Two months ago I wrote an article that was widely read, titled Black Misrepresentation: More Cicely, Less Meg. The title was written that way to get readers attention, because truth is a lot of people won’t read the article when a title is nicety, nice. They hit the like button and move on, but they really don’t get a chance to capture what was written and the time it took to really push out a thought provoking piece. I knew if I wrote something kind of controversial that people would read it, but would they hear the message? I challenged Black women’s current favorite rapper, Meg the Stallion.
Trying to be strategic I sent the article to quite a few Facebook groups in Texas as well, as you know Meg is from that beloved State. One of my colleagues in the business world was intrigued by the article and decided to share it on his linked in. When he shared it, I thought to myself great, I can’t wait to hear what people think. I truly thought that most people who read it would truly understand and get what the article meant. I sent it to quite a few people previously that I know and they all had really positive feedback. They got it and I hoped the rest of the world would as well. On linked in a few people started to comment and I noticed that there was a mix of opinions, but there was a strong compilation of thoughts that dragged me through the mud. They said all kinds of things, angry things, I’m misogynistic, I have no right to speak on women’s issues, I’m untalented, you name it, it was said. Good thing I have a tough skin and find humor in this all. The negative comments caused more and more people to chime in, they chimed in so much that the post received more than 56,000 views in the matter of days. One young lady even wrote a rebuttal piece. The piece was decent, but it was evident that it really wasn’t an analysis of what I wrote, it was more about trying to get clout from an article that caught fire, with the hopes that her piece got read.
It appeared that most who commented may not even read the article, it just became fun to do group think and respond as the rest of the group did. It got so bad that when someone tried to agree with the article they got dragged too. Why would anyone speak up on how they really feel and risk getting embarrassed online? It was so crazy because the article was really about values. Values of seasoned Cicely Tyson, who later in life refused to take roles that put Black women in a negative light. Versus a young amazingly talented Meg whose imagery and branding is all about WAP. There’s nothing wrong with making money and selling records, but as a society where are our values. People were more worried about protecting and defending her right to be a sexual being, than thinking, damn if our kids are at a birthday party and their parents decide to play WAP, what responsibility do the artist have in displaying their talent with values to protect our kids. Yea, the Parent should, sounds good, but so many don’t. Parents should do better and a lot of parents are great, but as a country some things have become so normalized that kids become exposed to adult material way too early.
Years ago TV, Radio, and the Media could not say or do certain things, specifically not at certain times either, however, you can turn on regular TV or Radio at midday and hear cursing, drugs, sex,….”my girl will suck my D&%K while she’s mad at me”. This opinion is not against women; Black men in the entertainment industry need to be held to a standard of higher values as well. Growing up, listening to music in the 90’s, with almost all of my role models being in the streets, music influenced me. I was an impressionable teen who if I was trying to get hyped, I listened to Mobb Deep, or BIG, in the mood for some loving, Jodeci. You get the point, whatever thoughts were on my brain, the music I listened too enhanced how I was feeling. There were times as a teen I would talk myself into to doing something wrong and used the music to motivate myself to do it.
The Black entertainment industry has our youths captured and enamored for several reasons and Black men and women in the industry need to think about the overarching effect they could have on children’s future decisions, actions, and values, moreover how it affects the Black community and society. Often the Black community looks to entertainment as our leaders because they have a voice everyone wants to hear. Also, when you grow up impoverished and looking for a way out, your favorite athlete or artist have a way of providing an escape from reality, and ideal for your dreams and aspirations. You want to be just like them, drive their cars, wear their jewelry, own their houses. Why do think they get paid to endorse products? It’s because people want to be like them and money is more important than values.
The celebrity culture in modern day media and lifestyle means kids are more influenced by Social Media, TV and Music stars than teachers, doctors, politicians. The entertainment promotes fantasy to the public and to kids, it would behoove our parents to teach the children how to separate reality from the fantasy of the entertainment world. Families should be encouraged to explore media together and discuss their educational value. Children should be encouraged to critically analyze what they see in the media and shouldn't gobble up everything they see. The practice of not separating fantasy i.e. things they see on media from reality can result in engaging deliberate acts and risk-taking that have negative consequences.
There are warning signs that children are confusing fantasy and reality. Children and youths can be impulsive. Teens are more sensitive than adults to rewards of situations or activities, and less sensitive to risks, brain imaging research shows. Research from the National Institutes of Health has shown, the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with inhibition of risky behavior, doesn't get fully developed until age 25. On the plus side, teens are rapid learners, since their brains are still developing. In addition, teens can also find it easier to develop dangerous habits.
Due to the standard of living and high level of poverty in the Black community, children tend to indulge in escapism. Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. The ultimate goal of escapism is the destruction of self. When there is an aspect of life that one wants to escape from, one’s fantasies act as a means of dissociating the mind from the “you” that possesses these qualities. With enough repetition, you come to view yourself as a totally separate entity from the one that has these negative traits or circumstances. Although only in rare instances does it get so extreme, but partial destruction of the “self” and dissociation are quite common.
When we practice escapism, we are trying to avoid “spending time” with ourselves. Rather than engage in healthy introspection or meaningful social interaction, we occupy ourselves endlessly with social media, television, email, video games, gambling, drugs and alcohol, and so on. In fact, individuals have been shown to watch TV when they desire to prevent themselves from thinking. Escapism is the opposite of mindfulness. Escapism allows us to numb ourselves to a reality that we do not want to accept. It allows us to avoid feelings of shame or emotional pain. By imagining ourselves as someone who doesn’t have the constraints that we do, or who possesses something that we lack, we can “experience” that life without having to do the work (and have the luck) necessary to achieve it.
Your favorite entertainer did the work to achieve where they are. There are no shortcuts. There is no call for cancellation or a need to put down beautiful talented Black women, nor our talented inspiring Black men. What this is a call for is to extenuate leadership and values in the Black community from the people that our kids spend the most time celebrating. The call is to understand how much influence and power an individual Black entertainer can have. It is an ask to use your power wisely, no matter where you’re at in life, being young has to stop being an excuse. Entertainers can’t raise our children, but yet have so much power over how they walk, talk, dress, and act. Just give our kids something to immolate that represents that change we all say we want to see.
Dr. Paul Miller is an educational success expert with more than 21 years of experience creating systems and tackling approaches that help Black young men graduate. He is a speaker and the author of We Need To Do Better: Changing the Mindset of Children through Family, Community, and Education, and Cyberbullying: Breaking the Cycle of Conflict.
Comments or Questions? Want to share your educational experience with COVID? I cordially invited you to reach out! All respectful, on-topic comments are welcome.