Whether by way of minstrel show posters, radio announcements for Aunt Jemima, Darkie Toothpaste (a Colgate Palmolive product) or Popeyes chicken commercials, the advertising industry has done a simply fantastic job of capitalizing off of hate-filled, racist, stereotypical images.
Our current manufactured coon is Annie the Chicken Queen; a creation of Dick Lynch, chief marketing officer for Popeyes and their ad agency GSD&M Idea City of Austin, TX. It didn’t surprise me that everyone listed as major staff for GSD&M is white/non-Black and that of course, Dick Lynch is white. What did alarm and deeply disturb me is that as a result of their 2009 to current marketing campaign featuring Annie the Chicken Queen, a real-like, no-nonsense mad truth speaker, their words NOT mine, AFC Enterprises has seen increases in earnings per share and sales.
I don’t eat watermelon at work or fried chicken. Although I sing, I don’t participate in anything at work remotely related to music. Also, I am careful to maintain a strict line between coworkers and friends; I neither comfort or cuss out. Of a staff of 17, I am one of two Black people, and I will not be seen as the sister-girlfriend who cares about what you’re going through and shares her life so freely. I’m sure I’m too conservative but I am an odd outcome of the continued marketing of the mammy.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
P.L. Dunbar, 1896
The movie, “The Help” has struck a familiar sore spot in the area of Black female portrayals. I’ve read some wonderful posts and stories either hailing it as a true depiction or shredding it as idealized recollections of sanctioned slavery that should neither be told by a white woman or believed by the populace. I still haven’t seen the movie. I read someone’s recount at another site and I’ve talked with friends and family. Most say the movie got it right. One synopsis said there wasn’t a prevalence of warm, fuzzy relationships between the employers and the help. At the time of this article, “The Help” had grossed $71.3 million dollars, second currently to “Planet of the Ape’s” $133 million. I won’t even go there. A lot of people like this movie and I have to wonder why. This generation of movie goers is too young to harken back to those days of old when Black maids were common.
It’s my thought that this place in history is where some people would like me to stay. People like Paul Ryan. People like Mitt Romney. This is a place where they find their ease with me as a Black woman. It so disturbs and intrigues me. Black women, in their world, are to be sexless, sensual, courageous, empathetic, pitiable, heroic, wise and bewildered all at their convenience. Listening to some of Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention dredged up all these old issues. He and Romney are a danger to Black women, especially Christian Black women. They will never know us or care about our authentic political issues.
I’m revisiting this post to add new information from a Women’s Alliance panel where I was a panelist. We discussed empowerment of women through money and politics. This is what I declare to you: Being a Black Woman in today’s social and political climate is not a damnable position. The voting percentage for Black people rose for 2008 presidential election from 60% in 2004 to 64.7% in 2008 and the voter turnout rate among eligible black female voters increased 5.1 percentage points, from 63.7% in 2004 to 68.8% in 2008. Overall, among all racial, ethnic and gender groups, black women had the highest voter turnout rate in the November 2008 election. I just know that someone else needed to hear that.
There is a new generation of Black girls rocking, creating, and rolling that have emerged and continues to pass on a legacy and leave a path to their success. Check out Carol’s Daughter, Awkward Black Girl, TheYBF, Julie Dash, Tyra Banks, Lydia R. Diamond, Oprah Winfrey, and all the teachers, ministers, playwrights, poets, community leaders, publishers, bloggers, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, and sisters who are in the faces of our now generation telling them that THIS IS WHO YOU REALLY ARE!
Take good inventory of yourself today and everyday. On your worst day, you still deserve to be treated well and have your political issues honestly represented. It is mostly up to you do make sure that happens.