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Modern Day Coonery: The Role Blacks Play in the Media Today

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Urban Dictionary defines coonery as acting in such a manner as to perpetuate black stereotypes in society. Coonery, or "cooning", are words that were derived from the word coon. A coon is basically a person of African decent whose sole purpose is to serve and entertain white people. Cooning is when someone is acting like a “coon”. The first coons wore “black face” and were characterized by big eyes, painting big, exaggerated red lips on their faces, and wearing wigs occasionally with tattered clothing. These people would tap dance, play instruments and sing songs. What we call a minstrel show. These were the first clowns. Now seen in circus acts.

Cooning wasn’t created to entertain black people. Instead, what cooning does is sell an image of blackness to a mostly non black audience. Most of whom have been long fed negative stereotypical messages about what blackness is. The thug/gangster, hoodrat, big mama images are the ones that are deeply embedded in the minds of police officers who shoot black men and women, business owners and potential employers who refuse to hire black people and so and so forth. Cooning basically reduces the image of all black people to that of animals in a zoo. Everyone, including ourselves, loves to observe us at our most ratchet behavior. Why? Because ignorant niggas make for great entertainment. The media industry knows this quite well and they exploit it. But where do we draw the line? Where does comedy or entertainment end and cooning begin?

For instance, take Na’im Akbar, the acclaimed clinical psychologist, who wrote in his book, "Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery", how he viewed the 90s sitcom “Martin” as cooning. It may sound a little disappointing at first. But in retrospect, some of the comedy on Martin did oscillate between comedy and coonery. The episode when Gina got her head stuck in the headboard, or when Martin boxed Tommy Hearns was hilarious. Pure comedic genius. Seeing Martin as Shenehneh Jenkins was cooning to me.

Then you have those that are cooning beyond the shadow of a doubt in the eyes of the public that the media seems to drool over. The "sellouts". The Charles Barkleys of the world, Stacey Dash, Steven A. Smith, Raven Symone, Lil Wayne (see Samsung commercials) and so on. Who either embrace the negative stereotypes, or speak out of ignorance to coddle white people. Which only perpetuates an image of weakness.

For some odd reason or another, black suffrage, black dysfunctionality, black negativity, has always been a great source of entertainment, and there is a long list of white people generating wealth from our ability and willingness to showcase and celebrate our misery. Entertainment is about new art and positive expression in new places. Coonery is negative expression in old places. It is about the intent of the artist. If the artist is simply pushing the envelope for the sake of expression, it is art. Cooning is also rooted in the intent of the artist. If the artist is compromising on integrity for the sake of exposure, money, and things of that nature, you know they're cooning.

Today‚ the entertainment industry carries on the legacy coons and the minstrel show. Today’s new, 21st century cooning perpetuates newly developed, more covert, socially and psychologically damaging images. These stereotypes portray blacks in the historical ways of old coons in minstrel shows but now also portray us as pimps and hoes, gangsters, criminals, killers, financially irresponsible, materialistic, drug abusers, homosexual, etc. Unfortunately, these images and stereotypes have become the most popular coons in the modern day minstrel show. In order to change these images, there should be more accurate information in the educational system regarding black history. Instead of letting our conquerers educate us about us, we should take the time to find out who we are and what African people have accomplished across the globe. This instills pride and a sense of value. Who degrades or allows for the degradation of something they value? Lets reclaim our image and stop cooning.

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