Are Black Folks Ashamed When Black Celebrities Disappoint Them?


Over at a forum named Lipstick Alley, there’s a thread that asks if there are any black celebrities that hasn’t let you down yet. I guess ‘letting down’ refers within the range of declaring that all lives matter to run-ins with the law.

In one week, celebrity news has been on fire with three jaw-dropping stories concerning black male celebrities. Black Twitter was lit with hilarious tweets and memes, but are some of those behind those tweets secretly embarrassed by a triple-decker sandwich of fuckery?

Anyway, by now you’ve heard of them. Legendary R&B crooner and womanizing child molester R. Kelly was accused of holding a “sex cult” for adult women supposedly against their will. Usher was revealed to be involved in a lawsuit for giving his ex-lover herpes, and now faces another one from another woman for the same reason. (Please God, please don’t let there be more!) And famed comedian was reported to have been cheated on his pregnant wife.

It’s not been a good week for black men in this country thanks to three famous black men with obvious sex issues. No doubt there are black folks who are sighing over this and are praying that it doesn’t get any worse as they are still reeling over the Bill Cosby saga that’s cooled down for now. But soon, another scandal involving a famous black person, likely male, will surface catching the attention of numerous tabloid and gossip outlets.

When it comes to famous black folks, some of us hold them up as high as the stars. We expect them not to mess up, because we know we’re collectively judged if they do. People believe in the racist stereotype of the sex-crazed black brute whose lust for vaginas supersedes restraint and morals.

Bill Cosby’s a drug-inducing rapist. R. Kelly’s goes after young girls with passion. Usher gave an STD to a the women he slept with while cheating on his wife with another woman claiming she’s exposed even though she never said she actually had an STD and is gearing for a huge lawsuit. Finally, Kevin Hart can’t seem to be faithful to save his 5-foot life. With the scandals surrounding them, black men – as usual – have to work extra hard to break a strong stereotype made stronger by these recent stories.

Black people are in a paradox in a matrix of racism. We are held to impossible standards while being viewed as “less than human”. We can’t screw up. If we do, it “proves” our race is inferior. The same conviction is not as swift, applicable or damning for white folks.

Prior to this week, another comedian is caught in a legal battle involving STD’s, only it’s Jim Carrey. Like Usher, Carrey is accused of giving his ex-girlfriend STD’s. And it gets worse. The troubled comedian is also accused of giving her prescription drugs while she was depressed which led to her suicide. To date, he faces two wrongful death lawsuits.

Then we have Charlie Sheen, a famous actor who’s revealed himself to be HIV positive. He’s now being sued by his ex-girlfriend for exposing her to the virus. This is the second lawsuit he’s facing of this nature.

Yes, both Carrey’s and Sheen’s cases are tepid topics. But are they seen as shady as Usher? Are their stories even given as much attention? In a way, they are, but as much as black folks tune in to get the latest on their idols, I doubt they paid attention.

The three aforementioned black male celebrities are definitely catching heat for these stories from the black community, but are the two white celebrities being slammed and ridiculed by white audiences, and are their reputations in jeopardy?

When a role model makes mistakes or falls hard, it has a powerful effect on some of their fans and supporters in how they view their work. It’s no different among black people.

It’s now impossible not to feel disgusted listening to R. Kelly’s songs on the radio or out at a party. Those days of enjoying and rocking to such hits as “Bump N’ Grind, Down Low, Ignition” and “Step In the Name of Love” are long gone, because we know they are sung by a perverted child molester.

Even though The Cosby Show is back on the air, it’s not as fun anymore, because we now know that Dr. Cliff Huxtable was played by an accused serial rapist.

But with Jim Carrey and Charlie Sheen, it’s not as painful to process for obvious reasons. Their white male privilege makes it seem that their problems are not as serious or damaging to their careers or to the white gaze of supreme white innocence. I admit that I was disappointed by these allegations along with knowing that a Power Ranger murdered someone and Hulk Hogan using the n-word.

However, with minorities, it’s a slightly different story. We see black celebrities and roles models as evidence that one can make it in a racist world. We see them as the hammers breaking racist stereotypes, and we apply intense pressure on them not to screw up. If they do, they’ll have to work extra hard to put their reputations back together and regain the love and respect of their fans. If they want to, that is.

We also hope that they’re aware of what black people are going through and do something about it. We don’t want them to forget where they came from much less that they’re still black in America no matter how rich and famous they are. Sadly, some have, and they’re no longer on the invite list for our barbecues.

So yeah, it was a shitty week for black male celebrities due to their own actions, but it always reflects on the image of the overall nature of the black male. It shouldn’t, but this is how racism works. But their shame shouldn’t be blanketed across the group. Like several members of the forum stated, we shouldn’t expect much of them in the first place other than what they can do. They’re not gods, angels, saviors or saints. They’re mortals. Talented yet flawed mortals. Some more seriously flawed than others.