I remember it like it was my own childhood memory, because in many respects it was.
In the fall of 1989, a four-year-old bundle of adorable, cuddled and snuggled her way onto the set of The Cosby Show.
She was the daughter of a proud, black, dignified naval officer. She had more dimples than teeth, a grin wider than her face, and pigtails were cosmically asymmetric — perhaps the way Erykah Badu would look as a child — adorned in lavender ball hair ties.
She was sincere, sincerely curious, and curiously funny. And she was all of this without the slightest trace of snark, irony, or arrogance.
She either had great writers, or always knew what to say, or both.
She was the culmination of every single one of our hopes and dreams for young black women.
She had the wind at her back, the world at her feet, and America eating out of her tiny hands.
We learned that her name was Raven-Symoné. And her future as a talented, witty, and dignified black woman and actress was being cemented before our eyes.
But now, all of that, if we can excuse mixing metaphors here, is in the rear view mirror for Raven-Symoné.
The once-adored, once-charming child star is all grown up and is working as a cast member of ABC’s “The View.”
And Raven-Symoné is using her position on “The View” to vomit out all kinds of irresponsible and hateful things about blacks.
To be sure, there doesn’t seem to be a controversial issue regarding a black person, specifically, or the black community, in general, in which Symoné hasn’t had something shocking to say.
From her comments regarding the First Lady’s appearance, to decrying most unarmed victims of state violence, Symone has given the world an earful of callous remarks against blacks.
She has shown us that she is willing to ride out on blacks even when they are not the immediate issue of salience in American discourse. Who can forget her telling her audience that she would not hire a person named “Watermelondrea” or any other “ghetto-sounding” name?
Symoné’s comments regarding blacks have been so unhinged, her own father stepped in to reel her in. Her own father. Yes, that happened.
And the black community has rightly had enough of her. Che Scott Heron, daughter of revolutionary poet Gil Scott Heron, circulated a petition to have her removed from “The View.” Over 90,000 individuals signed the petition.
However, ABC responded to that petition by sticking with Symoné. “We love Raven,” ABC said recently.
While Che’s cause to remove Symone is noble, it will never happen upon her request or the request of the black community. Never.
It won’t because Symoné and people like her — sheriff David Clarke, Stacy Dash, Ben Carson and others — are a part of a larger and popular pattern of American culture that seeks to use black voices and black figures to speak words into existence that the American culture would have black people say.
Poet Taalam Acey calls this phenomenon, “A market for Niggas.”
Since black humans descended onto American shores in the 1600s, America has been putting words into their mouths.
First, it was an attempt to rationalize the inhumanity of slavery. American culture portrayed black slaves who were working 16 to 18 hours a day for no pay, not only as lazy and shiftless, but as a people who were content to be enslaved, and done so through the very mouths of the slaves they were dehumanizing.
We also saw with the advent of Blaxploitation films and culture, the use of black actors and actresses to communicate a narrative that blacks are violent, uneducated, and criminal-minded.
Now, Symoné and others are being used to extend and expand a similar narrative for blacks, arguing that blacks could avoid state-sanctioned violence by simply working harder, being less violent, and committing less crime.
It does not matter if what these blacks who are paid to berate the black community say is true.
We know that none of it is actually true. But, they — these people who get paid to say unkind things about the black community — are not paid for truth.
They are paid to simply make the statements. In fact, the more outlandish the better. The more far-fetched the better.
As long as it furthers the narrative and reinforces the widely held stereotypes about blacks. And it just sounds more believable from another black person, doesn’t it?
As long as their are blacks who are willing, there will always be a market for niggas.