Culture & Entertainment

Op-Ed: 'Likability' Should Never Become The Foundation Of Sharing Your Truth

I want to begin by saying I’ve been a fan and supporter of Amanda Seales since My Brother and Me. I’ve always appreciated her wit, candor, and love for Black people and Black culture. That will likely never change, and I am almost certain that there will never be a time when I have the opportunity to stand up and defend a Black woman who is being unfairly judged and villainized that I will stray away from it.

By now I’m sure most of you reading this have seen or heard about, Seales’ Reel from March 16 sharing with her fans how much she appreciated them for showing up for her in ways she felt she wasn't supported in other spaces. She also mentioned various high-profile Black media outlets and award shows for not including her. One of those outlets even replied to the reel by acknowledging her truth, apologizing, and pledging to do better moving forward.

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However, since then three Black media outlets, including ESSENCE, have released op-eds justifying why Seales’ treatment might not only be acceptable but the result of Seales’ overall personality and character. The Root headline reading, “If Everyone Says The Same Thing About Amanda Seales, Could She Be The Problem?” While TheGrio led with “Amanda Seales is not a victim of anything but her own hubris.” Lastly, ESSENCE chimed inwith the narrative “It's Time To Admit That Being Liked Is More Important Than Being Good At Your Job.”

Though all of these pieces were op-eds and the publications noted that the views of their journalists weren’t necessarily the views of the publication itself, the questions must be asked, why even publish them then? What conversation were you looking to elicit from these harsh attacks on a Black woman’s character?

And I’m not the only academic or journalist asking these questions. Elaine Welteroth went to social media asking, “Why are we having a public town hall discussion about whether or not we like Amanda Seales?” Marc Lamont Hill released a 20-minute video discussing the recent backlash Seales is receiving on his YouTube channel, challenging the framing of the narrative surrounding Seales. In the video, he’s also acknowledging she speaks out on issues that challenge the patriarchy, calls out the military-industrial complex, addresses racism, educates people on misogynoir, and so much more, which in essence makes her an easy target.

“When people who are in power have their authority and their power and their privilege questioned, they don’t like it and they fight, and they strike back,” Hill says.

Each of the individuals who penned these articles acknowledged that Seales speaks out against important issues but framed their narratives around the reason she’s not being received within Black Hollywood is that people don’t “like her.” Hill continues, “If you have someone in our community that’s addressing issues that make us better and then you normalize a narrative that she shouldn’t be liked, and you advance a media attack on her you’re not just attacking her, you’re making her less credible to the people who follow her and listen to her.”

Some argue that Seales’ recent framing by the media as someone who is “disliked” stems from her calling out publicist Vanessa Anderson for having her removed from a Black Emmys party in 2019. Others feel it may stem from her speaking out about Myron Rolle, NFL player turned neurosurgeon, about sexual harassment. There are countless theories on why Seales is being excluded from Black Hollywood events that stretch from her days as an MTV VJ to her stint onThe Real.

However, gossip and hearsay have no place in journalism. Black media outlets and organizations such as the NAACP were birthed out of a necessity for Black voices and stories to be heard and elevated. They were created so our community could have a space to tell our truths, and not just truths that were pretty or popular. Their inception was meant to hold those with power and authority accountable for their actions toward our community and other marginalized communities.

Likewise, they were meant to be a space where Black people are uplifted, not torn down.

The Memphis Free Speech, co-owned by Ida B. Wells, was created in 1888 as a platform to challenge racial discrimination and became a prominent voice in the Black community as it advocated for civil rights and social justice. Wells used her column to form an antilynching campaign and in one of her most famous works, she boldly suggested white women were being dishonest when accusing Black men they were caught with of rape. Her column resulted in her having to leave Memphis due to threats to her life.

ESSENCE Magazine was first published in 1970 to fill a void in the mainstream magazine industry that largely ignored and or misrepresented Black women. Its mission was to create a beautiful tapestry where Black womanhood was protected, celebrated, and allowed to be as vibrant, multifaceted, and unique as Black women themselves.

The NAACP Image Awards were created in 1967 to honor and award the outstanding achievements of members within the Black community who were often overlooked in the fields of television, film, music, and literature while simultaneously celebrating social justice activists who were creating change in America and globally.

When Black media outlets tear down and berate Black women for telling their truths, for standing up for other Black people, or for living as their authentically and unapologetic Black selves, not only are they perpetuating and justifying misogynoir; but also losing sight of what their foundational purpose. Additionally, suggesting, as these articles alluded to, that Seales isn't successful because of her lack of likability is either delusional, disrespectful, or both, given her consistent sold-out comedy shows, a successful podcast, 5-star author status, and 2.2M+ social media following across platforms.

Black women face a myriad of hatred, judgment, and backlash every day and are consistently told how they’re at fault for the way they’re treated. It is time for us as a community to stop putting the onus on Black women and start holding the offending parties accountable for their part as well.

Featured image by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images




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