By Trillia Newbell
I don’t watch much television, I enjoy movies. What I thought would be a fad that would soon move on seems to be here to stay—reality TV. My husband and I were on a reality show called Grounds for Improvement on the DIY channel. Our deck needed remodeling and found out through friends the show would be in our area so we applied. They came to our home and rebuilt our deck. The hours were long, the work was hard and much of what we did never got aired.
With each roll of the camera there were certain aspects of our personality that they wanted to emphasize and various tools they wanted to highlight. The producers and hosts helped my husband and I know what to say and when to say it. When the cameras weren’t rolling we were focused on building, not speaking. The reality part of the reality show was never seen. I’m not criticizing the show for this. I’m simply stating the facts. What remained in the end was a functional deck, which is what we needed at the time and we were thankful.
I recently became aware of a new reality show to air on Oxygen called “All My Babies’ Mamas,” featuring rapper Shawty Lo and the 10 mothers of his children (no, I’m not going to call them his babies’ mamas). There is so much I could say about this show that makes my skin crawl and head hang low. Let me be frank, this show disgusts me. The idea of glamorizing (even if depicted negatively) the serious brokenness of a man who lacks self-control and of women who are all vying for his attention and care makes me want to—cry. I weep for them. I cry for the Lord to help and intervene for the sake of their souls and their children.
But what I want to address briefly is the depiction of Black women in the media. I’ve seen enough commercials and read enough headlines to know that Black women are often depicted as sexually available, combative, loud, irrational, lacking in self-control, and somebody’s baby mama. But is this the reality?
When I look at my mother who has spent the last 40 years working, serving, and caring for her children, I can’t help but wonder why reality television producers think it okay to air these tired images. And we know it’s partially our fault. We tune in, we apply for the shows, and we purchase the products that keep these channels available.
The depictions on television, though obviously true in some cases, are not the reality for many of us. The mom, who stays home to care for her children, loves her husband, and cares for her community won’t be on these shows. The mom who worked 40 hours a week, put herself through college to help provide for her family, and yet was able to put a meal on the dinner table each and every night (thank you, mom!) won’t be on the television. The mom who kneels by the bed each night to pray for her family won’t be on the television. The woman who loves her husband until death, won’t be on the television.
And that’s okay. We don’t need television to define us as Black women, but we don’t have to buy into it either.
But there’s something better, something oh-so-much better available to us. Turn off the TV and open your Bible. God is in there. God has made Himself available to us through His word and His Spirit. God’s word is living and active and transforming (Hebrews 4:12). God offers us eternal life and a relationship with Him. This is where our hope is, this is where we run.
We don’t have the power to stop the grotesque depictions on reality shows but we can affect a whole generation with the gospel. We can, like Mary, proclaim Jesus has mercy for those who fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50). We can quietly serve in our homes and in our neighborhoods and in our churches which will have eternal-lasting fruit.
There will be no fanfare on this earth, but God will get all the glory.