I’m a Black man of three countries. Born in Trinidad, moved Canada and ended in America. Though I have little memory of Trinidad, my recollection of Canada and America are vastly different. I was only know as a Trini in Toronto and as I gained friends, I referred to them as their family birthplace (Italian, Polish, Indian, etc.) We all where apartment kids and lived in what was the bad section of the city. I grew up loving Rock and Heavy Metal, I watched all shows even the Cosby show and Fat Albert, Eddy Murphy and Whoopi Goldberg. There was no past or deeper meaning to me because their was no White and Black.
The move to America was devastating to me. I finally had a Elementary School I liked, all the girls liked me and the new American girl wanted to date me. Yeah she was white but what’s color? A 12 hour drive later and I was in a school of Black kids that made fun of my “White” accent, shamed me for drawing “White” characters and picked a fight with me because I wasn’t Black enough. The move to a Baptist School didn’t help because I was pulled aside for dating a White girl and not having consent from the church. He (mis)used the book of Ruth to prove that interracial dating was wrong. My mother’s ex boyfriend, also a Black pastor, flipped the switch on me by saying I should be friends with my own “kind.” All the while my mother continued to preach “Be proud of being Black.”
That was hard to hear over and over again, but something clicked. At that time I could only be proud of the shows and music around me. Rap and R&B became the voice of Black culture. Arrested Development and Digable Planets became my teaches, “A Different World” and “Static Shock” became the life I aspired to live in. These where the voices and images I thought was going to change America. The voices that could reach across the divide and bring us together. And they did for a time bring White and Black people closer under music and movies.
So when it changed from “educating all nations” to “let’s sing and dance to make them laugh”, I gave up. Media today is filled with Black musicians acting like rich tugs or hookers, Black movies/shows unwittingly enforcing negative stereotypes, and Black leaders willing to defend the double standards on the N-word and Ho. I lost all hope when I worked as a prison guard and experienced all the abuse from Black inmates that had received when I first moved here 23 years ago.
We could talk about changing the system and having Black leaders all we want, but all of us are influenced and shaped by the media we see. If we don’t change the tone of Black media culture now, then you will never change the dreams of Black children in the future.