The Most Important Angry Black Women In Hollywood History.

Last week, the New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley praised Shonda Rhimes for taking ownership of the often demeaning “Angry Black Woman” label. “Ms. Rhimes has embraced the trite but persistent caricature of the Angry Black Woman, recast it in her own image and made it enviable,” Stanley wrote. “She has almost single-handedly trampled a taboo even Michelle Obama couldn’t break.”

Stanley’s article was an eye-opener — apparently even Rhimes herself wasn’t aware of her laudable status. “Apparently we can be ‘angry black women’ together, because I didn’t know I was one either!” Rhimes excitedly tweeted to Peter Nowalk, the show’s creator.

As fans of Rhimes’ Scandal, we were surprised that Rhimes’ might be surprised.  What are her dramas if not a showcase  bevy of  strong, assertive black ladies?  Take Cyrus Beene, for instance! And who could forget the many times in which Olivia Pope affixed her steely gaze upon her enemies, or delivered a withering read to some poor fool who stood athwart her plans?

Indeed, the Angry Black Woman has played a vital but overlooked role in American television, and it’s long past time that they got their due. Brokey McPoverty  and I decided to spotlight the most influential of these, who weren’t like those bossy, sassy, salt-of-the-earth working-class women who have been scolding and uh-uh-ing on screen ever since Esther Rolle played Florida, the maid on “Maude.” They changed the game.

Olivia Kendall, “The Cosby Show”
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Cliff Huxtable’s step-granddaughter took no shit from anybody. When Denise and her father bored her, she arranged to have them sent away to Singapore.

Dottie McStuffins, “Doc McStuffins”

Do you know how tough a black woman has to  be in order to succeed in the world of imaginary toy medicine?

Ling Woo, “Ally McBeal”

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A lot of people (understandably) felt that Lucy Liu’s icy, exotic, dragon lady character was a tired old stereotype of black women. But she upended the notions that TV audiences wouldn’t handle older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful African-American women.

Smurfette, “The Smurfs”

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Three apples high and hair laid to the gawds — all while holding down a village full of flawed brothers with a lot of potential. Respect.

Wilson the Volleyball, Cast Away
wilson gif It was supposed to be a showcase for  Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks,  but Wilson turned in a subtle, scene-stealing performance  in Cast Away. She’s Hanks’ only companion for much of the movie, at turns taciturn and argumentative. And in the movie’s most emotionally fraught scene, she subversively disproves another hoary stereotype about black women — by swimming away.

Random Midday Hotness: In Which Carlton Goes In.

You’d think Alfonso Ribeiro, who first became famous for dancing with Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial, would be too much of a ringer for “Dancing With The Stars.” This clip will do nothing to dispel that notion. Still, people said the same thing about Mya a few years ago and she eventually just missed winning the whole thing. Televised dance competition is a cruel mistress — just ask Lolo Jones.

PostBourgie: The Podcast | #23: #Ferguson.


In late August, Joel, Jamelle and Gene were all in Ferguson covering the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting for their respective jobs. In this episode, they compare notes on what they saw and heard and what, if anything, happens next.

This episode was produced by the great Channing Kennedy.

Related links:

A List Of Rules For Women.

Jay Smooth is having a hard time keeping them all straight.

Random Late Afternoon Hotness: Sandbox Spit-Game, Crazy.

You might remember  the adorable Khaliyl Iloyi from his first viral video. Now he’s back with more pre-pre-school #bars. Let it be known:  It’s time for a nap-nap for these other wack rap cats.

[h/t Veronica Miller]

What We Mean By ‘Criminal.’

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Monica has written here before about her days as investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYC agency that looks into allegations from civilians about police misconduct.

She dropped by NPR’s Code Switch — my day job — to talk about what it’s been like to watch all these videos of police officers choking people to death and stomping on their heads as they confront them for petty crimes.

But I no longer watch these videos like an investigator would; the questions that they inspire are deeper. Is there anything else we can and should do to stop jaywalkers? The Garner video also starts out minor, but after he pulls his hands back away from the officers who are trying to handcuff him, it escalates quickly, with a swarm of officers and a chokehold Garner doesn’t live through. Why was it so important to arrest him in the first place? Adding police officers to any situation is going to increase the likelihood of violence, and there’s nothing we can do to change that except reconsider the conditions under which we add police. That’s because, in any situation, we’ve given police officers extraordinary powers and wide latitude to “stop criminals,” without spending a lot of time considering what we mean by “criminals,” and how far we’re willing to go to stop them.

Random Midday Hot(m)ess: And I’m Telling You…

Ms. Lake Dardanelle, Naomi Shure, really wanted to go in here…

…but those bouncers were no joke, I guess.

The Eternal Recurrence Of “Black Pathology” Arguments.

  The Brewster-Douglas Housing Projects were built by the city of Detroit between 1935 and 1955 and were intended for the "working poor". In the 1960s and 1970s, crime in the projects became prevalent and they fell into disrepair. (via Juan N Only, CC 2.0)

The Brewster-Douglas Housing Projects were built by the city of Detroit between 1935 and 1955 and were intended for the “working poor.” In the 1960s and 1970s, crime in the projects became prevalent and they fell into disrepair. (via Juan N Only, CC 2.0)

There’s very little new in American politics, and that’s especially true in our debates over racial inequality. For example, here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley in an editorial from July 31, 2014:

People often lament the quality of black leadership in America today, but in some ways it’s a sign of progress. If blacks were still facing legitimate civil rights issues—like legal racial discrimination and voter disenfranchisement—that would attract the best and brightest of black America to the cause. But serious people like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King and others fought and won those battles a half-century ago. What we have left today as civil-rights leaders are second- and third-tier types striving for relevance in an era when the biggest barrier to black progress is no longer white racism but black anti-social behavior and counterproductive attitudes toward work, school, marriage and so forth.

And here’s conservative economist George Stigler, as quoted by Geoffrey Kabaservice in Rule and Ruin, in the December 1965 issue of New Guard, the official publication of Young Americans for Freedom:

[C]onservative economist and later Nobel Prize winner George Stigler claimed that the basic problem of the black American was that “on average he lacks a desire to improve himself, and lacks a willingness to discipline himself to this end.” The African-American male’s lack of employment owed not to discrimination but to “his own inferiority as a worker.” Residential segregation existed because “the Negro family is, on average, a loose, morally lax group, and brings with its presence a rapid rise in crime and vandalism.” Equality for African-Americans would arrive only when they imitated the virtues of an earlier generation of Jewish immigrants: “a veneration and irrepressible desire for learning; frugality; and respect for the civilization of the western world.”

It’s fine if conservatives oppose color-conscious policy. But I think it’s time for new arguments.