reality shows as just entertainment. Realistically speaking, they are already faced with the task of overcoming unfair stereotypes placed on them by a racist and misogynistic society. So much so that, any image shown that doesn’t aggressively shut down these stereotypes essentially reinforces them.
It’s no secret that we live in a society that makes the truth irrelevant so long as the lie is more entertaining. The Basketball Wives and Love & Hip-Hop’s of the world are just more entertaining to the general public and further shaping the perception of Black women while being far from the reality.