Friday, May 14, 2010

31 and Pregnant.

Today, I want to talk about 16 and Pregnant. Yes, I am a little late since the show had its season finale a few weeks ago. Luckily for all of us, what I have to say is not really time sensitive--issues relating to race and inequality rarely are. These things seem to go in cycles. So, even if I don't comment on the most recent thing, all we have to do is wait a few weeks/months/years and the same issues will come up again, with just a few of the details changed. Not to mention, what's the harm in commenting on something that happened a long time ago, particularly when there is rarely any sort of resolution to the situation ( Henry Louis Gates, anyone?).

Okay, I am getting off on a tangent. For those of you that don't know, 16 and Pregnant is a documentary/reality-ish series on Mtv that follows a different girl each week who is 16 and pregnant. The second season just wrapped, and I have to give the network props for making what I saw as some very important changes this time around.

In the first season, almost every girl they featured had a loving, supportive boyfriend who stuck around after the baby was born. This season...not so much. We had a guy who loved to tell everyone how the people at Mcdonald's told him he was "overqualified," another guy who texted his ex wanting to know where he needed to go to sign away the rights to his "mistake," and yet another guy who repeatedly told the mother of his child not to call him unless it was to talk about the baby. Hopefully seeing these less than stellar outcomes will make girls think twice about getting knocked up in an effort to keep a guy in their lives.

MTV also made a point in every episode to have a scene where each girl talks about what her birth control situation was at the time that she got pregnant. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the girls were not using any sort of birth control when they conceived their kids.

This is really just mind boggling to me. It's like, "You realize you are in freaking high school and taking a huge risk with your future (not to mention your physical and emotional health,) Would it not maybe be a good idea to try to be responsible and take some precautions? And if you're not mature enough to go into your local Planned Parenthood and get some free birth control pills, or stop by the nearest Kwik-e-mart to pick up some condoms (or preferably both,) maybe your easily embarrassed ass is too immature to be having sex."

Okay, I'm getting off on another tangent. The reason I wanted to talk about this show is because the last episode of the season featured a girl named Kailyn. Kailyn was pregnant and living with her boyfriend and his parents because (for some unknown reason,) her mother was living in a hotel with a boyfriend of her own. As a viewer, I was left with the impression that Kaylin's mother wasn't the most stable of mothers and hadn't really given Kaylin a lot of guidance and direction in her life. Kaylin never had a relationship with her father, and so her boyfriend's parents were nice enough to let her live with them, for what seemed like an indefinite period.

What was interesting about this episode is that Kaylin and her parents were white, and her boyfriend and his parents were not white. I don't think they were black, but I can't really pinpoint what race/ethnicity they were. Here is a picture of her boyfriend's mom and the baby:

If I had to guess, I would their say their ancestors came from one of the Pacific Islands. But for the purposes of this post, the most important thing is that they were not white.

Why is this important, you ask? It's important because we rarely see examples in the mainstream media of people of color helping out white people. Can you think of any movies, tv shows, news stories, etc. where a person of color is reaching out to help a white person down on his luck?

I'll wait...

Now flip that: how many examples can you think of where a white person helps the sad, pitiful person of color? The movie The Blind Side is probably the most recent example. I have to say, I haven't seen this movie. But all the white people I know who have loooved it. Like, "I loved this movie so much, I am going to tell people who don't even ask me that they should go see it."

Diff'rent Strokes is another example, and there are many more. In fact, there are so many that there are even names for it: the white knight/white savior phenomenon. If you want to read more about it, just google "the blind side" and one of those terms and you'll get a lot of articles to choose from.

Now, I am not here to criticize the white family that took in that black football player, nor Mr. Drummond for housing, feeding and loving Willis and that adorable scamp Arnold. I am willing to bet both the real family and the fictional family had very good intentions when they did what they did.

What I am here to do is ask several questions. One, what do you think is the psychological impact for a person of color consistently seeing people who look like him never as the helper, but always as the helpee?

On the flip side of that, what is the psychological impact for a white person of always being represented as the helper? Or, if he is represented as the helpee, being helped only by people who look like him?

Also, why do we see so many representations like The Blind Side and so few like 16 and Pregnant? Some would chalk it up to the racist/racish media. I think that is part of it, but not the whole story.

I think the explanation is this: There are many more white people in the economic position to help black people than there are black people to help white people. And most black people who are in an economic position to help somebody are going to choose to help other black people (sorry, poor white people--them's the breaks.)

So those are the two most important questions we should be asking ourselves, imnsho.

Why are most of the people with the spare bedrooms and gently used clothes and non-working vehicles that can be donated for a tax write-off white?

And why do many the people of color who find themselves in a similar situation feel compelled to give that extra stuff to people who are the same color as them?

I have my ideas, but of course I want to hear yours. Leave me some comments.

P.S. Like my title alluded to, I'm pregnant. Baby is a boy and due in August. I'll write more about that later (:


  1. Congratulations on your pregnancy! :)

    I hated The Blind Side. It was yet another White Man Savior movie a la Gran Torino and Dances With Wolves. Worse yet, the production quality was little better than that of a Lifetime made-for-TV "film."

    And, yes, all the people I know who enjoyed the movie are white.

  2. Anonymous3:17 PM

    Interesting thoughts, myblackfriend.

    One book that came to mind that has black people helping a white girl is The Secret Life of Bees. Great book.

    I agree that we need more stories that mix up the stereotypical roles. It's not healthy for anyone to always see themselves as the giver or receiver of help. We should all be both.

  3. My brain hurts from your challenge. I did come up with just one. "To Sir with Love" where a black teacher grooms his unruly white students to be successful, caring humans. But it was a major brain strain to come up with just that one. There are a lot more "Freedom Writers" movies to "To Sir with Love" films. So I am a white person who hates/d "Blind Side" (along with Freedom Writers, Dangerous Minds...). I fought seeing "Blind Side", but was convinced to see it by two brown people I love. I wanted to scream at the screen and storm out of the theater when the story had the white person teach the brown person how to tackle. Really? A little over the top and not accurate according to the real guy. Why do film makers have to lie like that? Why do these repeated stories sell so well..over and over again? And why did Sandra B win an Academy Award???? Which brings me to the movies chosen for Academy Awards this year...a lot of white saviors huh...even saving the blue people. sigh.


    I'm sorry, did you ask a question? Baby baby baby!

  5. Anonymous9:01 PM

    Also, Lionel Ritchie adopted Nicole Ritchie.

    You're right, it's hard to think of them!


  6. so - i remembered reading this and now i'm coming back to it because i just read people magazine's interview with the family that took oher in.

    also, while i'm here - @jd - nicole ritchie is actually a mixed poc despite being extraordinarily white - - she is white, black and puerto rican i think.

    so i wrote a lengthy response but maybe i should just suggest that you read it instead of trying to interpret what it said based on my thoughts on it. if you don't feel like buying people (i only get it cuz my mother gives it to me) i'd be happy to scan it and email it to you.