Ownership is everything…
I was disappointed to read this past week that ABC decided to can an episode of its hit television show “Black-ish” due to “creative concerns.”
For those unfamiliar with the show, “Black-ish,” created by Clark Atlanta University alum Kenya Barris, is a comedy that routinely uses the genre to touch upon politically and socially caustic issues like race, gender, sexual politics, and religious discrimination. According to reports, the February 27th episode featured Dre, the father and wealthy ad executive played by Anthony Anderson, having a stream of consciousness where he creates a bedtime story for his infant son. During the segment, Dre discusses his anxieties as a black man, replete with analysis of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner in protest of police brutality against black men, women and children across America.
In essence, through comedy, the fictional Dre was doing what real life black parents have been doing from time immemorial–telling the truth about racism to prepare their children for what to expect as they grow up as minorities in America.
As news broke about the network’s move, Brother Barris issued a statement that said: “Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it.”
Reading between the lines, I sense that what Barris means is that despite his show’s critical and commercial success (read-profits), that when “Mr. Charlie” decides that the black perspective on a given subject cuts against the corporate mission (read-more profits), that said black perspective will be muted post-haste.
Indeed, lest we forget that once President Donald Trump started calling NFL players who followed Kaepernick’s lead “sons of bitches” last year for kneeling during the national anthem, an anthem that he quite tragically could not remember the words to when the cameras were squarely focused on him during the college football national championship game this past January, that university presidents and professional sports team owners for the most part agreed with Trump’s position on kneeling, even if they disagreed with his profane criticisms. To that end, it is quite likely that ABC did not want to find itself in the cross-hairs of a Trump Tweet or a boycott by his followers who could not care less about why Kaepernick and others decided to kneel in the first place. (nota bene–for those who do not know, the NFL did not always come out for the anthem, that was a PR device paid for over the past decade to inspire enlistment into the services to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan)
By now, some who are reading this blog may be thinking “well, what about Barris’s free speech or the First Amendment to the U.S, Constitution?” The truth is that this oft misunderstood Amendment forbids government usurpation of speech, ergo, private employers like ABC or NFL franchises can limit speech or expressive conduct, like kneeling, as they see fit.
Truth be told, I feel Brother Barris’s pain on a very personal level. Those who follow me on Facebook will know that I have been suspended six times in five years for posting pictures or status updates dealing with black history or politics that pissed off some anonymous person who did not value my perspective. The last suspension, for 14 days last March, led to the creation of this blog, one in which I own the content and serve as a one man committee that decides what is to be featured.
But similar Barris, what I did not know last March was that my favorite editor at The Hill, Joel Kabot, would soon leave for a new position. In the four years before his exit, Kabot gave me the green light to write about any political and social issue under the sun, with the results being massive “clicks” and eyes on the website for their news organization, and the benefit for me being nice paychecks and a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2017.
But when a new assistant editor took over last year, that license was withdrawn; I immediately noticed that two extremely well written and timely articles that I wrote last fall criticizing the Trump administration were straight up dissed. Peep the exchanges between the former editor and the new:
Kabot (fmr. Editor):”…wanted to forward this piece from, and introduce, Chuck Hobbs, who was one of my valued contributors (he wrote a number of pieces that did very well, traffic-wise, especially in summer 2016).
Frank Craig, newer Editor: “Mr. Hobbs: Thank you for your submission. Regretfully, for the moment, I will pass on this piece; if that changes, I will let you know.”
It never changed…Both proposed submissions were dissed by Mr. Craig. Thank goodness that I could simply post to Hobbservation Point and allow my hundreds of thousands of readers to peep my content directly, a fact that brings my conclusion back to the initial thesis, that “ownership is everything.” You see, the reason that I find it so critical to support black directed films like “Black Panther” (Ryan Coogler) or “A Wrinkle in Time” (Ava Duvernay) is because while the Disney franchise is not black owned, each success by these and other black directors hastens the day that black owned corporate concerns, like Tyler Perry’s or Oprah Winfrey’s, will be able to break into the crucial distribution chain that, historically tinged with liberal Hollywood racism, has refused to believe that black written, directed or financed films can thrive. Ditto for television shows like “Black-ish” and yes, black political blogs like my own, as each is a vehicle for expression that calls systemic racism out when it rears its ugly head without fear or concern that timid and/or racist studio executives or editors can decide to stymie expression simply because it cuts against their own myopic worldview.
To that end, while I respect that Brother Barris has to conform to his contractual dictates, I look forward to the day when he can theoretically tell the powers that be to kiss his black ass and distribute his work directly, just like I do on a weekly basis here at Hobbservation Point.