Whose Black Is It Anyway???

“Philosophy is worthless if it is not practical.” – Frank Chimero


“FICTIVE KIN – Unrelated individuals who are addressed using kin terms”


I never really felt as disconnected from the overall fictive kinship that race promotes as I do in this era. This miasma of a zeitgeist of confusing political expressions vying for digital attention while neglecting to fill the voids left by expired luminaries in palpable space. I thought when I began to get older, I would want to be younger, like most sane well socialized United States citizens. But no. I just want to get older and enjoy the privacy of personal and sacred space before it is over. I no longer know who these US Blacks are, and I no longer know if I care to know.


I suppose it all occurred around that fateful day that we thought the negro was free. The morning of great tears of happiness and a pride born of distant identifications celebrating victories of individuals that would never know them. The sort of pride that comes when the baseball team branded with the same name of the city you are obligated by objective fact to call your nativity wins the World Series. It is an expected pride. An expected pride reflected in calls from your older cousin implying that you should get out and celebrate because, “Your city just won the World Series.” The day that Barry Obama walked across that stage with his wife at shotgun and his daughters in tow was like a National Nigga World Series win. A global Nigga World Series win, even.


And yet, after Albert Pujols decided to leave the city that had enshrined his likeness in metal, I considered the value of that statement, “Your city just won the World Series”. I mean, had St. Louis won it? Did every nigga from McCree to 82nd actually take part in that win? How does one measure the obligation to a city that does not pay them anything when leaders of sport’s teams that represent that city with a high volume of fan loyalty and financial compensation do not even find it fitting to be obligated? I drove around one night and everybody became a baseball fan. I woke up one morning and everybody became a goddamn nigga. And I began to ask myself, not only whose win was it, but also, whose Black is it any way?


Sociology professor Nancy Foner writes in 1999,”Kinship ties are an effective way to cope with uncertainty and economic scarcity.” “Strength” as it applies to interpersonal bonds can be defined as the degree and magnitude of emotional intensity, intimacy, and time shared that qualify a particular bond. Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu outline their definition of fictive kinship in “Black Students’ School Success: Coping With The ‘Burden Of “Acting White”‘ in this manner:

“What is fictive kinship?


*A kinshiplike relationship between persons not related by blood or marriage in a society, but who have some reciprocal social or economic relationship.


*A cultural symbol of collective identity (playkin, brotherhood and sisterhood, soul brother and soul sister, blood).


*A sense of peoplehood in opposition to white American social identity.


* The medium through which minorities distinguish the ‘real’ from ‘spurious members’.


*One learns the criteria for fictive kinship from parents and peers.


But being black does not result in automatic membership. One can be denied membership to the fictive kinship because one’s behavior, activities, and lack of manifest loyalty are at variance with those thought to be appropriate and group-specific.


One function of the fictive kinship is to invert the negative stereotypes and assumptions of whites into positive and functional attributes(dialect–ebonics, group loyalty in opposition to whites–O.J. Simpson?)”


Fictive kinship like territorial bonds pull at your emotional heart strings and forge these obligations that surpass critical thinking like traditional beliefs in a mythical creature. What makes OWL “Black”? And what does inclusion in said group entail? It would seem to me that social contracts based on shared genetic heritage or just historical territorial heritage are the easiest to render negligible. There is no national documentation of agreed upon terms that codifies one US Black person’s duty to another. There was never a Continental Congress for the Colored, which is probably why that term, “colored” encompasses so many other groups that share nothing but a supposed lack of genetic heritage with a group of people born on a particular grouping of land masses.


What truly bonds me with the nigga other than fear and misery? How feeble would a bond based on such qualities be? Thin enough to celebrate the victory of a man promising changes based on his skin pigment being slightly similar and yet his background and cultural heritage being nothing in common. Sort of like the residents of a city celebrating a victory they had nothing to do with other than live in the town that closed down the Black inner city schools to build the stadium the team that is branded with that town’s name plays in. Yet none of the players is tempered with any obligation to that city. In scope, the man promising the changes is not tempered with any obligations to his skin pigment.


I have watched Melissa Harris-Perry grow from a highly celebrated academic with a sort of cult following among young Black college aged girls, to a prominent media figure. A rise to immortality that comes on the back of a notion that she is a spokesperson for and expert in US Black Womanhood. And yet, her mother is a White Mormon. In the same way that Barry’s mother is a White Woman from Kansas and his father a Kenyan disowned by his family. A Blackness of one-drop rules, and in some instances, not even really a US Black drop, just any drop of blood that is not Whyte can include you into this little tacit thing of ours. What makes Barry or Melissa any less White than they are Black? When and where is the National Convention of Niggaz held this year so I might read the by-laws and run my finger through its rules of operation?


Black Entertainment Television(BET) the Washington, DC based entertainment company built by Robert Johnson was sold to Viacom for $2.3 billion in 2000, with finalized purchase by 2001. The year 2000. The year that was 14 years ago from the date of this writing you are reading. The company has been owned by a White company for six years shy of two decades but is still stamped with the appellation, “Black”. Whose Black is it?


ESSENCE magazine, a periodical and publication billed as catering to US Black Women readers sold 49% of its holdings to Time Inc in 2000. Yes, in the year 2000, which is 14 years ago from the date of this writing you are reading. The company has almost half(probably a majority stake holder) of its owner in the hands of a White business for fourteen years. In 2005, Essence communications, the company that owned Essence magazine sold the remaining 51% shares to Time Inc. In 2005, 9 years from the writing of this article you are now reading, Essence magazine, the magazine billed as for US Black Women, has been owned, en total, by White people. The company owned by White people for one year shy of an entire decade is still stamped with the appellation, “Black”. But whose Black is it?


JET magazine was pulled off of shelves with the final print issue published five days prior to the time of this writing. JET magazine and its greater sister publication, EBONY are published by Johnson Publishing, a Chicago staple. In 2011, JP Morgan purchased an undisclosed amount of shares of Johnson Publishing as a means to help the floundering company. Due to the agreement– and obviously, new authority at the shareholder table– the company was to use the funds to focus more on their interweb presence. This focus on the interweb digital presence seems to be the reason for the murder of JET magazine, a US Black cultural artifact, from print stands. How much of Johnson Publishing– the company that uses the appellations EBONY(Black) and JET(Black) as stamps on its major publications—is owned by Whites as opposed to Blacks, and whose Black is it anyway?


“Abstractions always distort and omit, because they have to. The trick is to be mindful it is happening.” – Frank Chimero


When did being “Black” become such an all-inclusive club? When did it become this exotic resort for the assimilated to bring their friends through like Jay-Z ushering Oprah through the projects he grew up in as if he had purchased them and turned them into some new commune of social evolution? How does a pride, a shame, a set of unwritten– and even worse, not agreed upon– set of standards based on a perception of inclusion represented by skin hue and tone help us? What powers of choice and resource are to be had when most of those worshiped and given authority in the group are assembled, associated, and assimilated in the very schools and corporate offices of the people that caused the misery that defines the bond based on “Black” blood to begin with? I fear that a capitalist system with its bourgeois radical notions and its consumeristic entrenchments of false status can never produce or nurture that type of social psychology that breeds loyalty to a heritage born in chains, torn mothers, and castrated maleness.


What further aches my soul(whatever that is) tends to be this need for a Barry Obama to walk as if he grew up in neighborhood or went to a school where “catting” even existed. A product of an extremely predominant White or very much other than US Blacks upbringing, I sincerely doubt he had much experience of the hourly reasoning behind the need to express a “cool pose” or whatever other superficial cultural artifacts so haphazardly gleaned through media representations of urban US Blacks on can imitate. I see this same appropriation, misappropriation, posturing (or whatever glossy hip term the alienated kids are borrowing from their sociology reading this year) when I watch Melissa Harris-Perry don braids on television. A hair style that images as recent as two months ago on Instagram show is not the hair style she wears when not on television. She initially styled her hair permed. But I suppose in this new media age we all must embrace the most nigga-like expressions. It all feels like overcompensation for lack of identity. I call it—hyperniggatude.


This childish echo of cries accusing “misappropriation” as if every artistic movement of US Blacks has not been met with this inclusion of all under the banner of “American” history. There is no US Black financed, funded, and solely operated museums of art that are globally recognized. Just like there are no US Black media operations that are solely Black owned, financed, and funded. Our loyalty to a skinship that is more volatile than that of most kinship ties has caused Shonda Rhimes to forget her loyal US Black Woman online powerbase in lieu of her “privileged” fellow alums at Darthmouth College.

I want to quote portions of her commencement speech for trajectory purposes, but I am also linking the transcript of that speech here as well as the video.


Rhimes starts with a shaky ode to fear and trepidation, and her need to express her own fear of public speaking and why she does writing behind the screens. Which is ironic given the most sticky portions of her commencement address. She continues her speech:

Look, it would be fine if this were, 20 years ago. If it were back in the day when I graduated from Dartmouth. Twenty-three years ago, I was sitting right where you are now. And I was listening to Elizabeth Dole speak. And she was great. She was calm and she was confident. It was just … different. It felt like she was just talking to a group of people. Like a fireside chat with friends. Just Liddy Dole and like 9,000 of her closest friends. Because it was 20 years ago. And she was just talking to a group of people.


Now? Twenty years later? This is no fireside chat. It’s not just you and me. This speech is filmed and streamed and tweeted and uploaded. NPR has like, a whole site dedicated to Commencement speeches. A whole site just about commencement speeches. There are sites that rate them and mock them and dissect them. It’s weird. And stressful. And kind of vicious if you’re an introvert perfectionist writer who hates speaking in public in the first place.


This is interesting here because later she will respond that her commencement speech is indeed a “fireside chat”. And also include that as her defense, because her fireside chat was only for those outdoors getting intoxicated from the fumes wafting through the “rare air” of Ivy League graduation. I personally think the “fireside chat” bit borrowed a few too many times in this era should have been replaced by what Rhimes titles the speech during the speech herself: “Some Random Stuff Some Random Alum Who Runs a TV Show Thinks I Should Know Before I Graduate”. Very apropos and extremely apt at pointing out the very flaky nature of the speech presenter.


She then in her “privileged Black chick from some eastern area” condescending tone begins to lament cynical criticisms of what she believes the standard commencement speech includes. She states that she believes being told to follow ones’ dreams is, as she words it, “I think that’s crap.”


(She’s such an eloquent troll.)


Her substitute for dreams? Fleeting actions with no direction. In her words,

“maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new”.

To be completely honest here for no other reason than I still have those really costly things called “principles”, I do agree with Rhimes. Of course, I also agree that one should follow their dreams and spend some time finding a passion and sketching out their visions. But alas, I’m just a lowly servile who has yet to taste the obviously meth infused “rare air” above Ivy league graduation ceremonies.


So, after Rhimes rehashes how she cried on the floor of her dorm room whilst her mom packed her bags after her graduation, she makes these comments:


Find a cause you love. It’s OK to pick just one. You are going to need to spend a lot of time out in the real world trying to figure out how to stop feeling like a lost loser, so one cause is good. Devote some time every week to it.


Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething


Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.

Once again, I agree with Rhimes. Not totally. And not to the extent that I would have not qualified every one of those sentences with a “but I love my fans that have made my lackluster show a ratings monolith due to their hashtags, and since many of them are also hashtag activists, I salute their efforts wholeheartedly.” But, I am not writing this while catching contact highs from that rare strain of air they breathe at Ivy League graduation ceremonies.


Unfortunately, for Rhimes, neither were her fans. As Rhimes once again left her Ivy League alma mater–alma mater a latin phrase denoting a fictive kinship encompassing a mother to child relationship– her fan base was taking to Twitter seeking an explanation to her comments about hashtags. And because Rhimes is so not a hypocrite, she responded to her fans, via Twitter. I am posting the Twitter response in full twice, one as a quote the other as an embed. I want to make sure this lasts for a few years.

“I see there is some drama about what I said about hashtag activism. Which makes me think some of you who are upset did not actually read or hear my speech (I invite you to watch it — the link is here). I was very clear. That speech I gave? Was for the 1100 or so students graduating from Dartmouth on Sunday. If you were receiving the privilege of breathing the rare air that comes with getting an Ivy League degree on Sunday, I was talking to you. I was talking to those to whom much has been given and I was reminding them that much is expected (Robert Kennedy) Hashtags are amazing for raising awareness. But I was telling them to go beyond that and do more. To actively try to give back in a hands on way. If you were not receiving a degree from Dartmouth on Sunday? I was not talking about you. I wasn’t even talking to you. I love that so many people saw and responded to the speech. But as I said in my speech, I was having a fireside chat with my Dartmouth peeps, remember?


Have a lovely day! (Am going back to my hiatus and my Orange is the New Black Watching)


#dartmouth14 #hashtag

The privileged and rare air of her fictive kinship and bond with the Darthmouth alum is obviously more important than the one shared with her and US Black Women online and off, that would seek her out for a less snarky and elitist response to a really simple concern. The fact that she felt the need to type these very snide lines points to my overall concern with blind loyalty to race, ethnicity, nationality, and just blind loyalty in general. Shonda Rhimes does not owe me anything, and whatever she does owe me, I better chalk up to the game—as we say. I suggest you do the same. Her “Black”—or whoever’s Black it might be—is not a Black that feels compelled to return a favorable response to a confused group of young US Black women possibly hoping to follow in her footsteps in the same manner those she is tasked to mentor vis-à-vis a commencement speech at that oh so privileged Ivy League university. Her accomplishments once planted a seed of hope and pride in the hearts and minds of those that she shared race and gender with, Rhimes thought less of those memberships.


Maybe we all should follow suit.

5 Things “The Have And Have Nots” Has In Common With “Scandal”

…elitists’ dislike of Popular culture came from their dislike of the common man. They attacked their taste and cultural preferences since they no longer could openly express their disdain for the masses directly. One may feel that “the people is a great beast” but one cannot say so anymore. There was also a lingering resentment on the part of many European and some American intellectuals who felt they were not accorded the prestige and status they merited in our egalitarian, bourgeois society…


Popular culture and elite culture are not that different, except, perhaps, at the furthest extremes of the arts spectrum: professional wrestling at one end and James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake on the other. If Hamlet is broadcast on network television, does this represent popular culture (since millions presumably see it) or elite culture, since it is a classic work of art? Postmodernist critics have taken the position that popular culture does not differ significantly from elite culture and in recent years, the development of what is now called cultural criticism has enabled critics to deal with all genres, forms, levels, and kinds of art.


Popular culture is just what it says it is–culture (the operative term) that has wide appeal and is enjoyed by large numbers of people…
–Arthur Asa Berger, “Myth Of Mass Culture”

Although, I have my qualms with both Tyler Perry and Shonda Rhimes, I have noticed a few things in common with both of their shows. I have also noticed the pattern that some of Shonda’s fans have expressed by demeaning Perry’s show as “low brow”. I do not think any subscriber of “Scandal” really has any room to demean Perry’s show. And with that in mind, I have decided to present:

Five things that Tyler Perry’s “Have And Have Nots” Has In Common With Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal”:

1. Both are doing extraordinary ratings numbers for their respective stations

“The Haves And The Have Nots” as of July 31, 2013 generated 1.87 million total viewers. According to the same source,”The episode also was OWN’s second-most-watched telecast among women 25-54, behind the show’s May premiere.”

Further, “Following a series high for the July 30 episode, the one-hour series cracked the 2 million total viewers mark for its most recent broadcast. Thus far this season, The Haves and the Have Nots is averaging 1.7 million viewers and a 1.5 rating among women 25-54 during its Tuesday 9 p.m. period.” According to Madame Noire,”show pulled in a record high 2.6 million viewers on Tuesday for its fall finale, and because of that, it became the #1 episode in the series history”. Thus,the show debuts at 1.77 million viewers for the first season, and ends the season with 2.6 million viewers of the season finale.

Also,“Citing numbers from The Nielsen Company, the series has grown for eight consecutive weeks in the key female demo, propelling the finale episode to score its highest rating of the season with a 2.21 among women 25-54, delivering a 40% growth among women 25-54 and 44% growth in total viewers versus the season average (1.58 W25-54, 1.8 million total viewers).”

“Scandal” had a 6.7 million viewership for the season two opener, and a 10.5 million viewers tuned in to watch its third season opener. For comparison and standardizing factors, NBC’s Monday Night Football–the highest ranked television product for the week of Sept. 22, 2013 by Nielsen— had 20,493,000 viewers. Also, “The season three premiere of Scandal garnered a series-high 3.6 adults 18-49 rating, up 13 percent from a 3.2 for the season two finale.”

2. Both are prime time dramas

There is somewhat of an argument brewing on the labeling of both shows. While “The Haves” is billed primarily as a “soap opera” it is also billed as a “drama series”. The same with “Scandal”. The degree of political intrigue, and possibly its Washington, DC setting, also have given it reason to be labeled a “political drama” in the same genre as “24”.

Regardless of the labeling, I am more concerned with the dramatic emotional appeal that both shows obviously drive in a prime time slot. Prime time slots are gold to the television market, and that both shows have been able to create dedicated audiences in that time allotment speaks to their attraction. That these shows also are both heavily driven by themes of intrigue, class, and elitism in that particular time slot is reason for the media analyst and media communicator to study the impact and ascertain the formula of success.

3. Both are the story of Elite Whites And Socially Mobile Blacks

As stated in the last paragraph, both shows deal with themes of White elitism. “The Haves” is the story of three families: The Cryers’, The Harringtons’, and The Youngs’.

The Cryers’ are the established White family headed by the politically conscious Savannah criminal courts judge, Jim Cryer and his wife, Katheryn, an heiress and housewife. The Harringtons’ are a socially mobile Black family, headed by Veronica and David. The Youngs’ are the “Have Nots” of the series, with Candance Young having an extramarital affair with the patriarch and judge, Jim Cryer.

In the same vein, “Scandal” is the story of Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm, Pope & Associates. The clientele is upscale and elite in the same manner as “The Have and Have Nots” storyline. Olivia Pope is an Ivy League educated Black Woman her father, Rowan Pope, being the head of the CIA division of B613.

Both shows have appealed to its audience’s apparent desire for “Huxtablism”, which I am just going to refer to the writer that I borrowed it from and define it as the Black African American Bourgeois experience as represented in Black African American media. While there has been an online petition to have Tyler’s stage play turned television series removed from the OWN network, I only see production differences and a need for elite negroes to feel better than other US Blacks. Given any extra budget expenses allotted for production than these two productions would not have much separating them. The themes in the writing of both are based on Black exploration of upper echelons of White patriarchal capitalist space. The themes in the writing of both are based on Black exploration of capitalist control of government power. The themes in the writing of both are based on the ideas of the tragic mulatto, the overwhelmed Black woman of lower class stock enraptured by the White man of means.

Whatever the differences in how these themes are exhibited on the screen, they are basically the same themes.

4. Both have Black Women characters in interracial affairs with White patriarchs

Since I am doing pretty good with the segues as of late, as mentioned in the last paragraph, both shows deal with an interracial coupling of a White man and Black Woman. What is interesting from the perspective of US Black African American media analysis is that both story lines not only involve Black Women with White men, but the type of White men. In “Scandal”, Olivia Pope is having an affair with Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III–also called “Fitz”, the President of the United States of America and former GOP Governor of California. In “The Have and Have Nots”, Candace Young is engaged in an extramarital affair with the judge of Savannah’s Criminal Courts, James “Jim” Cryer.

Both show’s patriarchs are married to wives that are responding to their husband’s indiscretions similarly. Both wives are portrayed as knowing about their husbands’ cheating, as well as them being scripted to smile and “play the game” in public.

5. Both have White Women characters married to powerful White men who have Black mistresses.

(Am I not killing it with the segues?)

“The Have and The Have Nots” shows Katheryn Cryer as the White wife of Jim Cryer who is accepting her position as married to a White patriarch who is cheating on her as part of the game. “Scandal” shows Melody “Mellie” Grant, the First Lady of the United States Of America, as accepting her position as married to a White patriarch who is cheating on her as part of the game. Both women are stylized as being “cold and calculated”. Both are scripted to be accepting their husband’s two-timing due to their own political motivations.

I think it is important as a US Black African American media analyst to recognize not just the characterization of the Black women as mistresses, but also the White Women as manipulative and in some ways cold. Both shows use a very painful historical triangle of power as a fairly dominant theme, namely, the White Wife, The White Master, and The Black Woman as sexual toy. For whatever reason both shows just happen to use this theme, the usage by both shows, as well as the story line in “The Bold & The Beautiful” mentioned in linked article, make this theme one of the most predominant theme in shows involving US Black images.

Why ‘Scandal’ Is Obama’s ‘24’

People take critiques of their favorite media presentations personally.

I suppose that is a good enough short version of the idea that extends itself from the notions of why media trust and critical empathy are necessary. However, it definitely does not make the job of writing about people’s internalized preoccupation with a particular media presentation any easier! What I have noticed is that some people have a tendency to form– and more importantly announce passionately– opinions about fictional characters than actual personalities that appear in the media that might deserve more critical resources. It is at that point that I make strong effort to remind myself what is something that deserves my empathy, and what is something that is pulling on my heart strings.

It does not do well for me to pretend I am showing loyalty to a media production without self-critique.

It does not sit well for me to self-critique and then lie to myself about my continued engagement with the media production through whatever justifications my academic training or reading has provided to me.

The Boondocks is my favorite satirical cartoon of all-time. Even with that being said, I have written at length about certain problems I have with particular episodes(here, and oh, yeah, here). I can enjoy a Black African American media production without turning off my filter(I did not spend all these decades developing that filter just to turn it off when most useful). I can support Black African American media productions without turning off my filter(I did not spend all these decades developing that filter just to turn it off when most useful). Joe Budden is still one of my favorite rap acts. That favoritism does not negotiate any space for compromise when it comes to me critiquing the racial politics of the Slaughter House album, nor my thoughts on his sexual political behavior outside of the studio.

Alright, disclaimer over.

I watched the first episode of season three of Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal”. Now, I have been following this show produced for ABC since season one, and my empathy for certain characters has oscillated much like the stomach of one riding a very fast and twisting roller coaster. This is not to say that the ride I imagine would not be exhilarating, just one that causes mixed feelings. Much of the initial emotional appeal that I brought with my initial viewing stemmed from knowing that Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator and executive producer, was a Black African American Woman. The euphoria from that detail waned about as fast as the euphoria of having a not totally White president in the White House.

For those who do not watch the show, the speed of the show and its plot twist put you in the mind of Fox Networks’ ’24’. In fact, if I were so blessed to have a space to speak without losing much(Oh look, my very own Asylum!!!), I would write that ‘Scandal’ is to the Obama administration what ’24’ was to the Bush administration. As with ’24’, ‘Scandal’ is billed as a political thriller drama, with a plot line, like ’24’, of Olivia Carolyn Pope(Kerry Washington) having to protect Washington, DC elites, including the president, at all cost. The office politics between the core staff surrounding Olivia Pope–her own crisis management firm, Olivia Pope and Associates– is much similar to the staff surrounding Jack Bauer, the US based Counter Terrorist Unit. The differences tend to be nuanced with the exception of sexual politics, and yet, the nuanced differences including the sexual politics is what make the two shows that more similar.

That is to say, where ’24’ is an exposé, a fictional exercise in the justifications for extreme military oversight in domestic and foreign affairs, ‘Scandal’ is a fictional exercise in the justification for extreme military and media manipulation in domestic governmental presentations. Where ’24’ took very lenient measures with the racial identities of the terrorists and US combatants, ‘Scandal’ presents romantic imagery between two men and an interracial coupling. Where ’24’ feels to be designed for the White Male conservative audience during the Bush era after the events of September 11, 2001, ‘Scandal’ feels to be designed for the Black professional or academic Woman with “progressive” leanings during the Obama era.

Now, I do not want to do a full fledged content analysis here. We do not have the space or the time, but I will revisit that process in a book in the near future(for those who have not been blessed with my prior content analysis of Black American media, please check out my book, “The Green DJHTY”). My purpose here is much more in the context of a designer or media communicator studying the techniques used in a financially successful and popular work. As most students of design and propaganda will explain, the heart of great emotionally appealing work is story.

At the point of critical empathy, as well as media trust, is this story of a socially acceptable definition of the standard of high success in the body of a US Black African American Woman. And this storyline compels, in part, because, okay, she is a US Black African American Woman with a very adorable upbringing class-wise in a position of power. In the same way that ’24’ legitimizes the US system and style of White Male aggression, ‘Scandal’ legitimizes the often difficult road of assimilation. Both shows work to give an intoxicating storyline to realities that are extremely painful debates in settings where emotions are considered puerile or naive.

Which is the beauty of storytelling that allows it to exist in the realm of art. Yet, as I have stated elsewhere, art can also be design. And as sexy as both of these shows are to me in their own spaces and for my own reasons of being attracted to them, these shows are both by design. It is very difficult for me to entertain the story of Jack Bauer taking US hostages and appropriating an entire convenience store in error for the sake of national security. It is very difficult for me to accept a scene where Olivia Pope is being called a “whore” by a white Woman in the presence of a White Man that the story suggests is suppose to on one hand love, and on the other hand consider that the White Woman, his wife, might be correct in some definitions.

Once again, for the intentions and purposes of the Asylum to date, I am not as concerned about the storyline, as written, as I am about why the storyline works given what the story line presents. In a discussion about Black African American media trust and Black African American Women in media images, why as the Black man I am, not be appalled by a scene such as this? In a discussion about Black African American media trust and Black African American Women in media images, why as the Black media analyst I am, would I not compare this scene of a US Black African American Woman being “justifiably” referred to as a “whore” to the most recent installation of the Jezebel caricature? This is not Owl navigating into respectability politics or slut-shaming. The storyline already did that to enormous impact. Where is the entry point for an oppositional gaze when the storyline is constructed with the purpose of alluding critical empathy?

The storyline justifies us seeing an image of a US African American Black Women being called a “whore” while in a White House in a room alone with a White man and his White wife. The storyline compels the audience to split along lines of empathetic affiliation with the White wife or the Black mistress. The storyline compels us to justify the White Woman’s anger with the Black Woman in the same manner that the storyline justifies us seeing images of a White man torturing foreign nationals with outlawed methods. The storyline compels us to justify the Black Woman’s action with rebuttals regarding the White Woman’s “manipulative” ways in the same manner that the storyline presents justifications for this paranoid White man’s brutality under the banner of “national security”.

And because the storyline compels so much, I am compelled to study why the audience reacts with such obedience, and why the storyteller needs to tell the story.