I love Black people. Our camaraderie borders on familial. Seeing the “Black village” mentality at work is truly a moving sight. However, the infighting in “the family” can be as unnerving as the harmony is calming. This is especially true when it comes to polarizing Black public figures, and whether or not we should support them.
Tyler Perry was recently identified by Forbes as the highest paid man in Hollywood. To sum it up simply, this is major. Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp and any other huge name you can conjure up, all fall in line behind Mr. Madea on the money train…but, don’t expect a parade.
Monday, pop culture writer Touré appeared on CNN with Dr. Boyce Watkins. The men commented on Spike Lee’s earlier statement that much of what is fed to us from Black Hollywood is “coonery buffoonery.” Touré chimed in with calling Tyler’s work “cinematic malt liquor for the masses.” When Boyce credited him with creating jobs, Touré responded, “I want to point out that drug dealers also create jobs, but we’re not giving them credit for creating jobs. Just creating jobs is not enough.” He went on to essentially say that Tyler botches every aspect of every movie he creates. Touré’s appearance in the next Madea installment is doubtful.
Currently, there is no Black political figure more polarizing than President Barack Obama. Political commentator Tavis Smiley (pictured above) never misses an opportunity to issue carefully worded criticisms toward Obama; for everything from not having a Black agenda, to not inviting Tavis to the White House. Professor Cornel West has been much more direct, and called him a “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” In fact, the Congressional Black Caucus feels they have held back on Obama for too long. Rep. Maxine Waters stated the CBC is simply waiting for permission to “unleash” on him.
The fact is, Tyler is not the first person to create and be highly paid for fluff movies. He won’t be the last. Is he somehow more culpable than the people who buy tickets to his movies? Or for that matter, more culpable than TBS, who can’t seem to say no to his TV shows? Is Touré criticizing Tyler (even if only through implication) for producing a poor Black product, or a poor product? What, for that matter, is he offering besides eye rolls on CNN?
Barack Obama, however, IS the first Black president. Do detractors ignore the fact that there is an active campaign from the far right to oppose him on nothing more than principle? An active campaign, I might add, that is not only limited to the far right. It’s as though some would like him to totally disregard the system of checks and balances for the good of Black folks. Are the issues with Barack related to how he conducts himself as a Black POTUS, or the POTUS? Is Rep. Waters, or any other member of the CBC doing anything to actively take on those who openly oppose, not Obama, but the agenda they claim to value?
We must acknowledge that the crabs-in-a-barrel mind state is real. Not because you don’t support Tyler Perry, Barack Obama, or any other Black public figure. The “who” is quite immaterial. Black people are not a monolithic entity. But, the demands we place on our public figures, particularly those who excel, at times border on the superhuman. When we fail to be reasonable, we fail to progress and there is no way to win with that mind state. Because the “why” means everything.
What do you think? Are critics like Touré and Tavis "crabs in the barrel" or do Tyler and President Obama need the "constructive" criticism?
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Photos: ‘For Better or Worse’