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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Minority Opinion: No Angry Black Woman Here

When I first got wind of the New York Times article, Wrought in Rhimes’ Image, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed. “What did the New York Times do now?” I thought to myself. After searching for a link through the people I follow on I finally found out what all the commotion was all about.

And there it was, in the lede, in black and white … “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.

Alessandra Stanley
I had to read the sentence a few more times for it to really sink in. “What the …?”
Then I wanted to know who this veteran TV critic Alessandra Stanley person is and why did the NYT let her get away with writing ‘Angry Black Woman’ throughout the story. After doing a quick Google search I thought, “Oh gosh, things just got worse…she’s not even a Black woman.”


     Reasons why the story went to press
  • Shock value
  • Drive digital traffic
  • To get gain clicks. Click. Click. Click
  • This is the only way the NYT could encourage Black editors to work for the organization.

As I scrolled through the lengthy article I felt compelled to step away from it and head back to Twitter to see how people were reacting to the critique. Black women were upset and I was one of them. I tweeted:

“OK @NYTimes I think it's time to seriously hire me as an editor. How could you let ‘Angry Black Woman’ go to print?”

ANGRY BLACK WOMAN vs ANGRY WHITE FEMALE

Singer songwriter, Alanis Morissette sat down with Oprah Winfrey to talk about spirituality, love and fame during a new episode of Super Soul Sunday. At the height of her career Alanis made the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with the title ‘Alanis Morissette - Angry White Female.’ Oprah asked Alanis if being called an ‘angry white female’ didn’t bother her. “No, at least they didn’t have me on the cover as a sex object,” Alanis said.

Shonda Rhimes (left) Alanis Morissette/Rolling Stone (right)
A light bulb went off in my head after Alanis’ response. Why are we  we meaning Black Americans  making such a fuss with the NYT and Shonda Rhimes article? It seems that we take offense to every little thing that is said out of line by anyone who is not Black. I even tweeted:

“Here's a good one from #SuperSoulSunday @Alanis didn't have a problem being called the #AngryWhiteWOman on the cover of @RollingStone”

“... so should people still be offended that @nytimes described @shondarhimes as the #AngryBlackWoman ? It's something to think about.”

Not one of my twitter followers agreed or disagreed. My twitter world, which is usually quite chatty, went silent.

Then I got to thinking…Tyler Perry made Diary of a Mad Black Woman. What if a white filmmaker created that movie? “First of all I would ask, ‘how would you know what it’s like to be a Black woman?’” my 19-year-old daughter responded after I was debating with her about the NYT/Shonda Rhimes drama.

My daughter made a valid point but then my brain started to move full speed ahead. Have you ever noticed that Blacks can say certain things to each other but when it comes to other races saying anything offensive to us we jump on that bandwagon of ‘You’re Racist.’ It’s true for most of us. And for those of you who this doesn’t happen to, well, good for you. 

TheRoot.com

Nevertheless, it still bothers me that it seems like the Black community keeps going around the same mountain of race issues. When are we going to let the small things roll off of our shoulders?


If we keep reacting to comments from people who don’t look like us, who hasn’t taken the time to try to relate to us or learn from us, then they are going to continue to take jabs at us.


OUCH!

Why do we always jump on the bandwagon of ‘You’re Racist’? I’ll admit, I jumped right on the front of the wagon and I did this without even reading the NYT article in its entirety. I have since read the full article and the truth is … the NYT article was a direct punch in the face to Black women and to Black culture.

Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy or got my thoughts wrong I got off of the Twitter bandwagon and looked up and read the complete Alanis Morissette article published in the November 1995 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. There was a big difference. The article on the Canadian born musical pop star was gracious and not filled with anger at all. As for the NYT article on Shonda Rhimes, it was straight up racist. Point! Blank! Period!

  • Why did Alessandra Stanley find it necessary to place Black successful/powerful women in the box of intimidation?

  • Why did Stanley feel the need to carry on with her “Angry Black Woman” rant to say that Olivia Pope and Miranda Bailey “… can and do get angry?” Don’t all women get angry? Jews, Italians, Hispanic, Whites, Blacks etc.
  • Stanley carries on with her harsh words by writing, “Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable.” Uh, negative Ms. Stanley. How can you honestly make this assumption? Excuse me, critique.

I’m still scratching my head as to why Stanley brought up the joke about “Who is the real Michelle Obama? When will we see the real Michelle Obama?” For those of you who have yet to read the article, Stanley is referring to a joke that Wanda Sykes made in one of her acts. Stanley rounded out her point and tried to describe Sykes body movement as “an animated pantomime of every angry-black-woman gesture, frown and eye roll,” after the Black female comedian said: “You know what they’re saying: When are we going to see this?’”

Seriously! She thinks every angry-black-woman does this? Was that last line even necessary? Now White people are going to think that all Black women act like this. You know, like Shanaynay from the TV series Martin or I Love New York from the VH1 reality show Flavor of Love. #DearWhitePeople we don’t all act like this!


THE APOLOGY

After the NYT got a social media lashing Margaret Sullivan, a public editor at the NYT, stepped up to the plate to try to smooth things over in her piece: An Article on Shonda Rhimes Rightly Causes a Furor.

Viola Davis
Sullivan reverted to a couple of jabs that Stanley threw in her initial article on Shonda Rhimes including her take on actress Viola Davis who stars in the new ABC series, “How to Get Away with Murder.” Stanley described Davis as ‘less classically beautiful” than lighter-skinned Black American actresses. SMH! As a woman of color, a dark skinned woman at that, I want to see women with my complexion on primetime television. 

Margaret Sullivan NYT Public Editor
Photo via twitter
It was gratifying to see Sullivan sharing a reaction letter from a devoted NYT subscriber, which was originally addressed to the new executive editor Dean Baquet, who is the first Black American executive editor at the NYT. Sullivan was also copied on the email and she shared some of Patricia Washington’s dismay. The following statements from Patricia Washington really stood out to me:

  • “I am a black woman and a lawyer. I have worked very hard to achieve in my profession and earn respect. I live in a very nice suburban community in Maryland. And yet, none of that makes one bit of difference because a New York Times writer can make whatever offhanded, racist opinions about a successful TV producer who is a black woman she cares to make, and because she has the protection of The New York Times behind her, can publish it.”

  • “No matter what we do, as far as Ms. Stanley is concerned, we will always be angry and have potent libidos as we have been perceived from slavery, to Jim Crow, and sadly in September 2014, the 21st century.”

  • Please remove Ms. Stanley from The New York Times. None of us who read your paper should ever be subjected to this.

Well said Patricia Washington. Well said.

Now, Margaret Sullivan tried to get down to the bottom of the matter by asking Stanley what happened. According to Sullivan, Stanley said that “her intentions were misunderstood, and seemed to blame the Twitter culture for that.” Insert #BlackTwitter tweets here _________.

Danielle Mattoon NYT Culture Editor
Photo via twitter
Sullivan then turned to the culture editor, Danielle Mattoon, who is a white woman, to go over the editing process of the offensive article. Sullivan admits there are “big questions about diversity, editing procedures and how the paper deals with stories about women and race.”

Sullivan concluded her preliminary post by saying: “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was – at best – astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.” But Ms. Sullivan, do you think this article was offensive? What did your Black friends think? Yes, I will feel better if I saw your response in black and white. 

By the afternoon of Sept. 22, 2014, Sullivan updated her post with Mattoon’s reaction: “There was never any intent to offend anyone and I deeply regret that it did.”

My question is … where are the Black editors? How many minorities are on your culture team New York Times? They would have told you to re-write the lede. If I were on the team I would have said, “This lede is going to cause controversy and tarnish the image of the paper even more. Don’t you recall the mishap on Michael Brown and describing the slain Ferguson teen as ‘No Angel?’ Please be mindful that our country is currently in a highly sensitive state when it comes to race. Now go back and take out ‘The Angry Black Woman comments.’”

Mattoon believed that the article in its entirety was “largely positive.” I must have read the wrong article because what I read had nothing positive in it. Mattoon said that three editors looked at the story before it went to print. Really? How many of them were people of color?


END RESULT…

Dean Baquet NYT Exec. Editor
Photo via twitter
Sullivan’s final take: She said she plans on speaking with Baquet, the (Black) executive editor at the paper, about “the article, its editing, and about diversity in the newsroom, particularly among culture critics.”

Let’s keep an eye on The New York Times to see how much they will boost their diversity efforts. 

NYT, if you've managed to read this far please note that I’d be happy to come on board to help tell the stories of minorities and I’ll bring a couple of journalists of color with me. You are aware about the study conducted by Media Insight Project, which found that Black Americans and Hispanics don't trust the media to tell their stories well, aren't you? Why do you think this is? Hmm, if I had to guess I would say there is not enough minorities in the newsroom, and not just yours, across the country.

There you have it, my honest critique to NYT's Angry Black Woman. I'm ready to hear from you. Leave your comments below or e-mail me at astutestories@gmail.com. Or you can find me on Twitter @TCsViews 






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