The New Face of Minstrel Shows, Part 2: Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé & Olivia Pope
This is the second part of Adrian’s “The New Face of Minstrel Shows” series. Click here to read Part 1.
According to the US department of education the educational attainment of black Americans has increased slowly closing the gap between attainments in blacks and whites, specifically, the degree attainment by black women has increased significantly in the past decade.
In regards to degrees ranging from associates to doctorates black women currently hold approximately a 2.5 to 1 ratio over black men attaining the same degrees.
It is with this advancement in socioeconomic status and the potential to climb higher for black women that an examination of black pop icons in the media is in order.
Most recently Nicki Minaj has become one of the most salient females in rap music.
She is a fair skinned black woman who makes every attempt possible to sexualize not only her lyrics but her physical appearance as well.
Even Beyoncé who performed at the superbowl, a highly rated program among white males, performed half naked in little more than the equivalent of panties reducing her to little more than a gyrating jezebel.
Halle Berry, one of the most affluent black actresses in Hollywood, only won the coveted Academy award for best actress when she was involved in a raunchy sex scene with a racist in the movie Monster’s Ball.
Perhaps the most notable current on screen figure, and arguably the one doing the most damage, is a character on a major TV network named Olivia Pope.
This character embodies the three major stereotypes plaguing black women very cleverly hidden under the guise of an educated back woman.
Her character plays the magical healing negro giving her all to solve the problems of the rich often white male politicians, a classic mammy.
Olivia has shown such a devotion to this white male that even though she has often claimed to be a person on the side of justice she conspires to rig the election that gets him elected president.
Should you dare step into her path of solving the white man’s problems she very quickly becomes the loud talking sassy sapphire.
This is manifested in an episode when she very sharply scolds her then companion, a successful black congressman, for his attempt to stop her from participating in illegal activity with the white president she is still having an affair with.
Perhaps the most central aspect of the plot on this prime time network drama is that she is involved in a love triangle in which she is the mistress of a white republican president, there we find the jezebel.
In one of the most troubling scenes, that makes the most pronounced implication of the problems being described, the president takes Pope’s character into a closet in the white house, has sex with her, and after the encounter when she attempts to speak to him, he turns and scathingly says, “just because I can’t control my erections around you does not mean we are still an item, this is over.”
This scene single handedly manifests the majority of the ingredients asserted by the jezebel stereotype.
In the documentary Ethnic Notions, Barbara Christian states that one of the most useful ways to keep a people oppressed is to damage their collective psyche.
Being subjected to the manipulated media perception of American society proves problematic for all Americans especially black Americans because of who controls these projected images.
America is not only controlled by white culture, but the white male culture, thereby creating a double edged attack on black women through not only gender, but racial stereotypes as well.
The single largest problem with this being the limited number of alternative representations. These cleverly disguised minstrel shows are using stereotypes as something to be desired and adored in efforts to steer people from a path of empowerment and defining their own image into a destructive dead end that has limited them for centuries.Go Back to Part 1