By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA
I am blown away by our society, especially here in the United States. I feel like someone sucker-punched me and I’m left gasping for air in desperation every time I read, see, or hear news about a person acting a complete fool one way or another—-especially when it’s a person of color. I say this because there is a stigma associated with so-called minorities. Think of the various stereotypes you have bought into about Asians, Latinos, Blacks, those from the Middle East, and others with darker skin pigmentation. Now multiply that exposure by millions, and we then are left with millions of people thinking the same thing about these racial groups.
So imagine how it feels to turn on the news, open the newspaper, or read an online article about so-called men who also happen to be Black who walk around thinking it’s okay to impregnate dozens of women (who already have low self-esteem and dignity) but they don’t take care of the children that they help to bring into the world. Can you say Shawty Lo and Orlando Shaw?
Imagine how a person’s stomach turns to see children walking around with little to no exposure or interaction with the “men” who helped to bring them into this world. Imagine the disgust of knowing that the money that comes into each of those households is being provided by our tax dollars through the state, and not by these so-called “men” who want to be called “daddy”.
Take it all in as you visualize how these children with poor role models will eventually grow up, and how they will impact our neighborhoods, country, and the world.
Now let me just zoom in and focus on Black people, since the article that I’m about to reference is addressing a deadbeat dad who also happens to be Black.
Our world has a stereotypical image of the Black man. He is loud, angry, violent, ignorant, lazy, has low IQ, good at sports, physically strong, extremely high sex drive, and has a well-endowed sexual organ.
Our world has a stereotypical image of the Black woman. She is loud, angry, violent, ignorant, lazy, has a low IQ, good at sports, good at gyrating her hips while dancing proactively, extremely high sex drive, and has a big rear end that she likes to parade around for the world to see.
And some Black men and women are, “attractive for a Black person”. I will let that marinate in your mind and gut for a bit.
Depictions of Black people are always conflicting as in the same breath a Black person could be called both lazy and a hard worker, violent and nurturing, one who can’t be trusted yet also dependable and loyal, great at sports but not smart enough or talented enough to be in the celebrated role of quarterback, pitcher, coach, general manager, or owner. With all of these conflicting terms and depictions floating around, the likelihood is extremely high that these negative portrayals are deeply embedded in the minds of those being stereotyped. If you hear something long enough and hear no counter-argument refuting the claim, you may begin believing what is said about you. If enough people tell you that you are dumb or ugly, then you may begin seeing yourself that way, and eventually acting that way.
This isn’t the case just for Black people, it’s all of us. What about the Asian who makes average or below average grades but has been historically stereotyped as brilliant, what happens to their psyche when they experience this conflict? What about Latinos who are devalued and seen as only laborers and always perceived to not know how to speak English, so how could they possibly compete with the masses? Our once-beloved Middle Easterners now have a “terrorist” label attached to them. What does all of this do to the minds of the people who are subjected to this negative talk and portrayal of them?
Why are we not surprised that people go to the extremes, either trying to be accepted through assimilation or trying to separate themselves completely using terror as their weapon. Think about it, a gang is an organization that takes in those who don’t feel loved, valued, appreciated, understood, powerful, or protected. They need counseling and better role models. Just as anyone willing to change their name, get plastic surgery, and bleach their skin to appear more white and accepted, needs counseling and better role models.
Let’s look at something shall we?
Circa 1989 the music and film industries began cranking out songs and movies about gangs, marijuana and other drugs, including alcohol. Now everyone seems to be a thug, gangsta, getting high, drunk, selling drugs, or getting busted with them. From 1970 to 2007 we had the highest incarceration of Black males, yet no one has rang the bell of enlightenment for the masses to hear and identify with this reality that the more Black males who get busted for possession leaves more women and children alone to fend for themselves, and live off of state assistance provided by our tax dollars. Nope, folks keep gang banging, drinking in excess and getting high on their own supply or someone else’s, and then wondering what happened to their lives after getting locked up or serving a life sentence due to HIV/AIDS, etc.
Then around 2003 I started hearing more and more songs about strippers and models, and I had the nerve to be shocked to see thousands of young ladies desiring to be strippers and models. Shouldn’t I have expected to see young girls and women smacking their butt cheeks and dropping it like it’s hot, while posing for pictures that would be used for club flyers, magazines, and the like? Shouldn’t I have expected to see females rushing to casting calls for music videos so they could work those hips and cute faces for $50 on average per day? Shouldn’t I have expected to see oiled up females sliding down stripper poles twisting their bodies like pretzels hoping, wishing, and praying that they can leave that night with more than $50 and sore feet?
Don’t get me wrong I used to want to be a model, and even took some shots for a portfolio when I was 18, but it was short-lived because I took the time to learn the business and realized that my looks would only last so long and then what would I do? Lord knows I wasn’t willing to go to the extremes to be discovered and represented, and I wasn’t going to have an eating disorder or sample drugs to stay thin and pubescent looking for designers. But the vast majority of females don’t put that much thought into it. No, instead they see themselves as beautiful and gorgeous, one of a kind, and far prettier than the rest, and then convince themselves that they are deserving of a Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell salary and lifestyle right now.
Instead of being ticked off by the songs that encouraged men to go to strip clubs, and celebrated the gyrating strippers, females felt empowered by the songs, music videos, and magazine articles to showcase their bodies for the world to see, with hopes of being labeled the next video vixen, top model, or baddest b****. I’m not sure how they thought the top agencies would look past their “hood” portraits and showcases at the Big Booty Tavern (gosh, I hope that’s not a real strip club name). Why would a top agency want to contract with the girl bent over the hood of a deuce and a quarter wearing a thong and six inch heels? How could that agency conceivably market this girl to their biggest clients? How could they cross platforms? It’s hard enough breaking into modeling and acting as a Black woman, a resume filled with stripping and booty shots won’t make it any easier. But this logic isn’t running through the minds of the girls and young women who have ambitious dreams of being rich and famous.
Now let me broaden this discussion beyond Black people, although they are still part of this conversation (but definitely not alone).
We have seen people dying like flies behind cases of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually-transmitted diseases, yet people are still less inclined to invest a couple of bucks in a condom, and get free screening two times per year. We know that birth control works 90-99.9% of the time when used correctly, and we also know that there are a lot of free and low cost clinics around this country that will provide birth control to males and females who know they are in no position to bring a child into this world. Yet, we keep seeing the babies popping out left and right. We keep seeing folks who are bound for the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich type shows. We keep seeing more and more reality TV shows that were supposed to help slow down teen pregnancy rates, somehow get hoodwinked in a reverse psychology where more teens find it cute to walk around playing house after barely hitting puberty.
These aren’t just Black people doing these things, nope this ignorance covers the rainbow spectrum across these good ole’ United States. The talk shows have representatives from every racial group in the U.S. and the reality shows focused on teen pregnancy have roughly a 90% makeup of white teens starring on the show and as viewers.
I’m saddened, disgusted, enraged, and embarrassed!
Awhile ago I remember hearing about Orlando Shaw, the Black male (not a man by any decent human being’s standards) who thought it was cool that he impregnated 14 women and had 22 children by them. I almost swerved off the road in utter disbelief as I heard the ignorant ramblings coming from his mouth through my car radio. He had little regard or concern about those 36 lives he has now negatively impacted. Yes, 36 lives.
The 14 young women who obviously think their value rests between their legs and not in their heads. These women who obviously also don’t have strong, positive female (and mother) role models in their lives, for if they did they would never subject their children or themselves to the madness that they are currently facing and the darkness that is around the corner. For those women who have more than one child with Orlando Shaw aka the “sperm donor” (my name for him) they will feel less inclined to pull themselves out of this dark pit he has helped place them in, and instead they will settle with trying to survive in what they depressingly consider “comfortable”, living off of the Tennessee taxpayers, and letting Orlando come over whenever he wants to get some “lovin'”.
Then there’s the 22 precious and innocent children who will most likely grow up with the image of Orlando as their example of a man, daddy, and father. If he has daughters, they will spend most or all of their lives looking for “daddy” in every male they encounter, and settling for “baby daddies” over husbands, and any sons that he helped produce will spend most or all of their lives following their sperm donor’s footsteps, broke, jobless, and treating women like human receptacles. That is unless there is a major intervention that can thwart this outcome, and I mean a major intervention!
Well Orlando Shaw has popped back on my radar again this morning as I surfed through my online news sources. Dr. Boyce Watkins has written a piece updating us on the latest pimp network supporting Orlando’s baby making spree. Ole’ Orlando is slated to get his own reality show supposedly to help pay off his child support debt. Now Orlando has chosen not to work, not to help his children financially, and the TV network and Shaw want you and I to believe that he has every intention of taking this money and taking care of his 22 kids!
Here’s the deal, his ignorance will be watched like a hawk because the world loves to gawk over the buffoonery, bloops, blunders, and misery of others. We absolutely get a thrill out of watching people fall, get hit, make a fool of themselves, and scream out in pain. Our society loves to see someone worse off than we are. Someone else’s pain is our pleasure. So people will tune in to the world of Orlando Shaw and the TV network will make millions of dollars exploiting Orlando, the women, and the innocent children. Even if the contract between Orlando and the network states that a portion of the money will be withheld and allocated for child support administration, where’s the allocation to go towards counseling and other support needs that these women and children will need? And what about the counseling Orlando needs?
There is no doubt about it that this image he wants to portray as a self-proclaimed “Romeo” (his word not mine) is all a shell for the insecure child that hides inside of him scared to stand up and be a man. For this child known as Orlando Shaw, impregnating females is merely a game, and the easiest way for him to claim manhood besides the age listed on his state identification card. Orlando and the women who have been forced to be caretakers need psychological help, job and career training, financial dignity training, parenting courses, and a laundry list of other sources—-that Orlando’s network deal should pay for. Orlando needs to learn the family structure and his role in it, and that his children are not his “siblings”, yes you read that correctly, Orlando continues to refer to his children as his “siblings”. You shouldn’t laugh at that, it should disturb the mess out of you!
Those 22 children need counseling, access to support groups and mentors, tutors and after school resources. Those children need access to men and women who can show them that their current state of living does not have to be their long-term reality. Yes, the TV network that wants to exploit and pimp them should pay for that also. But here’s the thing, what about our responsibility and culpability in all of this?
When will we get tired of celebrating ignorance and buffoonery? When will we say, “no more” to these reality shows that are laughably unreal, scripted, and geared towards dumbing down people and highlighting the ignorance of others? Every time you tune in to one of these shows you are making the executives behind the cameras richer and wealthier. Every time you tune in you are helping to pay someone’s mortgage, sending their children to expensive colleges and universities, paying for lavish vacations, and helping to improve their lifestyle. But how’s your life?
How’s the lives of these so-called “reality stars” who are being rationed out small morsels of money compared to the network executives? Have you noticed that a vast majority of reality stars end up strung out on drugs and alcohol, or arrested for something crazy? Then they are geared up and propped up for a star appearance on a celebrity intervention or rehab show. Our society enjoys dragging people through the mud and watching them self-destruct on TV, the Internet, and in tabloids.
Do we not care about these individuals? Do we not care about how this negative influence will impact their families and generations to come? Do we not see how this negative impact then affects each and every one of us? Whether we get hit with taxes to pay for their children, pay for their time in jail or prison, or for some other situation, we too are negatively impacted by the decisions these folks are making. The drunk driver, the mugger, car jacker, robber, rapist, suicide victim, or even the person living out on that sidewalk—-they could be one of these people (or their children) one day. Do we turn a blind eye? Do we ignore it until we are a direct victim? How can their problem, their illness, not be an issue of concern for you?
As long as there are stereotypes, discrimination, racism, and a slanted justice system we all are impacted by the images and actions of others. As long as there are stereotypes, discrimination, racism, and a slanted justice system we all are susceptible to buying in, exploiting, and being exploited by others. As long as we are comfortable being ignorant we will continue to be treated and regarded as ignorant. Other countries laugh at us and I can see why. The most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world, looks down upon others, but has a glass house with holes and cracks so big that planes can fly through, and we keep hoping that no intense storms shatters our glass house. We are quick to judge other nations, but let’s look inward at our own. Yes, our country is great and far better than others, but we could be better—-and if we are to lead the world then we must lead by example—and not with a “do as I say not as I do” mantra.
It should not be a first or second thought of “I can just get state assistance” when contemplating pregnancy, not when our country has so many options and resources to prevent pregnancy and to give every citizen and resident a chance at living a dignified life as a hard-working contributor through employment, business ownership, etc. We need to help our children and young adults to see the positive role models in the country, around the world, and most importantly in their neighborhoods. Let’s not just clothe them and feed their stomachs, let’s feed their minds with relevant topics and subjects, and show them the possibilities for today and tomorrow. No more pipe dreams, just dreams and goals with trackable benchmarks.
Let’s show them how to be bonafide (and legal) entrepreneurs at the age of 8-20. Let’s show them how to apply for grants and scholarships, how to save and invest money, how to walk with dignity, and how to rebuild and protect their neighborhoods while also being concerned about other neighborhoods. Let’s show them how to respect and care for our elders and our parents. Let’s show them how a weapon isn’t necessary to settle a disagreement, and how fighting doesn’t solve anything (and usually causes a domino effect called revenge). Let’s show them that bullies are bullied, and how to help squash bullying and how to get help for both sets of victims. Let’s teach them that their bodies and sexual organs are not to be exploited and broadcasted for others enjoyment. Let’s teach them the beauty of marriage and that it is to be entered by two people in love, who vow to work through thick and thin for the rest of their lives as a team—not entered into like a dance competition that when one misses a step you instantly break up the team and go separate ways.
Just as they need to stop relying on the government to take care of them, we need to stop relying on and waiting for the government (or self-designated “leaders”) to clean up our mess. We created it or watched it happen so we need to clean it up, one home at a time, one street at a time, one neighborhood and city at a time, until we reclaim our beautiful country and restore it to where we all wished it to be when we were small children—-safe, loving, caring, considerate, dignified, respected and respectful, forgiving, embracing, honorable, open-minded, receptive, compassionate, accepting, and tolerant.
If you would like to read Dr. Boyce Watkins post about Orlando Shaw and the state of America, and Black America, read more here:
Share with me your thoughts on my article and Dr. Watkin’s article. What do you think that you could do to help reverse the negativity in our neighborhoods and throughout our country? What are you willing to do today to help right these wrongs? What are you already doing to bring about positive change in your community, state, and for the broader good of our nation? I would love to hear from you. We have to be the change that we want to see.
Copyright 2013. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.