There are WAY TOO MANY non-Black characters on Empire. So many that I had to write that in all caps.
Why can’t Empire just be a Black show? Don’t Black people deserve one network show that’s just Black?
Every company the Empire brand does business with is owned by a white person. All its wealthy investors are white. It’s like Empire is not even a Black show, but a show that is dying to prove to the world how multi-cultural it can be.
The most egregious offense to Black people was how Empire decided to put a white British man in Lucious’s (Terrence Howard) prison crew. Everybody knows that prison cliques are segregated by race, just like how much of the world—neighborhoods, schools, relationships—are segregated. But the Empire staff made sure that in every shot, this white man was framed in the center, right next to Lucious, so that you couldn’t miss him. Even worse, when Lucious made his rap song from prison, this white man was not only in the video, he was running the keyboard. Now I don’t have to be a genius to know that this does not happen in any Black rap studio across the country.
Sometimes I just wanna kick back and watch a Black show, or at least one that primarily focuses on Black characters. But it seems that Empire includes white people in every other shot. Watch and see.
All I wonder is: why is Empire, a Black television show that is focused on hip hop culture, trying so hard to be inclusive of white people? If Empire is really a Black show, why is it trying so hard to include white people in every scene?
Unlike in white programs, Empire‘s non-Black characters have central roles. Andre’s (Trai Byers) pregnant wife is a white woman. Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) on-again, off-again boyfriend is a Latino. Hakeem’s (Bryshere Gray) current love interest is a Latina. Are the show’s creators trying to say that Black men only get in stable relationships with white and Latino people? What’s up with that?
Seriously, I can’t think of a single non-Black show where all the characters date Black people.
A show like Californication only included Black characters in one season, and those were stereotypical rapper and groupies.
In Desperate Housewives, we got one: Vanessa Williams. And even she came after several season of nothing but bland vanilla whiteness.
The Black community went on a rant about how Mad Men and Girls were set in New York, but you couldn’t tell because they never included Black characters, even in the background shots of people walking around the city.
Recall that when Mad Men introduced a Black character, she was a secretary in a marginal role.
Friends didn’t have any Black characters. Seinfeld didn’t have any Black characters. The Big Bang Theory doesn’t have any Black characters.
Really the list goes on. And on. And on.
So many white shows on network television don’t have any Black characters. Even The Wire, which was white-produced and white-directed, didn’t add white characters to the hood where Marlo, Omar, and Stringer Bell resided. Instead, we saw the varied lives of Black children, mothers, fathers, and neighborhood residents. Only white police were on the show and even they had interesting and multi-dimensional Black police colleagues.
Why is Empire so desperate to include white characters everywhere?
Whenever Black people make television, they are in too much of a rush to be inclusive. It’s as if they have forgotten how exclusive everyone else is when it comes to including Black characters on their shows. It’s as if they have some moral high ground to ascend in order to show that they can embody “true” diversity. It’s as if they, the oppressed, the underrepresented, the marginalized, have something to prove.
Breaking Bad once had a feature character who was Black, Gus. Know what happened to him?
He was killed violently, his body blown apart and his eyes gouged once the show became successful. In fact, all of the Black and Mexican characters on Breaking Bad were purged from the show once it became a huge hit.
Breaking Bad underwent an ethnic cleansing and only focused on the white characters. Sure, the show became a huge drag after its color depletion, but Bryan Cranston and the rest of the Breaking Bad staff didn’t care, because they were raking in even more money!
Now that Empire is a huge, global success, every racial group wants a part of Black success. It’s like the Civil Rights and Black Power movements all over again, and Black people are talking about women’s rights, gay rights, immigrants’ rights. Before you know it, affirmative action is for white women and diversity means all “people of color,” low-income white people, white women in science and math, and white boys who like the color pink. The thing that was supposed to be for Black people gets divided into thirty-seven million pieces–for everyone.
Less than halfway into season two, Empire is already going down that route. It’s time someone called attention to this diversion before it gets worse… or hopefully it’s not already too late for the Black television show to get back to its Black characters. Focus.
Wouldn’t it be nice for a change if the cast of Empire was so Black that non-Blacks wrote blog posts about how Empire was excluding non-Blacks? Wouldn’t it be nice if Fox would give more Black people besides Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Lucious, Hakeem, Jamal, and Andre multi-dimensional speaking roles?
How I would love to see the Black characters in Empire even further developed. How I would love to hear more about the back stories, aspirations, hopes, and visions of Porsha (Ta’Rhonda Jones), Becky (Gabourey Sidibe), Tiana (Serayah). I’d also like to see what Lucious and Cookie do in their free time, when they’re away from the label. Who do they hang out with? Are they dating anyone else? These are all things Empire could explore, if only it could leave all those non-Black characters to trail off of the story line, like all white shows do to Black characters.
Black people have very few shows on network television, so why does Empire have its legs spread wide open for white characters? Or has the network and the nation forgotten that Black people have the highest unemployment rates in America? Hire some Black male and female citizens returning from federal prisons and local jails. They need jobs too!
I must admit that with every additional episode, I grow more and more disappointed with its failure to be a Black television show. I implore the creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, the writers (who seem to be mostly Black), and the producers to stay true to hip hop and Black culture without diluting its essence.