I really wasn’t trying to get into this new show, “Empire,” but I must admit, that show is delightfully delicious—like a banana split on a Wednesday night! My gawd! How can you not like this show? And who would dare call this show a “coon-fest?” “Empire” has received rave & riveting reviews, but you know us’s (black folk)—the smart black people who think critically have come out swinging for the fences at this show, upending critique into hateration.
As a pseudo-scholar myself, I love critiquing black aesthetics—cultural bullshit and the sacred (religion). My favorite show is "Love & Hip-Hop." The new show—“Empire” has some black people and more specifically, black thinkers like Dr. Boyce Watkins all up in a tizzy! He wrote a piece called, “Why I Won’t support the Coonery of ‘Empire’.” In classic-black-afrocentric-scholastic-academia-snubbing, he took us down that same ol’ road—how white folks and the world view black people and how these images give license to ig-nant white people to be hostile towards blacks, creating the conditions for Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin (Good excuse now, but what about how white folk did us dirty prior to Negroes being on the world-stage—TV?) He said, “Like animals in the zoo, the world loves to observe black people at our most ratchet, because ignorant negroes are simply fun to watch.” (Somebody tell Dr. Watkins that “Negroes” is not a lowercase word. Capitalize that bitch Negro!)
So here we go with the black-academic-bourgeoisie (pronounced boos-shwa-zee) name-calling us’s who like “Empire”—“ignorant Negroes.” Boyce reminds me of those ig-nant kids who used to pick on the kids who rode on the short yellow (or blue) bus to school, an academic bully of sorts! Yes, some of them are retarded or a little “touched,” but they are people, somebody’s chirr’ren!
Indeed, black people are colorful and the whole world wants some of our swagger & steez! The world wants to emulate our athletes, rappers, actors, our ghetto ways—err’thang! They even want our Black President! Black people are at an all-time high in the minds and hearts of the world, but Dr. Watkins and his kind think that Dr. King and the ancestors had not this in mind. With a certainty, Boyce claims to know the minds of Dr. King and the ancestors, writing, “[their vision] had nothing to do with the crap we’re seeing in modern America media.” I'm pretty sure that the slaves ancestors had NO CONCEPT of MEDIA (TV) and I'm sure Dr. King watched Step-N-Fetchit, "Gone With the Wind," Moms Mabley and all those other ignorant bug-eyed black characters in movies.
Their vision prolly had nothing to do with those “Blaxploitation” movies of the 70’s either—“The Mack,” “Shaft,” “Superfly,” “JD’s Revenge,” “Cleopatra Jones,” “Three The Hard Way,” “Dolomite,” “Hell Up In Harlem,” “Coffy,” etcetera, etcetera—which made a coming-of-age teenager like myself proud to be black! Not nann at anytime did these movies make me wanna grow up to become a drug dealer or a pimp! I was proud to see images of black people on the silver screen that I could relate to—images that no matter how depraved and decadent—they brought some redeeming qualities and in some cases “took it to the man” (got back at whitey). Similarly, for this hip-hop generation, a show like “Empire” speaks to that genre and aesthetic.
Black academia spends too much time worrying about how white folk view us! Though it may be their job to take us to task, they come off as worrisome and bullying to say the least. Black people are not just “ratchet” and white people know this! We in da White House and da Trap House! We are multidimensional and multi-layered and multi-complexed (Is that a word?)
“Empire” is about one smidgen of black life—the hip-hop industry and all of its f**kery, but to say this is “cooning” is silly. From “Empire” young people will see black people—not just as rappers and singers, but as C.E.O.s, businessmen and women, make-up artists, Public Relation Specialists, etc. “Empire,” unlike any show thus far, explores the complex nature of homosexuality in the (black) family, which Dr. Watkins and some others consider the emasculation of the black man—and what I consider more of that same ol’ homophobia masquerading as afrocentric thinking.
It is the black academic Bourgeoisie’s worst nightmare—black folk baring our souls before the world—exhibiting our dirty laundry—being “ratchet.” I give no fucks what white people think about black people—any—more than what the Italians think about being depicted in “Godfather” (I & II, fuck III), arguably two of the greatest cinematic masterpieces ever conceived! For God sakes! This is entertainment!
I may be one of those “negroes” Dr. Boyce Watkins was referring to for liking “Empire”—but at least I know that “Negroes” is spelt with a capital “N” and I don't even have a Ph.D.! Bye!
Khalil Amani writes for Allhiphop.com, DJ Kay Slay’s Originators & Straight Stuntin Magazines. He’s been featured in L.A. Times, Spin Magazine, DaveyD.com, The Biography Channel. Author of six books, including the groundbreaking “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” (iuniverse.com ’07). Follow on IG @khalil_amani, Facebook, Twitter @khalilamani.