For Discussion: Should White Folks Be Writing Black TV, Films, And Books???

- By Bossip Staff

With the success of TV shows like ‘Girlfriends’ and ‘The Game’ the black community has had a quiet conversation about whether or not should be writing black-based entertainment.

In 2009, Kathryn Stockett, a white author, told the story of black maids in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Her compelling depictions comprise the makings of the New York Times’ bestseller The Help. The Help was hugely successful — with 2.2 million copies sold, according to Nielsen BookScan. Adding to this success, a $30 million dollar film based on the book is currently in production, financed by Steven Spielberg and featuring an all-star cast including Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek and Emma Stone.

But this story’s success has sparked some questions — and recently, a lawsuit. Last week, Ableen Cooper filed suit against famed author Kathryn Stockett claiming that the fictional character “Aibleen Clark” is based on her. Cooper, a 60-year-old black woman who has worked for decades as a maid in Jackson, Mississippi, may be shaking up the fate of The Help.

The lawsuit states that Stockett’s inability to admit that Aibleen’s character is actually based on the story of Ableen Cooper, “is so outrageous in character, and so extreme as to go beyond all bounds of human decency, and is utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” Cooper still works as a maid for a relative of Stockett, and says she was approached years ago about being depicted as a character in Stockett’s novel. She replied, she says, with an adamant “no.”

The most emotionally charged part of Cooper’s lawsuit criticizes Stockett’s depiction of black maids of the 1960s south. Among many potentially controversial moments, there is a passage in the book where fictional character “Aibleen” proclaims, “He black, blacker than me,” when describing the appearance of a cockroach.

Cooper is seeking damages of $75,000, but this case conjures up a thought-provoking question that may be prove to be priceless. Should white writers tell black stories?

When asked if is it acceptable for a white writer to depict a fictional story about black people, Howard University English professor Andre Esters replied, “Absolutely; white writers can tell black stories and black writers can tell white stories.”
“When writing these stories, the most crucial element to be conscious of is the time period of said audience which is being depicted, because sensitivity is required with certain audiences or harsh criticism of the author’s work is inevitable,” Esters said.

“The interesting part about a black author writing from a white perspective is blacks historically have known more of whites and the intimacies and behaviors of their lives due to the roles blacks played in their lives. Thus, blacks might be able to tell a more true and compelling story if they were given the task of telling a story of whites.”

Kelsey Grammer and Tracee Ellis-Ross from ‘Girlfriends’

How do you feel about this subject? Is it wrong to white people to produce “black entertainment” or should we just be happy that there is quality programming regardless of who writes it???

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Comments

  • http://bossip.com iuirere

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    This club is for those of us that don’t discriminate! This is to all my people who don’t care about somebody’s ethnic background, just how they are on the inside.

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  • no1

    Why the heck not??? ignorance is fucxing flooding. Why see everything from a black and white perspective all the time. a$$holes.

  • Troi Dustin

    #1 this is a dumb question because even if we all say, “No, white ppl should write stories about black people” it won’t matter b/c this is a free country and people can write about whatever they want. That being said, of course, we should all write what we feel. I write poetry about experiences I’ve never had. How boring would it be if people only ever wrote about the things they have personally known and experienced. Each person is more than what you see…we have an ability to tap into a universal body of emotions and knowledge and the very best writers can do this amazingly well.

    • Johnny'sgirl

      Agreed! 100%!!!

  • Getem

    Right!

  • Lovely One

    FYI, Mara Brock Akil (a black woman) created Girlfriends and The Game. Kelsey Grammer was/is the producer for both shows.

    I like Kelsey b/c he supports black shows. I like Mara b/c she creates good shows.

    #thatisall

  • ms.brilly

    I don’t have a problem with white people “producing black entertainment” as long as it rings true. I’m sure that Stockett had to do research for her book, I’m sure she interviewed some people. If it’s based on facts and tastefully done then I don’t really have a problem. If black people are not going to take the time to do research, to put together our own stories and produce black entertainment I can’t really get mad at somebody else trying to do it (as long as it’s done right).

    • thesaneone

      well said.

  • if anything be noble

    Um, having Black shows is more than can be said for other people of color. Whitefolks weren’t trying to write shows about anybody. The one 70s “Latin” show that was even on with a primary Latino was called “Chico and the Man.” … “Little” and “The Man.” Guess who was Little. And guess who was The Man. And Asian shows? For better or for worse, we were at least on tv.

    • Boondock Saint

      Yeah, but “the man” belittled and insulted Chico every chance he got. Almost certain that’s partially why Freddie Prinze got depressed enough to kill himself.

    • Boondock Saint

      That said, I Love Lucy is a better example. At least Ricky Richardo had it together, and the white woman was the butt of the jokes.

  • chaka1

    You never knew any black people who spoke like George Jefferson and Fred Sanford? I don’t believe it.

  • Boondock Saint

    Never ever ever. Wasn’t too many brothers saying “Jive turkey” in my neck of the hoods. Ok I admit “You big dummy” was popular but that’s ’bout it. LMAO.

  • Uguess

    You see how much money that man made writing shows then placing black people in the roles. Kelsey don’t care what you think! His a$$ is laughing all the waaaaay to the BANK cha ching. Truthfully I could careless I would work for him.

  • tooyo

    There should be a team of writers, the Game is good because clearly they have a lot of diff. perspectives going into it so all of the character’s have diff. points of view.

  • Annoyed

    Is this a serious questions??? Black people make up less than 15% of the population and shrinking. When you factor in the numbers of us who have the money, connections and desire to part with their wealth to impact African American culture then the chances of Black projects seeing the light is all but diminished.

  • if anything be noble

    That’s what “The Man” do.

  • daisy jay

    D@mn, you stole what I was gonna say! Haha everything you said is definitely true. But I feel that back then, television sitcoms weren’t all about exploiting blacks and making them look bad. So the way things are now, maybe there are writers that will create good black shows, but in this day and age, it’s all about stereotypes and making blacks look bad. Therefore, I’m kinda on the fence about this topic. Everything has dry, tasteless humor these days….

  • Boondock Saint

    LMAO @ “when disparaged turn to god and a bucket of chicken.”

    Like I said, we can be our own worst enemies sometimes.

  • Glok...Harlems's Own Mr. Money aint a ting ..Guy Fisher! ..Mr Shotime!!

    WHY IN THE FUK NOT, SHIIT THEY KNOW YOU BETTER THAN YOU KNOW YOURSELVES…AND BEEN MILKING US OFF THE BLK EXPERIENCE SINCE THEM SHIPS DOCKED!

  • Boomboomroom I's poisen da White peoplez!!

    I actually read Karen Stockett’s book. I didn’t particularly care for it. Seeing as how her depictions of Black women/womanhood were that of an inexperienced White woman. Anyways, most of yall are already up some White man/woman’s azz anyway. Why not let them tell your stories?

  • if anything be noble

    Come on, cuz. I Love Lucy ran in the 1950s… like 60 years ago ….in black and white. Who counts that as modern tv? Lol

    • Boondock Saint

      Who said anything about “modern?” You said -in spite of stereotypical representations – that at least black people were on TV and that other races were not even represented, citing Chico And The Man (how “modern”) as the only example. C’mon, son…

  • bahamas/chicago/cayman girl

    Why is this even an issue! As black people we have survived/accomplished and contributed so much to the world as a people, why do we give such petty nonsense merit?
    This woman wrote a book that has black characters and people loved it. So because it was successful, she doesn’t have a right to it? Is it her fault that a black author never conceptualized such a story?
    There have been black executive producers Queen Latifah/Tylor Perry & Will Smith, their shows have been successful, so why wouldn’t Kelsey Grammars show be successful, because he is a white man, telling a black story! Get off the petty shyte my people and move foreward.

  • if anything be noble

    The 70s are the dividing line racially speaking. Pre-Civil Rights era ANYthing is a world unto itself. Stuff was “supposed” to change post-Civil Rights, so if we’re looking at who was writing tv in the 1950s vs how much color there “should” have been on tv AFTER the US gave us free, of course there should be a distinct difference. So, in the 70s, 80s, 90s (post-Civil Rights,) based on the @ssumption that “we now are the world and the chilluns,” you “should” be able to gradually mark racial advancements in the US by what’s on tv and see how far we’ve come and all the progress we’ve made as a country by a tv timeline (being the world and the chilluns and all.)

  • Honey Chile, Lemme tell you...

    Kelsey is great at what he does; anyone who says differently is sipping on Haterade. Girlfirends was the shit! Roll on my Caucasian brotha, roll on…all the way to the damn bank!

  • Are you Serious?

    Why not?

  • http://bossip GAT TURNER buuudddat!!!!

    Ask yourselves……..

    How Many years have they been making money off Blacks PERIOD?!?!?!

    Shucken n Jiven!

  • mo

    We need to tell our own stories!!! White people tend to change things up to make themselves look superior and we always come out looking stupid. Tell your own stories!!!!!

  • ZeZee

    You can say all of that again!!! 🙂

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