This is an open letter to media networks that fail to examine their part in racial inequality and stereotyping of Black and Brown individuals. Black and Brown Americans are constantly shown they need to work two to three times as hard to get into the same echelon as white influencers and celebrities. Black and Brown entertainers need to be shown their lives matter outside of the set. I would like to address these media networks’ longstanding history of racial profiling/discrimination, my own experience with their casual racism, and the harm they cause through their capitalization of Black and Brown bodies.
Racial inequality is prevalent and alive today. This is clear when minorities appear on media networks and are actively represented in a derogatory fashion. Networks invite BIPOC onto their sets and streams, while also employing people who make offensive racial comments (e.g., calling someone a stereotypical “black name” that isn’t their name on television to highlight their perceived blackness). Furthermore, they have even employed individuals who have openly expressed racist beliefs before being cast and had not been properly vetted to reduce the harm they could do when employed. Moreover, they need to address how they employ white people who avidly “blackfish,” rather than sponsor seasons of content with BIPOC representation. In 1983, David Bowie made it a point to directly ask during an MTV music special interview why MTV failed to highlight and uplift Black music and artists during their “Music Television” days. Little has changed today.
Recently, this was reiterated when BTS fans called out MTV for putting BTS into the K-Pop category versus allowing them to compete with other large artists. After all, they were the second biggest selling artist that year. During The Challenge, Leroy was forced to cohabitate with Camilla who continued to make racial remarks at him. Producers also refused to air her racist rant during the reunion to spare her reputation, rather than show the world what racial discrimination looks like. Recently, racist acts have been aired out. Vanderpump Rules stars were outed for racist sentiments, after eight seasons on the air. This doesn’t come as a surprise with how many people have been dropped in the past month, but it does call attention to what network employees do on and off set. Accountability only occurs when confused and angry viewers bring tweets and videos to the surface. This does not do anything to fix actual issues in the hiring process, in the workplace, or on screen. There is still an underlying message sent to white employees that, as long as audience members cannot suspect you of racism, the networks will still work with you.
After appearing on their network, accusations of my character presented by Ex On The Beach became the latest chapter in the fraught legacy of a gendered and racial dynamic in America dating back to slavery and persisting in the nation’s imagination today. Networks and their audiences are rooted in their own notions of Blackness versus recognizing a Black individual and their own autonomy. This phenomenon is backed by generations of violence. It is the reinforcement of an unspoken national ethic: “White frail womanhood is to be protected, and Black men are inherently criminal.” This repetitive cycle is a specific strain of American racism.
It manifests in real-world violence, such as the 1955 killing of Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy from Chicago, by two white men in Money, Miss., after he was accused of whistling at a white woman. This was broadcast around the U.S. and helped reinvent a way to target Black individuals. Before white women could vote, they could lodge an accusation against a black person that most times ended in that Black man’s death. Despite an increased awareness of such incidents with the advent of technology, they continue to happen. Due to the persistence of weaponized white privilege, racialized ideas, and open disrespect, we continue to distrust and oppress Black people.
Although the network has made attempts to rectify the racist statements of their employees by terminating them, there is still so much that needs to be done by the network to restore the innocent lives of black men they have actively destroyed. Sentiments on network sites, articles and videos sell racial inferiority to Black people and perpetuate negative perceptions of Black American males as “criminals” and “thugs.” For example, this article alleges that I, a Black man, stole money from a white woman, while she was away filming another show for the network. During this time, the white woman ACTUALLY cheated on me and used her white privilege, supported by the network, to change the narrative. This white woman then posted videos of her white friends saying the “N” word on her social media and faced no ramifications from the network. She was still given opportunity after opportunity, while I, a community activist, have not been offered any further opportunities or apology. When my sexual health was compromised and security of mind was under attack, this white woman was still hailed. I feel this is a civil rights violation and a discriminatory act. I would like for the network to do more for social justice and racial equality, not just post things on social media to make viewers believe they are on the side of social justice and civil rights.
Social justice and civil rights are about doing what is right, not continuing to perpetuate negative stigmas of black males that have real life consequences. I fear for my life everyday, not just because my skin is a threat to racist people, but also because defamatory articles on the internet reinforce racist stereotypes about black men. My life has become more threatened since appearing on the network. I faced emotional trauma from being thrust into a social experiment, just to end up vilified and lied about. This has left me distraught and unmotivated to ever be involved with any network again. Please do right and help the people of color on your network get real justice.
— Tor’i (Bionic) Brooks
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