Tackling modern-day minstrelsy

written by Irritated Mother, crossposted from Open Salon

I must live in one of the most homo-ethnic (is that a word?) areas in the United States:  Southwest Missouri.  The current statistics on our town show us to be 96% white, 0% African American, 2% Hispanic, and 2% Mixed Race.  The county of 116,000 is 94% White, 2% African American, 6% Hispanic, and 2% Mixed Race.


There are three little boys that live two blocks over that are African and beyond that, I personally know two families that have children attending school with my children that aren’t white.  It was disconcerting when we first arrived from the outer burbs of Charlotte, NC, but now the lack of diversity has become a real challenge.


In the last six months, my daughter has developed an interest, or to be honest, more likely a curiosity in diversity.  At least, that’s what I would like to call it.  It’s actually not diversity at all, but more accurately stereotypes, the types played out most often on television and in movies and music videos.  Clearly, this isn’t an accurate portrayal of reality, but it’s the only reality she “sees”.


We have lots of discussions and do our best to correct the falsehoods in the images that she sees, but it’s hard to get it to stick when it’s one voice versus an entire culture of media.  Our most recent issue comes from Mad TV.  As far as I know, she’s never even seen Mad TV, but she has seen this video … and enough times to memorize it. 


Until you’ve seen four or five little white girls impersonating Bon Qui Qui, you haven’t really experienced parental horror.  The worst part is that they don’t get it.  They just don’t get WHY it’s wrong or WHAT the greater consequences of it are, no matter how much we explain.   They just think it’s funny.  Hilarious even.  I swear, if I hear “seCURITY” or “I WILL cut you” or aSCUSE me sur” one more time, I’m gonna blow a tire and flip over the wall … hell, I might cut somebody … who knows. 


We will be traveling through Mississippi and Alabama in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to an awakening of understanding.  An enlightening, so to speak … realization that there is human diversity and culture beyond Medea, Bon Qui Qui, and George Lopez.

Any advice or experiences you’d like to share are welcome : )

[Editor's note: You Tube, frighteningly, reveals several young, non-black children doing Bon Qui Qui imitations. The original is below.)

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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