On Mary J Blige’s “Controversial” Burger King Commercial and “Our” Oppression: Have A Seat.
My best friend called me the other day and we chatted for a good while; and just as we were getting off the phone he freaked that he’d not remembered to tell me about something.
“Oh my God, Jarrett. I’m pulling a yellow friend card, you have to stop what you’re doing and go watch this commercial right now.”
The pulling of a yellow friend card, the second only to a red friend card, told me that this must be serious. You only pull a card when it’s big, and you must warn the friend ahead of time. It’s the rule.
He told me to look up “Mary J. Blige Burger King commercial.” My skepticism now had a first name.
I stopped washing dishes, popped open my laptop and found Mary and Burger King’s slap in the face to the black community and the years of progress we’ve made in this country.
By the time the BK logo had surfaced I was an amalgam of enraged, offended, and maybe just a little bit hungry to try the new BK Snack Wrap.
Well… when I say “enraged,” I really mean “indifferent.” And when I say “offended” I mean, “I didn’t give two broke and busted f-words.”
The commercial, at it’s VERY BEST, is mildly entertaining. Mildly. But offensive? Are we (black people) kidding? This commercial is about as offensive as… I don’t know… something not-so offensive.
I was then taken aback by the coverage of ruffled feathers from the black community: Burger King pulling the ad from the airwaves, even Mary J. Blige having to come out and say something.
To be honest, I still am taken by it. Some will undoubtedly call my perspective on this pure naiveté, which is fine with me, but I’m still missing the issue.
If she were singing in black face, tap dancing in a bow tie, with a greasy grin and wearing a red polka-dotted head scarf, in her best Louis Armstrong voice … then MAYBE I could see some people having something to say.
But being enraged over MJB singing about “crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses, fresh dressing, wrapped up in a tasty flour tortilla!?”
Girl. Get your money.
To be clear, I’m completely aware of the racial climate we live in. In a day where a black 17 year-old male can be shot and killed, and his attacker be more than a month removed from the incident and not near being brought to justice. With things like that in mind, there are definitely conversations about race that we need to be having.
When candidates for the highest office in the land talk about a “welfare president” and not wanting to give black people money, but give them jobs, as if black people are the exclusive beneficiaries of the assistance, there are some things that we need to be called into question.
When BET… never-mind.
Yes. We should be honest with ourselves that there are people with ideals that are not consistent with progress for everyone, us included.
Yes, we should own that as black people (or as women, or as members of the LGBT community, or any other underserved minority group) there are odds that are not always stacked in our favor; but focusing the bulk of our energy right there is not healthy.
Focusing just a little bit more on what makes us great, what deems us credible, what has always made us worthy, and moving forward with life seems to me a far more prudent avenue to travel.
We’ve all got to get over our comfortable attachment to our oppression. I’m sorry, we are all far to settled into being the underdog, preaching about our inopportune lineage, our history of being held back, up, and down; our skin tone’s inherent smack down of judgment and doom.
Many of us just recently heard Iyanla Vanzant on Oprah’s Lifeclass: the Tour on OWN talk about stopping our pain and, more importantly, getting rid of our addiction to our stories.
We so love to talk about how oppressed we are, that we will find any opportunity to feel put down by “the man.”
We’re like emotional cutters in that way. We begin to rely on our story of how we haven’t gotten over to justify our complacence with the status quo in our lives.
As black people, we were once property, then niggers, colored, negroes, black, now African-American.
Today one of us calls the world’s most well-known address his home.
The residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is occupied by a black man and his beautiful family. He is President.
And while his occupation of the office doesn’t mean that race is no longer an issue in this country – many of us argue it’s actually brought it to the surface more than ever – it is a glimmer of hope for what one of us can do, liberating us to aspire to greater heights for ourselves.
Obviously the president is an outlier, an exception to the common rule and I’m not asking us to go become president but I am asking us to observe what was possible for him and begin changing the way we look at and think about ourselves, and our propensity to prosper.
HOW I GOT HERE, TO THIS FEELING
Years ago I was in a discussion group with peers and the discussion turned to interviewing for jobs. Someone said something that struck me, having never heard the perspective before:
“When I walk into an interview, I already know I’m not going to get the job because I’m black.”
Call me sheltered, naïve, or simply ignorant, but until that moment I had never heard a perspective such as his.
I was so troubled, but I’d not anticipated that many other young black men in the group that would concur with the sentiment of the aforementioned gentlemen.
I’ve never, not a single time, walked into an interview or audition and anticipated not getting the job. Especially not because I was black.
I’m certainly not a person that comes from a privileged background. I wasn’t raised with a whole lot of anything.
God knows there were many people that lived far “better” and easier. But somehow our lives had shown us such starkly different opportunities to be treated one way or another.
Now, I’ve always walked into an interview pretty eager. I’m always confident in my capabilities, my resume, my ability to interview.
I don’t think I can ever recall a single time that I walked into an interview and even thought about the fact that I was black and that it would be a detrimental factor that I’d no real opportunity to influence.
Even today, years later, I still don’t walk into an interview worried that my skin will be my downfall.
I have, in recent years, taken more note of my standing out in a room where I may be one of very few people of color, if not the sole representative for the community.
But I don’t think “Damn, I guess I’m screwed,” I tend to think “I need to represent myself the very best I can.”
But for many of my brothers (and sisters, for that matter) in the community they’ve been mistreated, conditioned, and or beaten down by their skin’s hue, seemingly much more than I have.
I’m sure that experience influences one’s outlook when it comes to advancement, be it professionally, socially, or in many other paths of life.
Wiki defines the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy as: “…a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”
After contemplating my generally positive disposition and some of my peers’ outlooks, I have to start to think about what responsibility we have for our success versus external oppression-based failure?
I get it. “The Man” has been busy at work trying to make sure that we (in whatever instance “we” is apropos) can’t make it in this country or the world, has oppressed us since before we had a chance to do anything about it. But how do WE contribute? What do WE do to perpetuate self-oppression?
There has to be some correlation between our relationship with our oppression and the comfortability and complacence in mediocrity that would allow us to say “I don’t have to work hard to do anything if I can stay held down & keep talking about being oppressed. I can sit here and amount to anything, because it’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Going forward, if the intention of something we see is laced with malice, hate, and ignorance, let’s rise up; pull our red friend cards, and take our pitchforks to the light-up menus of our local fast-food chains.
Let’s be outraged, enraged, downright free-range mad.
But when the intention is Mary J. Blige and Burger King hoping to get you to bob your head, enjoy a commercial, and go buy something McDonald’s came up with three years ago, please, just take it in stride, have a breath, and move forward.
Hey, but what do I know…?
Written By: Jarrett Hill
Contributing Editor for Gossip On This
Follow Jarrett on Twitter: @JarrettHill