On July 28, 2010, WAFF-48 News broadcasted an interview with Antoine Dodson. Dodson, a man living in the projects, wearing a head scarf, and using street vernacular, energetically spoke into the camera warning the neighborhood about his sister’s close encounter with an intruder and threatening the perpetrator who had the audacity to break into his home.
This situation is what started the fame for Dodson, but he did not know it at the time. Dodson has become famous for the statement: “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo husband, because they raping everybody out here.”
Jumping ahead to earlier this year, KFOR News broadcast Sweet Brown’s interview on April 8 after her apartment complex was set on fire. Just like Dodson, Brown was from the projects, wearing a head scarf, and using street vernacular to describe what happened to her home. She has become famous for her statement: “I got bronchitis, ain’t nobody got time for that.”
But why is the media increasingly airing interviews with African Americans in this stereotypically black persona? Was it for ratings, or were the interviewees’ best interests at heart?
Sure, these videos have been used as a source of laughter from time to time, especially the musical remixes on Youtube. Since the interviews show the African American community in a negative and ghetto persona (talking loud with broken English, using dramatic hand gestures, and bobbing the head while speaking), many have asked why have these individuals have been shown in that light?
In the case of Dodson, WAFF-48 News saw nothing wrong with the interview they aired.
“Some have contacted our news room saying that interviews with people like Antoine reflects poorly on the community. I say censoring people like Antoine is far worse,” Elizabeth Gentle of WAFF-48 News said.
Dodson was not embarrassed by his interview and embraced his new-found fame.
Many of us can understand letting people express how they are feeling, but there should be a fine line between letting someone express himself and using his expressions as a comedy act. Dodson experienced a tragedy, and society has made a mockery of him expressing the emotions he felt.
In an article focusing on African American English, Cara Shousterman describes how web editor Baratunde Thurston referred to Dodson’s fame as a form of class tourism, similar to what you would view when watching an episode of Jerry Springer. Thurston believed this because Dodson’s fame and Youtube video could have diminished the severity of what happened to his household. People were laughing at Dodson, not sympathizing about what happened to his sister.
KFOR News has not responded to the public’s negative responses about the interview, but have instead helped build Brown’s popularity.
From stories covering Brown’s website to where she has made television appearances, KFOR News has shown they support the way the interview came across to the public. They have even gone as far as posting their favorite Youtube remixes of Brown’s interview on their website. Brown now accepts the parody of her interview and the fame that goes hand in hand with it.
Brown, however, did not respond the same way as Dodson did when she first saw her interview air. At first, she was embarrassed.
“I’ve been shown [the video], but I don’t like looking at it because I don’t like looking at myself like that because I look like a joke and I was really serious!” Brown told KFOR News.
Both media outlets viewed the interviews as freedom of expression for the individuals, without censorship, whereas the public has mixed emotions: some find the interviews comedic and some find them offensive.
Since the media views it as a freedom of expression, is this what we can expect in the future for African American interviews? I sure hope not. This illustrates a false persona of the African American population. I am an African American, and I can honestly tell you that this is not how all African Americans act.
What we see in Dodson’s and Brown’s interviews is the personality of some of the people of this ethnicity, not all. Seeing the media highlight the negative aspects of an ethnicity is disappointing. What was intended to be a freedom of expression seems to have turned into a fiasco of obtaining higher ratings.
The last time I checked, mocking a group of people was not newsworthy.