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John H

'FOR COLORED GIRLS' AND THE IMAGE OF BLACK MEN

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“Character assassination on a massive scale”, “sick cartoons”, those are some of the terms used by blog critics to describe Tyler Perry’s portrayal black men in FOR COLORED GIRLS. The same kinds of comments were made when the orginal opened on the stage years ago. My advice as a black man to other black men is, “lighten up”. The FOR COLORED GIRLS stories are about relationships and are told from the perspective of women. Any set of stories about relationships told from the perspective of women, whether they be Hispanic women, oriental women, Jewish women, or whatever, are going to present men in a problematic light. It’s inherent in the endeavor. The thing to do is not get up-tight about it. A better approach is to try to distill out the core of truth that may be present in one or another of the FOR COLORED GIRL stories in an effort to better understand the relationship one is in.

-----As I discuss in my recent book FACES IN THE MIRROR: OSCAR MICHEAUX AND SPIKE LEE, it is understandable that black men are sensitive about how they are portrayed on the screen given they have often been mocked and demeaned (think Stepin Fetchit, Willie Best, and Mantan Moreland.) But a FOR COLORED GIRLS is really about conversations couples might begin if it makes sense in terms of where they are in their relationship. And of they are at a place both are happy with then it's just another movie they discuss over a pizza after the show.

Johnh

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“Character assassination on a massive scale”, “sick cartoons”, those are some of the terms used by blog critics to describe Tyler Perry’s portrayal black men in FOR COLORED GIRLS. The same kinds of comments were made when the orginal opened on the stage years ago. My advice as a black man to other black men is, “lighten up”. The FOR COLORED GIRLS stories are about relationships and are told from the perspective of women. Any set of stories about relationships told from the perspective of women, whether they be Hispanic women, oriental women, Jewish women, or whatever, are going to present men in a problematic light. It’s inherent in the endeavor. The thing to do is not get up-tight about it. A better approach is to try to distill out the core of truth that may be present in one or another of the FOR COLORED GIRL stories in an effort to better understand the relationship one is in.

-----As I discuss in my recent book FACES IN THE MIRROR: OSCAR MICHEAUX AND SPIKE LEE, it is understandable that black men are sensitive about how they are portrayed on the screen given they have often been mocked and demeaned (think Stepin Fetchit, Willie Best, and Mantan Moreland.) But a FOR COLORED GIRLS is really about conversations couples might begin if it makes sense in terms of where they are in their relationship. And of they are at a place both are happy with then it's just another movie they discuss over a pizza after the show.

Johnh

Thank you for saying the same thing I have been saying...sort of..you added depth.

LiLi

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But it's all about whose ox is being gored, isn't it?

Even now, we get all these shrill squeals when somebody brings up all the misogyny in rap (they never seem to care about it in Country Music, Rock or Arnold Shwartzenegger movies, but I guess that is another conversation).

I wonder where all the voices of reason and mercy are when we talk about that?

"But that's different" say the voices.

Some people think it ain't.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. We all need to respect each other's opinions and not tell somebody to go have a pizza.

I'd like to tell Tyler Perry what he can do with that pizza, allright.

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But it's all about whose ox is being gored, isn't it?

Even now, we get all these shrill squeals when somebody brings up all the misogyny in rap (they never seem to care about it in Country Music, Rock or Arnold Shwartzenegger movies, but I guess that is another conversation).

I wonder where all the voices of reason and mercy are when we talk about that?

"But that's different" say the voices.

Some people think it ain't.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. We all need to respect each other's opinions and not tell somebody to go have a pizza.

I'd like to tell Tyler Perry what he can do with that pizza, allright.

Chrishayden: In my opinion misogyny is bad no matter where it raises it's ugly head. But mysoginy relative to black women is different than the misogyny that might show up in County and Western music or Schwarzenegger movies because slander of black women historically in so many different ways, in so many different media, has been one of racism's props. Whatever misogyny there is or has been in C and W music, blue-eyed, blonds have not been dealt with by the society the way that black women have. Hence, it is particular hurtful and bad if black rappers play racism's game by joining in the slander of black women. That said, it does not mean that there can be no play, movie or novel by black writers that confronts and explores tensions that might exist in relationships. My comments about FOR COLORED GIRLS suggested looking at in that light, and if it both members of a couple feel that they are in a good place in their relation then, for them, it's just a movie they'll probably enjoy talking about over an after show pizza.

JohnH

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Chrishayden: In my opinion misogyny is bad no matter where it raises it's ugly head. But mysoginy relative to black women is different than the misogyny that might show up in County and Western music or Schwarzenegger movies because slander of black women historically in so many different ways, in so many different media, has been one of racism's props. Whatever misogyny there is or has been in C and W music, blue-eyed, blonds have not been dealt with by the society the way that black women have. Hence, it is particular hurtful and bad if black rappers play racism's game by joining in the slander of black women.

(How can you separate out misogyny against black women from misogyny against women? Like a misogynist is going to slander white women and then treat black women like queens? No, if he's going to treat his woman like a dog he's going to treat ours like dogsh*t.

There are some who say that the freest people in this society have been white men and black women, with white women and black men following in that order. . I don't hold to that myself, of course.)

That said, it does not mean that there can be no play, movie or novel by black writers that confronts and explores tensions that might exist in relationships. My comments about FOR COLORED GIRLS suggested looking at in that light, and if it both members of a couple feel that they are in a good place in their relation then, for them, it's just a movie they'll probably enjoy talking about over an after show pizza.

JohnH

(They'll probably wind up yelling at each other and stalking off in opposite directions--as should happen if people are getting it off their chests.

I finally met a black woman who doesn't like Madea.

She's also the only black person I have met who thinks Michael Jackson was a pedophile)

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Chrishayden: In my opinion misogyny is bad no matter where it raises it's ugly head. But mysoginy relative to black women is different than the misogyny that might show up in County and Western music or Schwarzenegger movies because slander of black women historically in so many different ways, in so many different media, has been one of racism's props. Whatever misogyny there is or has been in C and W music, blue-eyed, blonds have not been dealt with by the society the way that black women have. Hence, it is particular hurtful and bad if black rappers play racism's game by joining in the slander of black women.

(How can you separate out misogyny against black women from misogyny against women? Like a misogynist is going to slander white women and then treat black women like queens? No, if he's going to treat his woman like a dog he's going to treat ours like dogsh*t.

There are some who say that the freest people in this society have been white men and black women, with white women and black men following in that order. . I don't hold to that myself, of course.)

Chrishayden:

You ask:"How can you separate out mysogyny against black women from mysogyny against women?" It's easy. By any measure, by any yard stick, by any metric one cares to apply, black women have been and still are dealt with much more harshly, with more contempt and disdain in this society than white women. If anyone has evidence to the contrary I would like them to present it.

But in any event, my initial comments were about criticims of FOR COLORED GIRLS for presenting negative images of black males, and I would reinterate my initial observation: Any film telling stories of relationships from the standpoint of women is going to present many of the men in those relationships in critical terms. The thing for men to do is not get uptight about it, but ask if there is anything they can learn about how things look from the standpoint of the women.

That said, it does not mean that there can be no play, movie or novel by black writers that confronts and explores tensions that might exist in relationships. My comments about FOR COLORED GIRLS suggested looking at in that light, and if it both members of a couple feel that they are in a good place in their relation then, for them, it's just a movie they'll probably enjoy talking about over an after show pizza.

JohnH

(They'll probably wind up yelling at each other and stalking off in opposite directions--as should happen if people are getting it off their chests.

I finally met a black woman who doesn't like Madea.

She's also the only black person I have met who thinks Michael Jackson was a pedophile)

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Chrishayden: In my opinion misogyny is bad no matter where it raises it's ugly head. But mysoginy relative to black women is different than the misogyny that might show up in County and Western music or Schwarzenegger movies because slander of black women historically in so many different ways, in so many different media, has been one of racism's props. Whatever misogyny there is or has been in C and W music, blue-eyed, blonds have not been dealt with by the society the way that black women have. Hence, it is particular hurtful and bad if black rappers play racism's game by joining in the slander of black women.

(How can you separate out misogyny against black women from misogyny against women? Like a misogynist is going to slander white women and then treat black women like queens? No, if he's going to treat his woman like a dog he's going to treat ours like dogsh*t.

There are some who say that the freest people in this society have been white men and black women, with white women and black men following in that order. . I don't hold to that myself, of course.)

That said, it does not mean that there can be no play, movie or novel by black writers that confronts and explores tensions that might exist in relationships. My comments about FOR COLORED GIRLS suggested looking at in that light, and if it both members of a couple feel that they are in a good place in their relation then, for them, it's just a movie they'll probably enjoy talking about over an after show pizza.

JohnH

(They'll probably wind up yelling at each other and stalking off in opposite directions--as should happen if people are getting it off their chests.

I finally met a black woman who doesn't like Madea.

She's also the only black person I have met who thinks Michael Jackson was a pedophile)

Chrishayden:

You ask:"How can you separate out mysogyny against black women from mysogyny against women?" It's easy. By any measure, by any yard stick, by any metric one cares to apply, black women have been and still are dealt with much more harshly, with more contempt and disdain in this society than white women. If anyone has evidence to the contrary I would like them to present it.

But in any event, my initial comments were about criticims of FOR COLORED GIRLS for presenting negative images of black males, and I would reinterate my initial observation: Any film telling stories of relationships from the standpoint of women is going to present many of the men in those relationships in critical terms. The thing for men to do is not get uptight about it, but ask if there is anything they can learn about how things look from the standpoint of the women.

JohnH

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John H, considering Tyler Perry is not a woman and the bulk of the film For Colored Girls is Perry's own work; I find your comment: "...is anything they can learn about how things look from the standpoint of the women.", interesting.

I agree, most of the men griping about this particular flick need to take a chill pill.

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John H, considering Tyler Perry is not a woman and the bulk of the film For Colored Girls is Perry's own work; I find your comment: "...is anything they can learn about how things look from the standpoint of the women.", interesting.

I agree, most of the men griping about this particular flick need to take a chill pill.

Ntozake Shange’s choreo/play FOR COLORED GIRLS, on which the film is based, views the world from the perspective of a group of black women. If Perry had changed that in bringing the play to the screen he would truly have done damage to a great work. Of course, the film presents the world from the perspective of those women. What else would one have expected Perry to do? The major female characters (with a couple of exceptions) are those that were in the choreo/play, the dialogue they speak at critical moments in their sagas is taken from the choreo/play, many of the crises that are fleshed out in the film were alluded to by the women in the oochoreo/play. The film is an adaptation of the stage work rather than a literal rendering of it, as is any film based on a play.

JohnH

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Ntozake Shange’s choreo/play FOR COLORED GIRLS, on which the film is based, views the world from the perspective of a group of black women. If Perry had changed that in bringing the play to the screen he would truly have done damage to a great work. Of course, the film presents the world from the perspective of those women. What else would one have expected Perry to do? The major female characters (with a couple of exceptions) are those that were in the choreo/play, the dialogue they speak at critical moments in their sagas is taken from the choreo/play, many of the crises that are fleshed out in the film were alluded to by the women in the oochoreo/play. The film is an adaptation of the stage work rather than a literal rendering of it, as is any film based on a play.

JohnH

And there you have it

LiLi

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John H, considering Tyler Perry is not a woman and the bulk of the film For Colored Girls is Perry's own work; I find your comment: "...is anything they can learn about how things look from the standpoint of the women.", interesting.

(DIG IT!)

I agree, most of the men griping about this particular flick need to take a chill pill.

(I respectfully disagree)

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We reap what we sow. Let me tell you a few things about Mr. Perry's artistry.

I read an article on this man in Oprah magazine recently and came away impressed with him as a director, but after seeing his recent movie I had this question...why does Mr. Perry insist on depicting black males one sided in a negative light most of the time? Hold on y'all, I'm going somewhere with this...

Now, I've been a fan of Tyler ever since the very first play that I saw. I can see why Spike Lee was pissed off in the press and had harsh words for him. At first, I thought Spike may have been suffering from the same disease that Lil' Kim is suffering from now in light of Nicki Minaj's emergence as a threat in that game to be highly successful and bury Kim in the past. We know Spike was a legend in his sport with his movies such as School Daze, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, etc. But, keeping it real Tyler's the main man in black Hollywood now and Spike is a person who has already been there done that and made a helluva lot of money, too. With that said, Spike also never had to shoot black men in the majority of his films the way Tyler has chosen to shoot them in his films to shine and tell an accurate and entertaining story to his audiences. It begs us male viewers to ask, "Tyler, where's the love?" Russell Crowe broke his wife out of jail. Josh Duhamel was an accidental, but responsible father in his movie. How come all of the black men in most films just beat the same rug of a stereotype? With no recourse of showing males HOW to cope with rough circumstances to overcome. Oh, but excuse me that may not fill the seats in the theater and scorch the box office. Forgive me for my modest ambitions, but allow me to continue.

We have listened to women in the R&B world such as legendary Mary J. Blige and her understudy Keyshia Cole rise to fame doing the same thing as far as content to sell to commercial public. The crooning songs of women who live out those songs of pain and heartbreak and tragedy in their real lives that these artists turn around and make platinum records out of and are regarded as heroes to those particular women do it for two reasons: 1. It's profitable 2. There will always be a base of women who will go through the things that make those songs relative to begin with. Sad, but true. Fellas who may hate to hear Jazmin Sullivan sing about "Bustin' The Windows" out your car know they need to step their games up or simply stay away from women if they can't handle the responsibility that comes with dealing with a black woman in whatever day and age. Thank God on the cover of this week's Jet magazine the caption under Mrs. Cole's name with her gracing the cover says that she's moved on past the drama, pain and appreciatively for us men the melodic male-bashing. I feel bad for some dudes and fathers who never get anywhere near as much praise as we do ridicule, and how white males are seen as those responsible leading characters in their race and society in general. We look like rapists, deadbeat dads and so on. Only to be reinforced in every film, song, television sitcom that comes out nowadays to fix a certain perception on to a society that already sees black males as incompetent, incapable and incorrigible individuals, no matter how well raised on first impression unless he looks like a poindexter.

Mr. Perry has done this over the course of his catalogue thus far with a few roles and characters in his plays and films that actually do right sometime or at the end of the production. So, it's not a complete negative campaign. However, unless he finds a way in his next few films to spin this perception in the opposite direction, I as a black man cannot honestly say that I am willing to continue my support of his work. Flat out. That's right, I will not be going to ANY PLAY, MOVIE OR WATCH ANY SHOW that this nonsense goes on in. I do understand the context of being objective and having our faults being shown and have no problem with that if there's a balance. But, a lack of one is either a hidden agenda (he was mistreated and abused by males in his past) with venegance on his mind using his work to exercise demons he has behind a cloak of humility and religious frontin' or a lack of creativity which I can't buy because we know how talented he is. He is also bold enough to take chances with his talents as Eddie Murphy has in his career by playing a woman with his Madea character. So, it isn't that. I think about if I had a son and how the same society that sees us depicted like this will be ultimately judging and treating my son from stereotypes that they viewed in a movie which is fictional, but people as you know often times sees it in a real light for whatever reason. Probably, because if the story is told a certain way on a brilliant level it simply shapes reality for us. We believe what we see, perception becomes reality.

If you attempt to attribute all of this to mere business reasons, once again I remind you that Spike Lee never had to go this route to win in Hollywood and have not only black America support his work, but also white Americans and otherwise. He blended Latinos (Rosie Perez), Asians and Indians in lesser or supportive roles, but kept the focus on telling our story in a variety of ways and uses of colorful and entertaining characters many times in a positive or neutral instance. He turned Denzel into a icon basically as he was well on his way, but his depiction of Malcolm in X was so great and the way Spike laid it all out over 3 hours was poetic brilliance. We found our James Baldwin of film in that movie and Warner Bros. put Spike and the cast through hell to finance the project. Now, he came out of NYU and went indie from the jump with "She's Gotta Have It," but Tyler had to fight through a lack of notoriety and being homeless and his plays failing several times before hitting it off. So, I can dig the drive it took to overcome and prevail in that sport. He's a competitor, but come on Tyler. You have us looking like niggers (black men) in your movies and only again reinforces us as villians, threats and bad guys while other races don't nearly shoot their men in the same light ALL the time or even MOST of the time.

You can make a million For Colored Girls. Look at society out here. We have people walking in front of school boards with pistols and firing live rounds. The problem is that if the social conditions of a people continue to exist untethered and changed for the better of its citizens, being that we are imperfect to begin with and fallible throughout the course of us executing our life's fate, how can people who claim this will do any good for people in general to view this, when all it does it simply reinforce to viewers a type of way that stresses of life are resolved? I make no excuse for violent offenders in relationships or deadbeat dads and Tyler clearly does articulate cinematically that the man was suffering from post traumatic syndrome from being in the military (Ealy's character) long before we watch his alcohol addiction lead him to drop his children out of a window. I just think that it's not necessarily Tyler's sole responsibility to reshape our behavior socially, yet he does not escape accountability for the perception his films surely do incite and challenge us as supporters of his work to distinguish and discern its content. A 17 year old may or may not see all the trees through the forest and look at those scenes for what it offers visually and be satisfied with that to look no further or deeper than the surface. A 40 year old may be jaded to the underlying message that it invokes and simply be apathetical to what those male characters were reaching for in potraying such savagery.

R. D. Turner

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Wow Turner that is a lot for a first post here, welcome.

I think you are heaping way too much responsibilty onto Tyler Perry. Honestly, the only reason I go saw Perry's last film was so that I could speak about it first hand. So while my reaction might be the same the reasons are very different...

Black men are not Tyler's demographic. Sure we are useful for accompanying his real target audience to the theaters -- Black women. Boycott all you want it will not make a difference.

Also, Perry will never be the same type of filmmaker that Spike is, comparing the two is not constructive. It is like complaining that Teri Woods does not write books like Toni Morrison.

Peace

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Thank you for welcoming me Troy. I will be a presence in this forum, because I love to hash it out and gain insight into how we truly feel and what we think as African-Americans today. I do agree with your response in some aspects. Tyler's demographic from a business standpoint is clearly women. I get that. I also will agree the sole responsibility should not fall on his shoulders and I did say that in my piece. The Teri and Toni comment makes sense. I just feel bad that all we seem to look like in those kinds of films is wife-beaters, dead beat fathers, alcoholics and rapists that's all. But, to each his own. Call it frustration if you will.

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I just feel bad that all we seem to look like in those kinds of films is wife-beaters, dead beat fathers, alcoholics and rapists that's all.

(So do I. But then again, when I came up we were all happy go lucky, water melon loving, chicken stealing coons. America is unable to see us as humans and individuals.

Oh well. Maybe we should take the same approach Bruce Willis did to his baldness and lean into it)

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You always opt to "turn a phrase" rather than speak the truth, Chrishayden. How can you, as a baby boomer who grew up during the 1950s and 60s say that during these years black folks were all "happy go lucky, water melon loving, chicken stealing coons"? Is this what you were doing while you were attending a Big-10 university? Is this what the upwardly mobile Blacks were engaging in while launching the civil rights movement? This was, after all, the era when black men stepped up and became the leaders of the civil rights movement and all of its militant spin-offs. What seems to be forgetten about this time when black men flexed their manhood was what a back seat black women had to take, often relegated to being go-fers expected to do menial tasks and be willing bed mates.

Circumstances have shaped black women into being the ball-busters they have gradually become. They wish they didn't find themselves empathizing with the female characters in Tyler Perry movies. But somewhere along the way, things went astray. Who is to blame for the bad rap black men get? Tyler Perry? Not solely. There is enough blame to go around. Love-starved baby mamas who give birth to male children that grow up into irresponsible clones of the fathers who have moved on from them and their mothers. Professional executives, sports figures, and entertainers who prefer white trophy wives to women of their own race. Instituionalized racism that trips up those not shrewd enough to circumvent it. An educational system that produces young boys ill-equipped to compete in the real world. Court systems that enable the prison industry whose main product is young black males. This is the setting in which the rift between black men and black women is played out, an exercise in conflict that casts black men in a bad light. What is the solution? Don't ask me. The only people who can rehabilitate the image of black men is - black men. If Tyler Perry was smart, he would expand his repetoir and take advantage of his captive audience by producing films with upstanding black heroes as his protagonists. A good trade-off. Black men would love him for this, and if it's anything Tyler obviously needs, it's love from black men...

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lol I agree with that. He DOES need love from that demographic even if at this time he chooses to focus on black females. My only point in my post was basically screaming that. So, forget about the Spike comparison and all of that and boil it down to just a lack of balance in his film which we all know he has the creativity and ability to direct that on a film and showcase it to the world. Black males need positive portrayals too. If our own directors such as Tyler refuse to, can anyone say Oliver Stone is going to give us a shot to be that in one of his films? I think not. So, forget about his lack of responsibility for our race, that's obvious it's too complex and broad for his shoulders alone to bear. But, god damn Tyler can we just get more positive roles. That's all I'm saying. I could intellectualize my response on this but for what? The simplicity is saying everything that needs to be said. We can't live in the past, we live in an age where civil rights leaders of long ago like Bobby Seale or Dr. King couldn't even in their greatest days do what Obama did this year, because they didn't live in a time where our country wanted that kind of leadership from us. Which is said to say, this is what I mean. We can create the image and really live up to them now. Goes both ways really, when you look at the lack of steady employment in our economy room for upward mobility as was stated earlier by one of you and people get tired of shuffling their feet, shucking and jivin' while Kobe is getting his and Lil Wayne is raping the market musically. We need more doctors, lawyers, entrepenuers. I see very few movies that show a black man as a lawyer. We have off the top of my head two I can think of, Denzel in Philadelphia and Will in Enemy of The State which to me was a brilliant performance. Now, obviously those are just movies. But, if I was a young black male watching even the possiblity on screen, back when everything is still idealistic for us before we run into the all-encompassing reality of social competition, it may persuade that young man to want to be like Will and not Mike all the time. We have 10s of thousands who have hoop dreams because if they watch on TNT a game, that's all they see is us. When the reality hits them that it's not easy to covet and land a actual starting or even bench role on an NBA roster (400 est.) that's when it becomes apparent about how we often unconsciously miseducate one another as Carter G. Woodson wrote about and Lauryn depicted in her classical debut. But, then we may wheel around and simply blame parents for what they're kids do or don't do. Who knew it was that easy?

R. D. Turner

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You always opt to "turn a phrase" rather than speak the truth, Chrishayden. How can you, as a baby boomer who grew up during the 1950s and 60s say that during these years black folks were all "happy go lucky, water melon loving, chicken stealing coons"?

(If this had come from anybody but you, I would have gotten angry. Instead I am sad. And heartbroken. OK, I am also laughing like hell, but I am an African in America. I have Double Consciousness.

I didn't say of course black people WERE happy go lucky, water melon loving chicken stealing coons. I am saying that in large parts of the society--at least that part that didn't think we were whisky and cocaine crazed, white woman lusing, razor toting devils or slutty sapphires, always standing against a pillar in a nightclub and singing a la Lena Horne--THOUGHT we were.

You just couldn't deal with it, could you? You just shut down, thinking of all the racism. It is common in blacks of your era.)

Is this what the upwardly mobile Blacks were engaging in while launching the civil rights movement? This was, after all, the era when black men stepped up and became the leaders of the civil rights movemen

(Let's tell the truth. For every black who got involved in the Civil Rights Movement,there was 25 who were oblivious and ten hiding under the bed. You get awful militant when somebody pulls the sheet off your insecurities and illusions, don't you?)

The only people who can rehabilitate the image of black men is - black men. I

(Don't look at me. I don't give a damn. I glory in it. It is better to be feared than loved)

nd if it's anything Tyler obviously needs, it's love from black men...

(He's getting plenty. From the ones he wants! Don't ask, don't tell...

I love sparring with you, Cynique. It's so--easy!)

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Puleeze. You may call it sparring, Chrishayden, but I call it duckin and dodgin, as you attempt to explain what you MEANT instead of what you said as you do what you always do: shoot off your big mouth, firing nothing but blanks that amount to a lot of empty irrelevant drivel. During the 1950s, were the poor share-croppin victims of Jim Crow, really happy-go-lucky coons stealing watermelons? Hell no. And up North, where Blacks had come to improve their lot in life, and where they bought their watermeleons from fruit stands, if the black populace wasn't active in the civil rights movement, they were giving it moral and financial support. This was the zeitgeist of that era. You and your religious, middleclass upbringing are who seems to be brainwashed by stereotypical images that prevailed in the decades before the 1950s.

Not to worry. Nobody is crazy enough to expect a goof ball like you to be in the vanguard of rehabilitating the image of black men.

And like I needed you to try and make a joke out of what I already insinuated when I said Tyler Perry needed the love of black men. I guess my inference was too subtle for your linnear mind to grasp, so you felt a need to try and take on the role of a wit. Not. Just another example of how oblivious and obtuse you are. yawwwwwn.

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