How great of a threat is a Southern rapper to the state of the Black family, when his biggest contribution to pop culture thus far has been being part of a group that gave us a catchy dance song named after candy almost seven years ago?
According to Oxygen, “All My Babies’ Mamas (pictured),” which stars rapper Shawty Lo, his 11 children, and the 10 women he created them with, is a one-hour special chronicling ”every second of the drama-filled lives surrounding a unique ‘modern’ family unit, as they navigate their financially and emotionally connected lives.”
I imagine the fledgling network still excited with even half a million viewers has bigger plans than for this project than a one-off special, but there are a growing number of people hoping to stop “All My Babies’ Mamas” from even getting to that point.
Many who have watched the 10-minute clip that served as a pilot for the special are demanding its cancellation. The most popular petition was launched by Sabrina Lamb and has thus far amassed more than 4,500 signatures.
In an open letter directed at Oxygen development execs, Lamb writes:
By pushing these degrading images, your company seeks to profit from the humiliation of girls and women and the blatant stereotyping of African Americans. We think Oxygen and the show’s creators and producers have gone too far and if this show is aired, we will, without hesitation, boycott any and all companies that advertise during this minstrel show.
Although I wouldn’t want to be a branch on Shawty Lo’s family tree either, I find it a bit grating to see other Blacks be so quick to dismiss their own as a “minstrel show.” Even if dramatized for the sake of creating a narrative for a show, these are actual people leading relatively the same lives on and off camera.
They are not Stepin Fetchit, and it’s insulting to consistently immediately pass them, and other Black reality stars displaying less than pristine images on camera, as such. For anyone who professes to be that concerned about the children featured on the show, don’t dismiss their parents or their own existence so harshly.
I tend to be more concerned about balancing our imagery versus policing it, and in this instance, there are plenty out there to counter whatever Shawty Lo will offer.
The most-famous father in the country is President Barack Obama, and I’m almost certain that reruns of “The Cosby Show” will generate higher ratings than “All My Babies’ Mamas.“
A few years ago there was the E! reality series “Snoop Dogg: Father Hood,” which showed the rapper as a hands-on Dad who even took the time to coach his children’s sports teams. A more contemporary alternative is “T.I. and Tiny: A Family Hustle,” a VH1 reality series that also features a family consisting of children with multiple parents. We’ve seen numerous other rappers prove themselves to be responsible, loving fathers, too, i.e., Will Smith, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Ludacris, Ice-T, Big Boi, Bun B, and so forth.
I share concerns with those who noticed that many of the women the 36-year-old Shawty Lo has procreated with are young — possibly too young under the law when the sexual act happened. That said, call SUV and Chris Hansen. A signature can only do so much in that regard. The same can be said of concerns about unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases in our community.
So as much as I understand how frustrating the state of Black entertainment can be at times, and as sympathetic as I try to be with those who want to lend their voices to the varying problems that exists in media, when I see these Shawty Lo protests, all I can wonder is how much power should we keep giving basic cable programming?
The end of “All My Babies’ Mamas” won’t stop those like Shawty Lo from being featured on “Maury,” fictionalized in urban literature, or for that matter, spotted on any random street. The spectacle of it all might be an eye sore, but sweeping it away isn’t substantive change. I don’t see how the cancellation of “All My Babies’ Mamas” will do anything to fight the troubles related to unprotected sex than the banning of video games will curb rampant gun violence.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick