Morality Over Money


by Mike Ramey

A New Visions Commentary paper published June 1998 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002,
202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source
is credited.


I recently saw a very interesting and funny video entitled "Afros and Bellbottoms." It featured the well-known African-American comic and television talk show host Sinbad.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical. With many comics making fortunes by tossing around jokes about bodily functions, four-letter words and sexual situations like they were leaves falling from trees, I hoped Sinbad's video would be a welcome departure from this valley of filth and profanity.

Much to my surprise, the 74-minute presentation was squeaky clean by modern standards. Sinbad's performance was a romp through the 70's -- from plastic-covered furniture to two-parent families to days when layaway was a treat.

There was one thing that puzzled me, but it was not on the video. Instead, it is about ourselves as a people.

Whatever happened to the promises made by black writers, actors and actresses and producers and directors to produce music, television shows and movies that "bring out the best in our people?"

It seems to me that the promises of better entertainment by and for our people have gone the way of penny candy. We still have black faces on the screen, but their actions and attitudes can best be described as obscene. And the more obscene the better for the black bottom-line in far too many circles.

The black movie classic "Sounder" has been replaced by modern movies like "Soul Food." Earth, Wind & Fire has been bumped by the gangsta rap group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude). The book Soul On Ice has been thawed by Waiting to Exhale.

The black family is strong, thriving, moral and strongly conservative. The black entertainment industry, however, has turned the criminal lifestyle into gold, degraded black men and enslaved black women.

Those who dare to stand up against the unreal portrayal of our people by our people are labeled as being out of touch. I am constantly told: "Well, this is the way things are, and you have to accept dope, lack of hope and an education system that turns out immoral idiots rather than moral, healthy, intelligent students."

Sadly, many of our own who made the climb to fame during the "strugglin' 70s," are part of the problem in the "naughty 90s." Why?

Because many of us, in our various communities, have forgotten that along with black pride comes morality. A sense of morality passed on to many of us by grandparents and parents who lived, loved and worked through eras of American history where they existed on a fraction of the physical blessings we see in our communities in the present.

Before we click on the tube, invest in a CD or head to the video store or movie theater, we should ask ourselves one simple question as we make our entertainment purchases: "What would our mothers and fathers think if we brought this into their home?"

Maybe, just maybe, a few more of us would invest and spend on those entertainment options that show us at our best rather than at our worst. By doing so, we will be able to send our brothers and sisters in the entertainment industry a strong message: "You can't mend filth -- but you CAN end it!"

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(Mike Ramey, a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21, is a minister and columnist in Indianapolis, Indiana.)


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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