Written by Love Isn’t Enough contributor Aiesha Turman
I don’t own a television. In fact, on one of my mother’s recent visits, she jokingly called my lack of a TV barbaric. At least I think she was joking. When I tell people that I don’t own a television, they usually give me a glassy-eyed stare or an exaggerated gasp. I’ve even had people say that I’m “on that crazy white people hippy stuff.” Um, no. It’s not as though I am telling them I don’t own a shower or I own a brothel–not that being a brothel owner is wrong or anything–I just don’t own a television. It’s not the end of the world, really.
I gave up owning a television when my now 8 year-old daughter was around 5. Yes, I owned a television. I’ve been to the darkside, but it was time for me to give it up. You see, past the age of 5 or 6, there really isn’t much culturally relevant media, let alone television. Unlike my childhood, where I had everything from Reading Rainbow, Soul Train and Wonder Woman (in my child-mind, Lynda Carter was light-skinned) to being able to see an all-Black cast in that cinematic epic, The Wiz, my daughter has scant choices. She’s outgrown Little Bill and lost interest in Dora quite some time ago. She’s not quite old enough for Raven or True Jackson on DVD and frankly, I got tired of all the materialism pushed on child television. Really, how many types of cereal are there?
Here’s the thing, I think it’s vitally important for my daughter to view, engage and interact with media that represents her. I am not interested in a show where there is a token brown person used as filler. I see myself as lucky. As I continued to grow and develop, there was always great media that reflected me from my childhood, to my adolescence and beyond. I had everything from The Cosby Show, A Different World, BET’s Teen Summit, Family Matters, 227, and Martin to films like the House Party series and everything Spike Lee made in the 80′s to mid-90′s. I was able to see my life and the lives of my friends reflected–the good, bad and the fly.
That’s not the case these days and instead of inundating my daughter with media that doesn’t reflect her or her life, we got rid of the television. It may seem a drastic measure, but it’s not. This also doesn’t mean that we keep her away from all media, because we don’t. There are Netflix and Hulu and she and her dad are big movie-goers–mostly animation and sci-fi.
The benefits of our having no television, to me, are priceless: I get to be extremely selective with the media we view; we actually spend more quality time with one another and the money I save from paying a cable bill has been re-allocated to her dance and art classes with a little extra each month allocated to her college fund. And let’s face it, television is addictive. There have been many times that I’ve sat down to watch an hour program and by the time I take a bathroom break, thre hours have gone by. However, I must admit that I do miss the epic specials on A&E and the History Channel, but I’m good. I can still stream PBS online when I need my docu-fix.
One day, maybe when she’s 10 and ready have and understand deeper conversations about media representation, I’ll re-subscribe to a cable service. Until then, we are perfectly fine with our DVDs, occasional YouTube viewing and the extra time to just be with one another that not having a television affords us.