Amerikkkan Idol: The Torment of the Demographically Incorrect

by Lamont Slater

The highlight of my day occurs when I walk through the door after work and see the bright, smiling faces of my wife and two children. After spending precious quality time with them, occasionally I like to unwind by watching some humorous entertainment, after being subjected to eight hours of servitude to a woefully prejudiced employer. On Tuesday nights, my disconnect comes in the form of the hit show, “American Idol.” Though I am a huge fan of the show, I believe that events surrounding the last episode will lead to the racial polarization of the viewers that have made the show a ratings juggernaut.

This year’s edition of American Idol has everything that I desire in a hit show: humorous commentary from Simon Cowell, up and coming new talent, and occasional bad singing. Additionally, unlike shows such as The Practice, Law and Order and Alias to name a few, this show has more than the “customary” one or two African American characters on the show. Part of the “sell” to Black America is the fact that several of the remaining participants of American Idol, are everyday people that the majority of the minority demographic can relate to. For example, participants such as George Huff, Fantasia Barrino, and recently booted, Jennifer Hudson have roots that stem from the predominantly Black Christian Church Community. Additionally, Ms. Barrino has introduced the nationwide audience to her child on a recent show, and had not hid the fact that she is an unwed single parent, which is not only an epidemic in the Black community, but an issue that other minority groups are facing as well. As African Americans, we not only cheer for them because of their singing prowess, but we are also rooting for them to achieve some financial benefit as well, and to overcome the adversity that has been depicted in their video biographies.

For African Americans, seeing individuals like oneself on a major network provides an alternative to traditional mainstream programming such as the widely popular “Friends” which has no main character that are African American. Another oddity of friends is that although the show takes place takes place in NYC, I find it quite bizarre that there are not even any Black people in the background shots. The “whitewashing” of network programming has always been a part of television, but has exploded to levels beyond imagination within the last 10 years. Gone are the “glory days” of Black programming, when African Americans could turn on the television and see themselves as doctors and lawyers, as depicted by the Huxtables on the Cosby Show, or as fun loving college students like the characters of A Different World. I would be remiss not to include “Roc”, which was a sitcom that depicted the average blue collar African American family. These shows portrayed positive images of African American families, and bucked traditional media depictions that show blacks in their usual shucking and jiving mode.

On the flip side, the racially biased segment of White America, has almost successfully changed American Idol from a singing competition to a mere popularity contest. Out of the 6 contestants that remain, only two of them are White. This has created a situation in which our racially charged majority, has committed to keeping the often off-tune crooner, Jon Stevens and disposing of the talented songbird Jennifer Hudson (not to mention Fantasia Barrino, which happens to be the best singer in the group which happens to be Black, was nearly voted off as well). This televised viewer rebellion has taken place for the following reasons: A) Randy Jackson, who is a Black judge, has constantly given Jon heavy criticism regarding his singing ability. I believe that Jon, through his humble humility has gained favor with the sympathetic majority, and has only fueled the fire to keep the kid on the show. B) The producers of the show have introduced the viewing public to a glimpse of the private lives of the contestants of American Idol. Within the compilation of the majority of the Black participants, the similarity between that blacks in the group is the fact that for the most part, they are rooted within the Black Church community. Unfortunately, blacks and Whites generally do not worship in the same place, which perpetuate racial polarization. The same phenomenon continues through the voting process. C) Fantasia Barrino represents a facet of the Black American household that is often irrefutable: hard working, single parenthood. To most of the callers, many of them coming from the southern Bible belt, and mid-western conservative parts of the country, she represents everything that is wrong with America.

Though unfortunate, minorities have historically received the shorter end of the stick, at the hands of the dominant culture. One shining example of how the majority of a nation can create widespread confusion is the depiction of Jesus Christ. The traditional depiction portrays Jesus with strong European features, which not only goes against the Bibles description of Christ, but also goes against rational thinking if one factors in where Jesus was born. The bottom line is that what we see today is how the establishment wanted Jesus portrayed, regardless of the truth. Similarly, there is a segment of the viewing public that despises what the African American singers represent, and will continue to support a contestant that they know is not the best.

America has come a long way in regards to race relations. However, hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are now operating more covert, and inconspicuous: shedding the ceremonial white robes of yesteryear in exchange for the more conservative suit and tie look. Unfortunately, individuals with similar ideologies not only control what we watch, but is probably participating in the American Idol voting process as well. To counter this systematic and generational assault, I recommend two options: A) convince media moguls such as Russell Simmons, Robert Johnson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Earl Graves, to come together creatively and financially in an effort to create a major network that would provide culturally responsible, yet entertaining programming, or B) simply turn off the television. In my case, I intend to pick up a good book to read while the producers of American Idol repair the glitches that are contributing to the racial polarization of today’s television audience.

Amerikkkan Idol: The Torment of the Demographically Incorrect by Lamont Slater

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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