People can sometimes surprise you. For the past few months, we’ve been hearing about a shocking new reality show starring rapper Shawty Lo that centered around the fact that he has 11 kids with 10 different women. The show was to be titled “All My Babies’ Mamas,” and those of us who care deeply about the messaging of popular culture were in disbelief. But then something equally surprising happened: people fought back. Organizing petitions and holding Oxygen accountable (the network where the program was to air), they pushed back and won. “All My Babies’ Mamas” is canceled; I for one am relieved. Now if we could only do the same in other areas of our lives.
Watch Shawto Lo talk about his show cancellation here:
As a Black woman working in the fight for civil rights at National Action Network (NAN), I see the impact of popular culture on young people every day in how they perceive themselves, and how others look at them. As a Mother, I don’t turn a blind eye to what my son watches, reads, or listens to. And as someone who deals with folks from all racial/ethnic backgrounds — from corporate offices to community groups — I know what sort of influence imaging has on race relations.
Vile filth like ‘All My Babies’ Mamas’ not only stereotypes Black men and Black women, but it further breaks down the Black family. I mean, when did it suddenly become OK to have 11 kids with 10 different women? That’s not OK, and that’s not the kind of message we need to be telling others.
Back when Don Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hoes,” NAN stepped in to action. Because of some disrespectful and derogatory lyrics against women in hip-hop, NAN started the “Decency Initiative.” In mass media, NAN helped shape the recent Comcast Diversity MOU, which brought Black programming and standards to NBC Universal. And we have consistently called for a change to Black images on reality shows, in movies, in magazines, and on TV in general.
When Black men are only depicted as thugs or womanizers, that’s a problem. When Black women are only shown as “baby mamas” or throwing bottles and fighting everywhere, that’s a problem. And when we don’t have enough positive images of the Black family, that’s a huge problem.
People will say, “Oh, it’s all entertainment, don’t be so serious.” But you know what, when kids are shooting each other, and when babies are having babies, it’s not funny. When Black women are disrespected just walking down the street, that’s not entertainment. When people outside of our race don’t hire us or don’t give us a promotion because of stereotyping, how do you think they formed their opinions?
It might be hard for you to imagine, but there are many in this country that don’t grow up around Black folks, and never had any Black friends. So the only view they have of us is what they see on TV, and on the big screen. It’s our responsibility that they don’t continue to see just negative biased images.
That’s why I applaud the efforts of folks like Sabrina Lamb, author and activist, who led the petition to get “My Babies’ Mamas” off the air. Her work alone drew over 38,000 signatures; one person really can make a difference.
Whether it’s the insensitivity to shows like “My Babies’ Mamas” or too much violence throughout mainstream culture, we need to take action. I’m thrilled to hear the reality show is now canceled, and I’m even happier to know that it’s because every day Mothers and Fathers made their voices heard. Now we must continue to do that in other areas of our own lives, and wherever we see indecency. At the end of the day, if you don’t like the way people portray you, YOU have to do something about it. You, like myself, just might be surprised by the results.