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The Oxygen channel hits an all-time low with Shawty Lo
by Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange.org
Atlanta-based rapper Shawty Lo has 11 children by ten women, a girlfriend the same age as his oldest daughters, and — if Oxygen Media executives have their way — a provocative new reality show that they hope women of color will flock to this spring.
According to Oxygen’s parent company NBC Universal, the show — tentatively titled All My Babies’ Mamas — will chronicle Shawty Lo’s attempts to “split his affection multiple ways while trying to create order” in navigating the “dysfunction” of his “drama-filled,” “unique ‘modern’ family.”1
Leaked online footage from the pilot showing Shawty Lo struggling to name his children — and one mother rebranding each woman with nicknames like “Fighter Baby Mama,” “Shady Baby Mama,” “Baby Mama from Hell” and “Wanna-Be-Bougie Baby Mama” — drew immediate criticism from Black people across the country.2 Despite the backlash, network executives remain intent on moving forward with the reality project.
Join us in calling on Oxygen Media and its advertisers to put an end to this dehumanizing reality show. Media corporations have built a profit model around pushing increasingly inflammatory images of Black folks, our families and communities.3 By taking action today, you can help us prevent All My Babies’ Mamas from gaining traction before it even airs — and send a powerful message to the broader entertainment industry that we deserve better.
When Oprah Winfrey and former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne launched the Oxygen cable network in 2000, “the company [aspired] to be a strong advocate for women.” But since its purchase by NBC Universal in 2007, Oxygen has steadily increased its stable of cheaply-produced reality television programming that exploits women, children and now Shawty Lo’s “unconventional” family.5,6
We already know that only a narrow range of Black characters or personalities ever makes it onto America’s television screens. When combined with the overwhelmingly negative representations of Black Americans we see on the daily news, shows like All My Babies’ Mamas reinforce ugly stereotypes about Black men and women — that we’re hypersexual, combative and unfit to parent our children.7,8 In addition to reducing self-esteem, a number of studies confirm that these distorted portrayals can lead non-Black audiences to hold onto problematic perceptions of Black folks that have dangerous real-world consequences: Black people experience “less attention from doctors, harsher sentencing by judges, lower likelihood of being hired or admitted to school, lower odds of getting loans, and a higher likelihood of being shot by police.”9
ColorOfChange has a long track record of holding corporations and media figures accountable for race-baiting speech and for trafficking in harmful racial stereotypes. Today it’s critical that we begin a broader conversation about the demonstrated impact of dehumanizing media portrayals in our everyday lives. The creators of All My Babies’ Mamas claim that their show is “daring.” But Oxygen has shown that its decision to invest in and promote inaccurate and harmful perceptions of Black families is business as usual — and it has to stop.
Once outrageous reality shows like All My Babies’ Mamas find a devoted audience, it can be difficult to demand better programming. Please take action today: join us in urging Oxygen and its advertisers to cancel All My Babies’ Mamas.
Thanks and Peace,
–Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Charlene, Kim, Fanna and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team January 11th, 2013
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