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Curly Nikki

The Angry Black Woman Stereotype- Part II

By January 27th, 202180 Comments
The Angry Black Woman Stereotype- Part IIBattling the Backlash

by Rene Syler Good Enough Mother


You may have seen our GEM Debate the other day where we asked if the Angry Black Woman stereotype, seen frequently in the media, made you mad.

We got a lot of reactions here on the site but the piece was also reposted on Curlynikki.com a blogger who happens to be a friend and one of my curly haired heroes. It was clear from the comments that poured in (almost 100 at last count) that the piece really struck a nerve. Some readers found the commercial offensive while others thought it was much ado about nothing. As someone who has spent more than two decades in television, it’s the latter that troubles me.

In talking with my husband last night we hit upon one possible reason; there really is a line of demarcation, if you will, in the racial attitudes among younger and older people. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that blacks and whites, ages 18-24 tended to be closer in their perception of race and racial issues than their older counterparts. That gives me hope but it doesn’t change the fact that there are real reasons to be concerned about commercials and TV shows that reinforce outdated stereotypes of ANY kind. So here’s why the Pepsi Max spot doesn’t sit right with me.

CABLE VERSUS BROADCAST TELEVISION: Let me give you a quick primer on cable versus broadcast TV. You all know you have to pay for cable; it is subscriber-based programming. The Super Bowl was on BROADCAST TV (free to anyone with a receiver) and seen by 111 million people. Compare that to Bravo’s (cable) The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which saw its largest number of viewers in January with 3.43 million, a drop in the bucket comparatively speaking. But the bigger issue is Bravo knows exactly who watches those shows and programs to meet for that specific demographic. People are actively tuning in (approving – or they wouldn’t be watching) to see Nene and Kim fight and otherwise act foolish. That is very different from watching the big game in your living room and having this commercial splashed across your TV.

TV IS A POWERFUL MEDIUM: With that primer under your belt, let me continue. Cable penetration in the US stands at just over 60%. Roughly 34% of the population receive their signal through what’s called alternate delivery systems (satellite, etc). That means roughly 6% of the country has access to over-the-air TV only. We know that TV shapes and at times, distorts, the way we see the world. I also know that, though it’s a small number, it is possible that say a 10-year-old boy in Omaha is part of that 6%. If he doesn’t have an opportunity to develop relationships with people of color, he could quite possibly formulate his opinions based on what he sees on TV. The permanent scowl on her face, her unloving actions toward her husband and the violence at the end of this spot do not paint this black woman in a very good light. What lasting impression does this leave on a child with no-one to counter that image? (BTW, movies fall into the same category as cable; you have to pay to see most movies so you’re not exposed without your tacit approval).

“THE ANGRY BLACK WOMAN IS NOT ME SO IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME”: It’s not how we see ourselves that is the issue and frankly the dichotomy between the truth and the stereotype is exactly WHY this should make people angry. Yes, she is NOT you. You know that, your friends and family know that, the people you go to church with know that. But the young boy who grew up in Omaha without a positive black role model does not. So when you are making a presentation in your 250,000-dollar a year job as a corporate attorney for some fortune 500 company and you need to assert yourself in order to set some snot-nosed, still-wet-behind-the-ears kid straight, through his limited prism, this is how he may see you. Not saying he will, but it is a possibility. Don’t kid yourself; there are many that jump right to that conclusion.

THE AD AGENCY: The fact that it got made at all is, to me, the most sobering part of this debate. Commercials like this get made when a company hires an ad agency and together they discuss what they are trying to achieve with the campaign. A storyboard is drawn up and everyone signs off on it. Figures show downright anemic numbers of blacks in US advertising agencies; they make up just over five percent of professionals and managers. Given that, I’m willing to bet there was not one black person on this campaign. So, (hypothetically speaking) our boy from Omaha is now the lead manager on this project and he draws up this spot and it gets made because there’s no person of color on the team who can warn them all of their blind spot. And before you know it, it’s on TV.

One of the commentators made another important point. She said the Angry Black Woman stereotype de-legitimizes black women’s anger. Think about that for a moment. Let’s say you have real reason to be angry (your wallet got stolen, you missed your train, you got passed over for promotion) but as soon as you go to express that legitimate feeling, you are categorized as an ABW. How many times have you had your period, got angry about something that was real, only to have someone pooh-pooh you because “you’re just PMS’ing”? It’s enough to send you into orbit, isn’t it?

Lest you think I’m hypersensitive I’m not wild about the YouTube spot with the nerdy looking Asian guy riding a moped through an office, complete with a panic-stricken look on his face. And it bugs me to see gay men as limp-wristed hairdressers when clearly many aren’t. Personally, I’d love to see more commercials like this.

Or how about Dennis Haysbert, using only his voice and good looks to sell insurance?

So to Madison Avenue: enough with the stereotypes of any kind. It’s lazy and uninspired. And to Pepsi: this black woman won’t get angry, I’ll just get a Coke; and one for my husband whom I love dearly.

But what about you? Does this change your mind about the Angry Black Woman stereotype? How does it make you feel about TV and the advertising industry in general? Start commenting everyone…

80 Comments

  • nTm says:

    I thought the commercial was funny. I saw more of a "nagging wife" stereotype than Angry Black Woman. I suppose the pushing his face into the pie and throwing the soda can were maybe more violent than the typical white Commercial Wife. I thought there would be more backlash because of the dude checking out the white runner chick.

  • ashley says:

    @Anonymous February 16, 2011 6:36 PM …. I am sorry that you feel my opinion on the commercial is insensitive. I was just providing an alternative perspective from a black female who enjoyed the commercial for its intent — to make us laugh. Thanks to BreZee for understanding my perspective. You have every right to feel as passionate as you do! I am not denying that fact! To assume young white boys in Omaha or wherever are "snot-nosed" is not a valid argument because it is an assumption not a fact. So, it should not be used in an intelligent argument unless there are statistics provided as support.

    Has anyone ever read Zora Neale Hurston's essay "The Negro Expresion?" It addresses this very dramatized view of African Americans. Anywho, that's neither here nor there.

    Commercials and other marketing tools should not mold the minds of underexposed Americans, but they do. That is a fact. Freedom was not free during the Civil Rights Movement, so why not fight to find our place in the marketing industry?

    I do not condone negative representations of African American women, ESPECIALLY not of our First Lady Michelle Obama, but sometimes we have to stop being stuck on being black and just take things for face value.

    Please do not take this as hostility to my race. Ask me to raise my black fist and I will in a heartbeat. Cheers to healthy debate even if we do not agree!

  • Anonymous says:

    !00% agree BreZee. Like I said I earlier in the commercial the couple attacked a jogger. Hello?? Commit a "violent" act and run away? The commercial was a chuckle and move on. And definitely not enough for me to buy Pepsi. As a matter of fact I'll be "scared" to hold a can of Pepsi, lest anyone mistake me for an ABW. LOL!

  • Rene Syler says:

    @BreZee I did say at the end of the post I wasn't going to but their product. I will also email and let them know how I felt about. I don't agree that my not finding it funny feeds into the steretype tho.

  • BreZee says:

    My opinion is that if you can not laugh at the commerical (which was ment to be funny) then you are feeding into the angry black women stereotype. If you don't like the commerical don't buy pepsi. It would hurt pepsi more to lose sells than to apologize for something that isn't really apology worthy. The fact is Black people are the largest consumer. Black women are a larger part of the black community. We are the ones buying this product. If it makes you that mad, don't buy their products. And if the impact is large enough they will have to change how they advertise. Remember money talks BS walks! and being mad about this commercial is BS without action.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 11:15 THANK YOU!

    @ashley: there's a reason that blacks make up 5 percent of professional jobs in advertising and it has nothing to do with the fact that they don't want to be there.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ ashley—Where do you see anger in this thread or this post for that matter? It's a group of intelligent women discussing an issue that concerns us. You can yukky yuk all you like, but to dismiss an involved, complex convo as "angry" means you have not (or don't choose to) actually listen to what's being said.

    Yours is the same mentality as insensitive White people who want to claim a Black person is militant because they are addressing racism. Maybe you thought it was funny when the New Yorker depicted conservative, upper class Michelle Obama in an afro and war gear. And trust, that kid from Omaha is not being oppressed because he was referred to as "snot nosed"-come on now. That is a very poor attempt at claiming reverse discrimination.

  • idon'thaveatellynloveit") says:

    My view is :

    *media influences us more than we think and what will act out in our behaviour.
    *I undastand free will but the mind has to have the right thoughts first.

    *This is challenging as a lot of generalisations are cultural and from upbringing.
    *The way to deal with it is to judge it as wrong.
    I don't watch offending things as that defeats the point.The only way is to stop watching stuff that promotes rubbish.

  • ashley says:

    I accept the arguments presented in this article and agree to disagree. The Omaha child as described as "some snot-nosed, still-wet-behind-the-ears kid" counters this entire argument. This is an assumption about an Omaha child and would be extremely offensive if an Omaha child or even a parent of an Omaha child read this. If we are to stifle media portrayal of the "angry black woman" stereotype, one must not counter ignorance with ignorance. One expects various behaviors from various groups even if we fail to admit it. The subconcious prepares you to relate a physical appearance to a person's gestures/manorisms. Therefore, although the media may mold the minds of millions of people, we, the black woman, upon meeting these people, are responsible for not perpetuating this stereotype and opening their eyes to our many facets. In conclusion, to complain does not bring about change; action does. If African Americans only consist of 6% of the marketing industry, let's get our feet in the door. We can even start, by not being so angry over Pepsi commercial ads and enjoying a laugh every once in a while 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    also, could we stop telling those who don't agree with the poster to "wake up" or that we "don't get it"? Just because we don't fully agree with the poster does not mean we don't understand her point.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with Kitka!

  • Anonymous says:

    I applaud Rene! Go on girl! Y'all need to wake up!

  • Rene Syler says:

    @ Anonymous 8:58, well, thanks. Interesting story about your jr high teacher and the white man who equated being strict (expecting the best from your students) with being "mean".

    @kitka82: I do believe that we as consumers need to realize the power we hold with our buying dollars. There have been many successful boycotts throughout history, The Montgomery Bus boycott, DeBeers, Royal Caribbean to name a few. But the issue needs to galvanize people and this one may not have that, as you can see by divided comments here and around the 'net. To your point about the movies: I mentioned this up top. The Pepsi commercial came into our living rooms on broadcast TV, the movies, you have to pay to see; you give your tacit approval when you do. Like the boycott example, if consumers stop going, they'll stop making them.

    Love the Big Sister idea. I was a part of that program for many years working in Birmingham. Any other ideas? What do you plant to do to bring about positive change today?

  • Anonymous says:

    @kitka82: Good points but except that enough public pressure that affects the bottom line of any business will be effective. But on to the larger issue, what can we do today that will make a difference in our communities? Anyone a Big Sister? Seems like a good place to start affecting how young black women see themselves.

  • Anonymous says:

    Rene it's interesting how you noted stereotypes of gays and Asians in advertising. I'm sure you've heard the term "visual shorthand" used before when it comes to these types of images. It's been said very eloquently by other ladies here, but willful ignorance remains big business in America because this visual shorthand is lazy, cheap and easy to access. All of us here have encountered the triple take when we not only don't behave like wild negresses; but when we are more educated (i'm not talking just books)/more attractive/show up for pta meetings/band rehearsal, etc.–the confusion almost gives them whiplash.

    And to Anon 2:48 PM, you speak the truth. And Your comment reminds me of my junior high English teacher, who was this amazing southern Black lady. She was known for being strict, and when I was graduating from elementary school I had a white male teacher describe her to me as "this mean Black lady" and to this day wish I'd informed my mother about that comment–I was one of two Black girls in one of her classes. One day she was kinda thinking out loud during class and asked the White kids, "it must be really hard to always have to feel like you're better than everyone else, isn't it? I can't imagine walking around with THAT burden"– She smiled briefly and said it with her usual ladylike, southern magnolia charm–after i picked my jaw off the floor, I realized I'd never heard anyone question White people about their insecurities. I've never forgotten it, and can't really since I see this privilege + power manifest itself constantly. It's truly sickening that America still refuses to admit she has a race problem, and stuff like perpetuating ugliness like this Pepsi ad feeds into it. And don't forget the ordinary looking White American woman always held up as the beauty ideal, no matter how plain jane she is.

    Anyway Rene thanks for writing this and the follow up for anyone who may not be getting it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I no longer live in the United States and living in another culture has opened my eyes to many things…..what I used to think of as 'only expressing myself' I now see differently.

    We just MAY have a problem with anger. I'm always amazed at how ugly these threads can become. What's the underlying problem? Could it be anger? ….something to think about.

    I've definitely changed my temperament and I'm so much happier for it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Kitka82, I totally agree with you! Totally!!!

  • KC says:

    It's one thing to be angry. It's another to do something productive about it. "Be the change you want to see in the world."

    Boycotting Pepsi isn't going to stop stereotyping. I think Tyler Perry's movies can be considered far more stereotypical and offensive than this commercial, because of the way Black women and men are portrayed (especially men in For Colored Girls). Did anyone else get mad at "Why did I get Married Too?" when Janet Jackson taunted and humiliated her husband to the point where he drove into traffic? HUH!?!?!

    Sike lemme stop… I did get mad at that movie though.

    Can we channel all of this anger at the media into something productive and positive, please, such as reaching out to those in need in our communities?

  • Anonymous says:

    The post below pretty much says it all. What you described has been my life as "the exception to the stereotype". I don't know what kind of utopia some of you live in, but I would love to have the address. If living well and being a good person was all it took to end stereotypes, none would exist in the first place.
    ———————————————-
    brunettefury said…
    "I really think that the way the you present yourself and treat others represents who you are above all else."

    Let me preface this with: I work in media and I've studied TV and film.

    Even though people might see YOU as an individual, they think of you as an exception to the stereotype. They're not likely thinking that most black women aren't stereotypical. Have you ever heard the phrase "you're not like those other black people/women"? YOU might not see this ad as stereotypical or yourself as presenting a stereotype, but other people subconsciously view black women in terms of stereotypes, just like people view Asian women as docile or Latina women as fiery. If ever I'm angry about an issue, I have to be conscious of the fact that people might view me as an angry black woman. The truth of the matter is that if you're not white, you will be viewed by others as a monolith (all black people can dance and play basketball, black women are angry, all Asians are smart, Asians are socially awkward etc). Only white people have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to stereotypes (negative or positive).

    And what if we are angry? It's not like we don't have reason to be when the media and popular culture pays no attention to us unless they need to stereotype.

  • Anonymous says:

    I really don’t see the big deal with the Pepsi commercial. I think that this could have easily been portrayed by couples of different ethnicities as well as interracial couples.

    I suppose if I were media savvy I would be able to read between the lines, but to me it was a chuckle and move on. Of course I could get deep and consider the couple criminals for attacking the female in the park (Central Park jogger), but how far does one go with this?

    This I know for sure, I don’t drink Pepsi (or soda), and this commercial did nothing to entice me to differ.

  • EmmaG says:

    To the women (ladies?) who did not find the stereotype offensive but funny, how about someone do an advert suggesting you or your mothers or your daughter are really biatches and hos as black men refer to us?. If they make it funny, you wouldn't mind then, would you?. Are there any ads out there uplifting the black woman as being strong, intellectual, happy and maternal?. Been around over 45 years and can't remember 1.

  • Anonymous says:

    "Speaking of weaves, that weave/wig the lady was wearing was horrible."

    Something I think we all can agree on.

    Domino

  • Anonymous says:

    Speaking of weaves, that weave/wig the lady was wearing was horrible.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 10:09 A yes, I think you are right. big undertaking, but can be done. Hope you head into Corporate America where they could stand to see diversity of color and taste. Good luck wherever you go

  • Anonymous says:

    "@Anon 10:09 question: How exactly does a white girl act and how is that different from a black girl? White girls, quiet, reserved, more into art and rock versus black girls who are what?"

    I think you misunderstood me. That is what I am constantly wondering! Why is that I act the way which is natural for me to act and yet I am constantly told that I act like a white person? My point is that one's race does not predetermine their likes, and dislikes, interests, quirks, whatever.
    I'm just saying every person has a lot of power to slowly change stereotypes. It's just about teaching other people that not every black person is the same.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well said, Anon 10:09!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 10:09 question: How exactly does a white girl act and how is that different from a black girl? Isn't that feeding into the very stereotypes being talked about here? White girls, quiet, reserved, more into art and rock versus black girls who are what?

  • Anonymous says:

    As a black seventeen year old girl who's way more into rock music than hip-hop, pretty quiet and reserved, and into art, I'm constantly being told that I act like a white person at the high school I go to. So I tend to think a lot on this whole stereotype issue.
    I think we need to stop blaming these really broad, faceless enemies like the "media" or "advertisers", and "big corporations". I think if we want to make any kind of change, the change has to begin within ourselves. Because if enough of us live in a way that defies the stereotypes that permeate commercials, etc. then the wider majority of people will begin to realize what BS all of these black stereotypes really are.
    Its just a slow process and its each persons responsibility to exude their own uniqueness and beauty in order to slowly reshape the general consensus.

  • Rene Syler says:

    Okay, anon: 7:01. I'm beat. I tried to do a good thing here, that is all, by offering up an explanation. The fact is, we all have a job to do. That job entails making sure we are accurately portrayed in the medium that comes into our living rooms. No that does not mean black women can't ever get angry. No that does not mean Latinas can never be sexy or Asians portrayed as super smart. But it is about balance. That's all.

  • Anonymous says:

    Anon from 7:01 here:

    Yes, I am aware that your happiness was not the main point of the article. You say that the thinking in the industry must be changed, but it can only be changed with the way that blacks are portrayed. To me, that's another way of saying that blacks must ONLY be portrayed a certain way, otherwise it's setting us back. Where that line is drawn is important, and I don't think that this commercial crossed that line (IMO).

    Jena- would you charge your husband with battery if, at your wedding, he smeared cake on your face? Or would you charge the school's cafeteria with assault if your child got caught in the middle of a food fight? Again, taking it too far. Yes, hitting a girl with a can in the head is obviously a whole other level, but no one was talking about that. I keep reading about the things that the wife was doing to the husband. Commercials, especially ones these days, are NOT guide books for what to do to other people! If anyone thinks otherwise, get help! Please don't tell me I'm minimizing violence because I'm taking the commercial at face value, and not thinking about "I would never do that to XYZ". If you don't get offended at people knocking the crap out of each other in boxing matches or action movies (Mr. and Mrs. Smith?), then this commercial shouldn't bother you.

  • Rene Syler says:

    @Anon 8:53 Yep, we have free will to believe and choose as we see fit. But when the images are pervasive, the effect can be (not always, but can be) like the Colorado River against the Grand Canyon, steady and unrelenting. We're never going to counter all the negative images. But please how about more Boris (who's show was canceled by NBC) and Nicole and less NeNe and whoever? (sorry don't watch that show). I used the commercial as an example; sadly it is not the only one.

    @Anon 3:43 (sorry just seeing this comment) Yes it was a user generated spot. But there is no way Pepsi spent millions on it (in the ad buy and the making of it) without signing off on it.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have one main issue with the argument that commercials, like the Pepsi ad, so strongly influence peoples perceptions.

    It removes our inherent free will and all that comes with it. The media may exploit us and count on us to be impressionable, maybe even weak-minded, but ultimately, we're responsible for our decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. I refuse to give my "free will" over to an advertiser, script writers, or reality TV stars! So many people have overcome all odds against them because of their will to do so. Why should we let or suggest that the media can steal that away so easily?

    Am I crazy or are we (and our non-black counterparts) not still responsible for our own actions, including discriminatory behavior? Should we put the media on trial for hate crimes or maybe we should accuse gun manufacturers of murder and sue McDonalds for making us fat? What am I missing? I can't control what people do or believe (by censorship or any other means), I can only control how I react to it.

  • Anonymous says:

    And i would also like to add the black women and "weave" stereotype. It annoys the hell out of me that ppl believe that all black women wear fake hair all the time. I have never worn a wig or weave and do not plan to. Ppl act like I am not human because of this. Black women should not have to show our damn scalp to prove that our own hair is our hair! WTF!!! People are really shocked when they learn I am not bald-headed and have hair! LOL…smh

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with the commentator 100%!!!! I've noticed quite a few things in the media lately. I've noticed the push for European women with curvier bodies and bigger booties. I've noticed the push of black men and white women couples… I've noticed more natural haired black women on television as well. I've also noticed black women becoming more "isolated" in the main stream. We are usually single and angry. Sometimes I wonder what's really going on…..

  • Rene Syler says:

    Have any of you ever treated your husband/partner that way? I have been married 17 years and even in the moments when i thought my head would pop off, I never dreamed of kicking him under a stable or pushing his face in a pie. I respect him as he does me. Wow

  • Anonymous says:

    No one mentioned hitting the stranger with a can and running away as she lie on the ground. Can you say, jail time?

  • Anonymous says:

    Ummmm, isnt abuse usually caused by unresolved anger??!!

  • Anonymous says:

    meant to type disdain FOR white women

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree that the disturbing images in the Pepsi commercial were the violence committed against the "husband", more so than the ABW stereotype. It wasn't funny. I can't imagine a healthy relationship where it's fine to stuff things in each others' mouths, push faces into plates, throw cans at heads. Abuse charges would be warranted.

  • Anonymous says:

    B R E A K I N G I T D O W N:

    The commercial depicts the angry black woman because it shows a woman undermining her man, being controlling and insensitive, disdain form white women – negative things which black woman are COMMONLY stereotyped as being. These traits are commonly associated with buried anger.

  • Jena says:

    Sorry, meant Anon. 6:55 PM.

  • Rene Syler says:

    @Anonymous 7:45: that's cool. It's what I and quite a few others took away from it. There were also quite a few who did not. The ability to respectfully disagree is what makes this country great. But i hope, at the very least, people got a look inside the advertising and TV industry.

  • Anonymous says:

    I read both article, I get your point that TV significantly impacts the way that we view ourselves and how others view us. But I still fail to see how that commercial depicts the image of the Angry Black Woman…

  • Jena says:

    @Anon. 7:01 PM, I am concerned about what appears to be the minimization of violence in the commercial. "Silly things like throwing a pie in someone's face," in my opinion, aren't silly at all. I interpret and apply the law daily and in Virginia, throwing a pie in someone's face and hitting them with a can is assault and battery, a first class misdemeanor. The assault rises to felony status if the skin was broken on the victim. Clearly, no "silly," or laughing matter.

    What's more disturbing is that some Black women apparently think the images in the Pepsi commercial are appropriate ways to interact with one's mate?????? There was one commenter who stated, "She was only trying to get him to eat healthy." REALLY? By putting soap in the man's mouth?!?! What ever happened to, "Babe, I'm concerned about your health and want us to work on your eating habits?" Jesus, be a fence!!!

  • Rene Syler says:

    @Jena, thanks 🙂

    @Anonymous 7:01 um, not sure what you mean by "my happiness", that's really not what this is about. No one cares about my happiness except my family and me and we are firmly in control of that. I was trying to utilize my 20 years in TV to pull back the curtain to give everyone a peek inside. Trust me, that was only the tip of it. Of course, i'm not saying black women cannot show anger ever again. But here's the thing; this is not about one commercial, this is a pervasive way of thinking inside the industry that needs to be changed. It will change when we are better represented throughout the industry. Sorry, you think this is about my happiness. It patently is not

  • Jena says:

    First and foremost, Rene, I appreciate you for initiating such a pertinent debate!

    Amber, you literally took the thoughts out of my mind. When media consistently perpetuates the stereotype that ALL Black women are angry ALL the time, it devalues our experiences when our anger is warranted.

    I work in the family court system and frequently file restraining orders for women. There are MANY Black women who are abused for years before they seek help. Why you ask? "No one will believe me." They'll just think I'm another Black woman stirring up trouble." These are real responses from real women.

    My point is, harmful stereotypes like those in the Pepsi commercial cause many of us to swing to the other extreme, losing our voices completely, in an attempt to not be "that woman."

  • Anonymous says:

    My question to the poster: So in order to make you happy, every black person on TV has to be put on a pedestal? Any action that is deemed potentially foolish should be portrayed by a white person, because everybody KNOWS that all white people aren't like that? Where would it end? If we demanded that black people cannot be shown as angry, or engaging in silly things like throwing a pie in someone's face (Ok, have you seen some of these game shows? The craziness knows no bounds), then the majority of acting jobs will NOT go to black actors.

    I get being sensitive about race issues, because obviously they still exist, but being over-sensitive is downright annoying. Obviously some commercials are more racially charged than others, but the fact that this spawned from the Pepsi commercial… come on now. If this was about that State Farm commercial where those two fools are talking about "how you make my head numb" and "oh this is how you want me to look huh" (you know, with the booty shorts and what not).. then I'd be on board. But you sound as if you want black people to sound like perfect angels 24/7, and NO RACE is portrayed that way, EVER. Why would it be any different for us?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 4:20/6:21: You, maybe even your friends and family are the exception to the rule. Most people make their decisions based on a 30 second spot that is "pretty" or otherwise desirable. Advertisers and politicians count on that.

  • Carla says:

    @Anonymous 5:20 PM – You're not the only one who saw that as very abusive. If the tables were turned and a husband pushed his wife's face in to a pie (race isn't relevant), everyone would be up in arms.

  • Anonymous says:

    To Anonymous@5:20, the abuse was the part that bothered me the most.

    The ABW isn't a stereotype up where I live so that didn't occur to me until I read the comments here.

    Is it now considered acceptable to treat others like that? Is that humourous?

    A wife bullying a husband is just as shameful as a husband bullying a wife.

  • Rene Syler says:

    Thanks Anonymous @6:10 but I have to give credit where credit is due, Amber was the one who pointed out the delegitimizing our real anger by ascribing characteristics of the ABW to us if we raise our voice or otherwise assert ourselves. I don't fault anyone their experiences and I shared what I did so as to give a glimpse of how this happens. I have been in TV for 20 years, prior to my latest incarnation. Those who think these stereotypes are on the way out are sadly mistaken.

    For the record, I have never seen one frame of RHOA and would barely be able to pick out NeNe in a line-up. It does not change the fact that 3.43 million people pull up a seat when it's on and partake of the nastiness. When we stop watching, they'll stop making.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ Anon 5:31, you're right media is BIG business and it's sad that blacks are underrepresented! However, I believe we attribute to much power to the media! People are prejudice and racists because they choose to be, not because the "media made them do it".

    In fact, the media has little to do with any of my decisions, including purchasing decisions! I read reviews on almost everything I buy and then decide if I want to try it or not. This blog, for heaven's sake, has more influence on my purchases because of the personal, real experiences expressed by women with similar hair texture…not how the product is advertised. So, in my life, a commercial is an insignificant event!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much for these two commercials. They show balanced black people that can deal properly with people and life.

    Image does matter and negative pictures can be considered by some as a rule concerning black people.

    So, like I said in part I, at the end of the day what is really important is SELF-RESPECT, RESPECT,CONFIDENCE and CLASS. CLASS NEVER HURTS…

    Some black people shouldn't be afraid of not be heard and understood if they don't yell or show attitudes. They should learn to listen to others' feelings and made their own feelings respected no matter what. Because, sometimes all the attitude doesn't provide the expected result (on the contrary) and is unproductive.

    So, let's work to reach our goals by finding the right, efficient, decent and respectful ways.
    YOU HAVE TO RESPECT PEOPLE TO BE RESPECTED…

  • Anonymous says:

    I think that the responses here kind of help to support Ms. Syler's general thesis regarding how people of different generations view racism.
    Her comment also reminded me of the comparison between the U.S. and Brazil in regards to race. While Brazilians are allowed to self-identify racially, and do so based on skin tone rather than parentage/genetics, the fact remains that calling yourself something else doesn't lessen the impact of racism in your life. Blacks in Brazil are the bottom on the totem pole, and are noticeably absent from the halls of higher education, from professional fields, from corporate offices, etc.
    Similarly, just because 20 somethings think that they can will themselves away from the angry black woman stereotype doesn't mean that they are successful at it.
    As someone who has grown up, lived, attended school, and worked in environments where I was frequently the "only" (black, female), I can tell you that many people who see you as an individual see you as the exception and not the rule.
    And I LOVE her point about our legitimate anger being invalidated by the idea that we are always angry. How do you not understand that?
    Being unwilling to acknowledge that racism is a part of our life doesn't change the fact that racism is alive and well. Just because you can sit where you'd like and and use all of the water fountains doesn't mean that we don't still have a long way to go. And I say that as someone who has been really privileged and I've had more opportunities than most, black or white people.
    Think about it, Ms. Syler has been successful as well, and she still knows that things aren't perfect. Why can't any of you young ladies, who have not done nearly as much, admit that?
    I think it's funny that the same people who insist that white people hate our hair will be quick to dismiss this. I guess you all want to fight the battle to wear your hair in an afro but don't care if your image is otherwise abused in the media.

  • Amber says:

    Ah! You referenced my comment (about the de-legitimizing of our *real* anger)! 🙂

    I am always looking for positive images of black women, and so many commercials have gotten it right, even having naturals, so it makes me a little sad that we had this commercial after so much progress. So this commercial makes me sad because it perpetuated the stereotypes I hate: ABW/abusive wife stereotype.

    I know there a lot of women who say "TV doesn't affect me." Right. TV doesn't affect your perceptions of the world. But a greater portion of the country is. And let's not forget our impressionable young children and grandchildren. You can tell them one thing all their young lives, but they will be affected by what they watch.

    And just because you don't judge yourself by a stereotype, doesn't mean other people aren't judging you.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you Renee for the explanation. I'm 53 and sick of all the trash on TV, cable or broadcast, doesn't matter! s It might do us all some good to turn it all off and pick up a book.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ 4:20 an advertising industry that makes commercials and sells imagery that is only 5 % black, is not an "insignificant event" IMHO

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm more upset about the abuse in the commercial than I am about the skin color of the actors. When was the last time your husband stuck a bar of soap in your mouth or pushed your face in a dish of pie?!
    If he threw a can of soda at a man because he smiled and waved at you then people would be up in arms about how abusive it is. It's considered "funny" because it's a woman doing the abusive stuff. Am I the only one that noticed this?

  • Anonymous says:

    Rene, you didn't change my opinion, because you didn't need to. I recognize a sterotype and an insult when I see/hear one and while I may not get angry or start a campaign I will certainly join/support the cause of letting a corporation know that I care about the image/perception of Black Women, especially when said company is spending my money to insult me.

    I always speak with my wallet, while it can be inconvenient to do so at times, I believe that if more people spoke with their wallet the world would be a much better place. The ad wasn't funny or original and yes, I found it offensive (for the violence as well as the stereotyping).

    I also understand that the real power/impact of media is its cumulative effect. One commercial may not change or form a person's opinion, but make it 5 commercials, 10 songs, 3 reality shows, a couple of movies and a play, on a yearly basis for a number of years and someone might start to believe there is some "validity" to these ridiculous images.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you Rene for posting this article and the previous one. I posted the very first comment above.

    No, I am not a raving black nationalist, segregationalist or straight up whack job. LOL
    I am a 45 yr old woman who has traveled throughout the world, works as a physician, and supports multiculturalism to the absolute max.

    I do think this country is horrific in its inability to get past racism. The power of the media is being used to perpetuate racial myths at the expense of minority cultures in particular. Yes, we are also responsible for allowing it by being participants in the commercials, rap groups and movies which perpetuate the poor images of us. We, however, do not control and manage the companies which decide to promote these images. I do find that there are many white people in this country who have , for generations, had at least a portion of their self-esteem built on "at least I am better than a (fill in the blank with a minority)". Some of us, on the other hand, have bought into the concept of being a victim and therefeore developing a self-fulfilling failure mentatlity, so there is certainly enough blame to go around.
    I, along with many of my female friends who practice medicine and law, am sick and tired of having to be the bearers of a "different" image of black women, in particular, and black people in general. We want to "just be". We get annoyed by the "surprised " and incredulous attitude that people have at parties, work events, in the office, etc. about "are your REALLY who you say you are" because they,cannot believe what they are hearing and seeing. Even some black folk have this attitude!
    What makes it worse is to have to then experience people who keep digging and digging , trying to find the stereotype in you so that they can go
    "Yup, she is what I know and expect black women to be like". ???!!!?? Pathetic! LOL

    It is especially disheartening when the media insists on making commercials and movies which generally have the opposite effect of the image me and my friends promote and, therefore, support the kind of BS we have to face every day in real life and daily practice.
    What is REALLY sad is when I experience this from certain BLACK people! Yes, it happens! Some of US have bought into the belief based on some of the images seen.

    It is sad, sad , sad. If we ARE angry, can anyone blame us? Geez, I would like to see any other human being deal with all of this crap and not feel at least some small degree of irritation.
    I am not angry. I love my life, what I do and who I am, but I would REALLY love to see changes in us AND in the media to be more inclusive.

  • Kimmie0810 says:

    Lady Jaye, with all due respect, you can't tell me or America what's "wrong". We all have our personal opinions and opionions (based on person experiences and the facts as we know them at the time) cannot be "wrong". You disagree, and you have every right.

    Also, I don't see why people are harping on the number of people who see the Superbowl vs RHOA or other shows. If something is indeed racist or derogatory (against black women or anyone else) then it doesn't matter how many people see it. I don't see the number of viewers being a factor.

    While TV is powerful, I don't think it provides the foundation upon which people build their opinions about others. A person with no real opinion or knowledge of black women is going to see that and think black women are angry. Someone with that opinion already might see it that way, or not. Someone who thinks black women are great isn't going to change their opinion based on this commercial.

  • Cheryl says:

    If you were sitting in a theatre watching one of those plays that depict the angry black woman, (all in fun of course) it's ok. I guess because it is done amongst the black folk or the majority anyway, but when it is shown on national TV, it's a different story. I personally know a lot of angry black woman. It may have gone a little over the top with the dramatics, but I did not find it all that serious. For me, there are so many other things that I put my voice to than defending myself as being depicted as an angry black woman. I know who I am. What God has for me, I will get. It doesn't matter what the masses think.

  • Anonymous says:

    "Right On" Anonymous @ 4:20!

  • Anonymous says:

    This post, while well thought out and eloquently written, does not change the fact that I found the commercial funny and not at all offensive.

    The little boy in Omaha may not even notice the color of the actors' skin in the commercial unless an adult points it out. Kids typically don't care about color until someone brings it to their attention….they're great like that! I know this because my daughter referred to a white, male friend as daddy when she was young because that's what his son called him, she didn't notice or care that he was white and couldn't possibly be her daddy (LOL). However, we received many a "side eye" from adults when he carried her on his shoulders at the store…the kids didn't blink an eye.

    Our sensitivity to race relations sometimes perpetuates the stereotype, in my opinion! We use this commercial and other largely insignificant events to "go off" and then we're seen as overly sensitive and ANGRY (black women)!

    If no woman ever discussed their PMS symptoms, no one would blame our emotions on PMS. We do that! We start crying over a commercial about starving kids in a 3rd world country and then exclaim that we're PMSing and can cry at the drop of the hat. Instead of just saying, it's saddens me to see children suffer.

    For those that believe I am naive or need a wake up call, please know that I've faced my share of racism as I live in the south and graduated from a predominately white, private university. I was often asked if I thought Affirmative Action played a role in my being accepted to the School, to which I replied "My 4.0 GPA and extr-curricular activities had more to do with it than my race. However, if AA got me in, it definitely won't keep me here or do the work for me.". That squashed most questions!

    While there are overtly racists acts that should anger us to action, I don't think this commercial is one of them. I think we're better served highlighting qualities that connect races vs. complaining about so-called divisive media ads.

  • Anonymous says:

    Who cares about a television commercial. Black women should choose their battles wisely. Focus on things that actually affect the black community. If the energy used to discuss this commercial was channeled towards REAL issues, maybe we would actually get somewhere. Instead of feeding into the stereotype.

  • brunettefury says:

    *passionate about an issue, not *angry about an issue

  • Rene Syler says:

    @Lady Jaye: As you said, we all pick our battles. It was my sincere hope that I could shed some light on how this happens. I would ask that the people who respond here, to me and each other, are respectful in their words and tone. Thanks, it sure would mean a lot for those of us who stick our necks out trying to offer an explanation.

    Rene Syler

  • brunettefury says:

    "I really think that the way the you present yourself and treat others represents who you are above all else."

    Let me preface this with: I work in media and I've studied TV and film.

    Even though people might see YOU as an individual, they think of you as an exception to the stereotype. They're not likely thinking that most black women aren't stereotypical. Have you ever heard the phrase "you're not like those other black people/women"? YOU might not see this ad as stereotypical or yourself as presenting a stereotype, but other people subconsciously view black women in terms of stereotypes, just like people view Asian women as docile or Latina women as fiery. If ever I'm angry about an issue, I have to be conscious of the fact that people might view me as an angry black woman. The truth of the matter is that if you're not white, you will be viewed by others as a monolith (all black people can dance and play basketball, black women are angry, all Asians are smart, Asians are socially awkward etc). Only white people have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to stereotypes (negative or positive).

    And what if we are angry? It's not like we don't have reason to be when the media and popular culture pays no attention to us unless they need to stereotype.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anon 2:54

    Pepsi made a commercial that generalized the actions of black people as a whole. Hip Hop artists, and not all of them are bad representations of black people, can be taken at face value as an individual trying to be a celebrity by any means necessary. I don't think people give much merit to celebrities because they're in their own wierd bubble. Just look at Lady Gaga. Do people accept her as the representer of Jewish people? uuuuuh no. But Pepsi on the other hand, a brand that people world wide are familiar with, they accept in their homes, and trust to be an "American" brand will be considered a more legitimate source in portraying the actions of black people. These subtle stereotypical references made by these well known companies are very harmful.

  • Rene Syler says:

    Dear Anonymous @3:34. I am not angry. My heart was VERY heavy when I read some of the comments from last night. So I drew on my two decades in television to explain how things like this happen. If you knew anything about me, it is that in this second incarnation of my life, all I want to do is help women. And I will continue to speak out when I think my voice can add calm or reason to a situation. I laid out the problem and why things like this happen. I didn't say I had a solution but I'm sure we all know if we stop watching this foolishness it will ultimately go away.

    Saddened? yeah a bit. Angry? nope, not even close.
    signed, Rene Syler

  • Lady Jaye says:

    That's where you and America are wrong.

    TV is a powerful medium, SOCIETY is a powerful medium (heck, we follow its dictates), but is it NOT the ONLY powerful medium or even the MOST powerful medium. And TV doesn't influence everyone at every stage in their lives.

    Apart from the media., our families, the people around us and the people who mentor us, our communites are where we find the most powerful mediums of our lives.

    If you can't change TV or society, you change the people around you. I see it more as a sign of what is wrong with another person when their perception of lives solely comes from the media, or when the most influencing things from their lives come from the media.

    change yourself, change the people around you – then soon, even if they were to have a million ads a day, it wouldn't bother you. It ireally and truly is what it is.

    Plus, we pick our battles. Not everyone is worth fighting. And i say this one isn't. There are so many other things we need to fix in our community. Worrying about how commercials portray us is the least of them.

  • kimber0827 says:

    @Kimmie0810, I totally agree with you. Everything on TV isn't a stereotype nor is it racist. I think it's all about how the viewer perceives it.

  • Kimmie0810 says:

    I'm black, female, almost 40. I've lived in the South my entire life and grew up in an overwhemingly predominately white neighborhood/school district. I went to a lily white college & lived in the dorms.

    And still, I do not see this commercial as a stereotype of an angry black woman. She wasn't "angry". Not until the end when she overreacted & threw that can. Again, I think the stereotype is more of "nagging domineering wife w/submissive goofball husband" which can be seen any day of the week on "Everybody Loves Raymond", "Desperate Housewives" and any other sitcom (usually with a white cast) about a married couple.

    I think because the actors were black, we have internalized the image and turned it into something it's not. We can FIND racism and stereotypes anywhere if we look hard enough. Some things we just have to accept at face value and not go digging and looking for stuff.

    Conversely, we complain when there aren't any people of color in commercials.

    It is what it is. We have to learn how to respond to things and how to deal with racism etc as we encounter it. All of this argument isn't accomplishing anything. Especially blaming and name calling of other black women who had nothing to do with the ad and are entitled to respond however they want to.

  • AishaSaidIt says:

    There is no question that a ~30 second commercial that is in constant rotation in every home has a significant impact on how people see the world. After reading the many comments on this subject yesterday it’s not only non-Black people that subconsciously accept negative views of Black people. That has been drilled in all of us weather we openly admit it or not. For example, if I describe my hair as nappy/kinky/afro to someone on the radio, someone who can’t see me. Most likely I would get the subliminal “side-eye”. I remember the radio hosts in Dallas ripping into Tracy Chapmen about her hair when I was a child. I really had no opinion on her hair myself , but it was shaped by the banter. I say all this to say, it’s not as simple as how Pepsi is representing us to the rest of the world issue (i.e. non Black people). Yes, we have the power to shape what they air in the future by protesting/writing/not purchasing etc. And yes, Timmy in Omaha is sheltered, but ask me how much I know about the Amish. The “rest of the world” includes us. Which is probably why the dismissing comments of, “that’s not me, so not my problem”, let’s me know the long road that must continue to be traveled. (just another thought)

  • Anonymous says:

    To your Ad Agency point. The Pepsi Super Bowl commercial was user created. Pepsi held a contest for anyone to create a Pepsi ad for the Super Bowl and the aired commercial was voted the best by the general public.

  • Anonymous says:

    Would Pepsi please just apologize so we can move on? Why is there a second post on this topic? geesh!

    Lets talk about facts such as the growing rate of HIV in the black community…not this so-called "angry black woman" conspiracy.

    You laid out the "problem" but failed to give a remedy to it. This posts seems angry to me….

  • socialitedreams says:

    i hate when stuff like this: “THE ANGRY BLACK WOMAN IS NOT ME SO IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME” is said. here's a post that explains why caring about our overall image matters:
    Why the defaming of the black female image affects you

    and

    Why black women get pinned with the tail!

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry to say that it doesn't change my thoughts about the angry black woman stereotype in the media. I'm a 33 year old woman and I know that there are ignorant people out there who will believe anything. But I really think that the way the you present yourself and treat others represents who you are above all else. I had someone say to me this weekend that because I grew up in a very multicultural community I view the world differently. You know who I'm more angry at, the hip-hop artist, the Nikki M's who perpetuate a very negative stereotype in every video and photo shoot that they do. Their videos are on Youtube for everyone to watch at anytime. Where is our responsibility in this. That makes me mad! When I see other black women and black men sending a bad message to the young people of every race that this is the kind of people that we are. I have a daughter that I want to grow up and learn from me about how to treat others than from the media, and I think that that's the best example that you can have.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ok, umm…Dennis Haysbert?! LAWD HAVE MERCY!!!!! That man is handsome! Although he is old enough to be my dad, I'd STILL marry him! LOL Anyway, SERIOUSLY, thanks for posting this! It was great to see your point of view as an experienced person in the television biz. I learned something new today.

  • Anonymous says:

    I like these two ads. They, however , do not change my impression of TV and the advertising industry. I happen to believe that these industries have an investment in supporting the psychological illness that plagues America- RACISM. Racism is caused by a deep sense of low self esteem (the Trash of England) which feeds itself on the destruction of other cultures (Native Americans and Africans) to uplift itself. It is deeply embedded in the fabric of this country and the commercialism of America uses it to continue the sickness.

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