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In Defense of Tyler Perry: Blacks Need to Stop Worrying About White Acceptance

by Todd A. Smith

 

Booker T. Washington of Film Industry


A famous actor once told me that Tyler Perry reminded him of Booker T. Washington while some Black filmmakers reminded him of W.E.B. DuBois.


What he meant was the fact that Perry looked at business in a practical way and wanted to make money and make difference.


He did not work for White people’s approval or to present African-Americans in a light that seemed more respectable to White people.


At the time, Washington knew what the world needed, and he gave African-Americans the opportunity to fill those needs.


In a world in which African-Americans could start building wealth by working in blue collar professions, Washington did not see the wisdom of African-Americans going broke trying to prove to White folks how smart we were.


On the contrary, DuBois aimed at proving the fact that African-Americans could compete intellectually with their White counterparts, even if jobs for African-Americans with doctorate degrees really did not exist.


In filmmaking terms, people with the DuBois mentality would rather lose all of their money just to prove to the White gatekeepers of Hollywood that we can make classic cinema that they like.


African-American filmmakers might go broke in the process, but as long as we get White approval via awards and good reviews, then that was worth the loss of millions of dollars.


It does not matter that Perry has provided opportunities and jobs to thousands of African-Americans.


It does not matter that he has created a Hollywood just for us in Atlanta.


All of the money that he gives back to charity does not matter.


The only thing that matters to some African-Americans is what White folks think of us if there is a stereotypical depiction of African-American life on the big screen.


In critiquing “Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace,” Cassie De Costa of the Daily Beast wrote, “…Perry, while offering lucrative work to supremely talented Black actors who face racist discrimination throughout the rest of the industry, actually does a major disservice to his employees; he sells out his leading ladies for cold hard cash, and without the input of actual Black women writers and producers who may have the insight to tell more dignified stories.


“(Chinonye Chukwu’s ‘Clemency’ comes to mind as the kind of Black-woman helmed project that should get the platform ‘A Fall From Grace’ has.) But in the end, with or without a writers’ room, Perry is in the game to make money off of the non-cinephilic Black Americans looking for entertainment featuring characters who resemble the people they know.


“By using his company to reproduce prejudices primarily about Black women his audiences may or may not already hold, Perry does not simply capitalize but proselytizes. In the name of ‘representation,’ a new holy grail in the mostly empty response to racism in the film industry, he lifts the worst ideas and impulses into plain view—a fall from grace indeed.”


It just amazes me how many African-Americans are desperate for White approval.


Many so called members of Black academia are not that intelligent at all because it seems that they cannot think for themselves without having the White man think highly of them and their people.


It is no wonder that racism is still so prevalent in 2020 because some African-Americans give way too much power to their White counterparts.


When I was a young teenager and store clerks would follow me around the store thinking I would steal something because I am African-American, it irritated me.


That stereotype of African-Americans stealing bothered me so much that I complained to my mother about it.


She responded in a way that I did not expect.


My mother wondered how I could let someone else’s stereotypes bother me so much that it had me enraged.


She informed me that those same clerks followed her around Houston’s Willowbrook Mall stores too.


But she never got upset because she knew that as an educated African-American woman, she probably had more money in her purse than those White store clerks made in two paychecks.


Those racist store clerks were invisible to her, in her mind, because they did not deserve her time or attention.


That has stayed with me throughout my life when dealing with stereotypes.


Racism is birthed from stereotypes.


And obviously, I speak out against racism whenever I get a chance.


But imagine me worrying about what White people thought about my people when many of my people have more going for themselves than some racist and ignorant White person.


In 2020, for African-Americans to be worried about stereotypes and how the White man thinks exemplifies the slave mentality.


Perry represents what the African-American community should be concerned about, building generational wealth and building an infrastructure that allows us to operate outside of the supervision of the White community.


Like all filmmakers, Perry should face critiques of his work.


If a person does not like his work, then do not watch it.


But for the life of me I cannot understand why some African-Americans think they have to like all entertainment produced by other African-Americans.


You do not.


Just change the channel if you do not like what you see.


But critiques are one thing.


White acceptance is another thing and it makes no sense to me at all for a people that claim to be “woke” and proud of their blackness to desire that useless acceptance.


But I guess those are the DuBois type Negroes, more concerned with impressing White folks than in making an actual difference in their community.

 

This article was published on Friday 24 January, 2020.
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