For decades, there has been one common theme amongst Black entertainment programming: trauma. Time and time again, the content is always the same. You have slavery, poverty, gang activity, police brutality, and I can keep going. For some reason, when it comes to Black programming, the Black struggle is constantly shoved down our throats.
I remember when I was in the fifth grade. My teacher made the class watch the entire “Roots” series. Every episode was full of whippings, rapes, and lynchings. Even at that age, I was hoping I would never have to be reminded of that again. But of course, that would be impossible. Every year, it seems there’s another movie to remind Black people how awful we had it or remind us that we still have a long way to go. We can’t seem to escape it. It’s either a slave movie, a civil rights movie, or a film about the police. And we can leave it to Tyler Perry to sprinkle in the tropes of the Black family in crisis. The cycle continues all the time. I’m almost certain the average person isn’t asking for this, so the question is why. Why is Black trauma constantly pushed in our faces?
One major force to blame is woke Hollywood. You see, people still have no clue how to deliver Black people equity properly, so they choose representation over liberation. They continue to greenlight these senseless movies and shows that portray Black people as constant victims who can’t seem to do anything but be helpless and lost. It doesn’t help when these are the roles that get rewarded at award shows. With all due respect to the great actors who play these roles, why do they only seem to win when they are slaves or the help? The same thing goes for when a movie wins best picture. Let’s be honest; Wolf of Wall Street was a better film than 12 Years a Slave.
Another issue we have is one-trick ponies like Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels keep signing these big deals with these platforms to produce the same thing over and over again. I mean, my God, do we need another movie about the bitter Black woman who deals with her cheating husband because her uncle raped her? BET gave Tyler Perry the keys to the castle, and looks what come of it. It’s the same show with different titles. No one is asking for this. We wanted Tyler to put his wig on and call it a day. We didn’t ask for him to shape Black media. Whether it’s Netflix or any other streaming service, someone needs to pull the plug on this content.
I want to show you two sides of the spectrum. First off, let’s start with “Insecure.” Issa Rae has done a phenomenal job with her show. It has been a hit, and when it goes off the air next year, we will be worse off. Do you want to know what makes it so good? It’s a show about Black people doing regular shit. No one is getting raped. No one is being harassed by cops or gunned down. You have a group of young, Black and gifted people going through ordinary things. There is no victimization. Do they have a problem? They figure it out. They don’t hope for the best or go to church every Sunday. Do they lose their job? They get another one without wondering how to avoid the white man’s evil hand. Sure, they mildly cover some racial issues. But it doesn’t end with them protesting and singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” We need more shows like this. More shows reflect how Black people can be successful and go through everyday shit as everyday people do. This isn’t hard to replicate. Issa Rae’s genius is not only in her creativity but also in her belief that Black people can be dope without dealing with shackles on their feet or bullets in their back.
In contrast, Netflix is advertising a new film called “Two Distant Strangers.” This movie is about a Black cartoonist who keeps reliving the same day where he faces police brutality. Who the hell asked for that? Please point me to the group of people who said this type of film is necessary. We just spent an entire year watching news clip after news clip about police brutality. There are more than enough movies on the subject matter. And now we’re getting another film with a superstitious twist? You can’t make this up. I hope no one watches this.
This is why I disagree with the idea of inheriting trauma. Black kids know what they are taught. The only trauma they inherit is what our family and media put in their brain. A child isn’t born thinking Black people cant succeed and will always be victims of White people. They are taught that, and that’s what they see on tv. Do you want to stop the vicious cycle? Show Black people thriving. Show us being triumphant. Show us living everyday lives. Show us more “Insecure” and less “12 Years a Slave.”