The Letters Column...
Your racism shows by insisting that African Americans either share your outrage over "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" or keep our mouths shut about "South Central," that by failing to condemn the former, we somehow forfeit the right to denounce the latter.
In any event, your argument is specious. You know better than anyone that African Americans have no control over network or cable programming. We are forced to endure dreck like "South Central" and "Def Comedy Jam" because those are the images white programmers accord us.
If you have a bone to pick with "Def Comedy Jam," I suggest you take it up with the white people who put it on the air and keep it on the air. Black people don't even subscribe to cable like other groups because many of us can't afford to.
If someone proposed a sitcom called "Schindler's List," you'd understand immediately that there's nothing inherently funny about the situation of despised, dispossessed or deliberately isolated people forced to live under circumstances over which they have little, if any, control. The circumstances of "Schindler's List" don't exist anymore, thank God. Those of "South Central" still do. What a joke.
LINDA McKEEVER BULLARD
Why should black comedians have to be held up to high moral standards while white comedians routinely joke about the violent bedroom antics of Lorena Bobbitt and the "alleged" misconduct of Michael Jackson? How pathetic it must be . . . sitting in an empty, dark room desperately counting the dreaded "F" and "MF" words, trying to memorize every erotic reference that offends you, and deciphering complex social commentary as racist propaganda. You do all this instead of admitting you do not appreciate ethnic humor or understand its mass multiracial appeal beyond "naive" minority audiences.
When the smoke of negative stereotypes and sexual impropriety on "Def Comedy Jam" is cleared, all one is left with is the frustrated rantings and ravings of a delusional and naive white man who wants to be congratulated for warning us about the dangers of a black man's erection.
DAVID L. WATTS
African Americans come in all sizes and colors. Television series on prime time depict the black family in various circumstances from single father (as Sinbad), nuclear family ("704 Hauser") to a single struggling mother ("South Central"). As with all American life, no one series can or should seek to portray the prototypical African American life. Each is a snapshot.
"Def Jam" is another story. At best, its humor represents a slice of urban African American male life. But most of the time it distorts and maligns the legacies of Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx and Robin Harris. These comedians used "blue language" and openly discussed sexuality. Yet their humor had an edge and was full of content. More importantly, they were "story tellers" in the best tradition of the African griot.
DAVID L. CRIPPENS
I was completely disgusted by your justification of "South Central" as a quality television show simply because "Def Comedy Jam" is worse. I honestly feel that "Def Comedy Jam" should be taken off the air because it has absolutely no redeeming qualities. But the fact that I feel this way in no way excuses "South Central" from the damage it does to the image of black men who are continually left out of "quality" television shows.
As a young black man who works and takes care of his family, I am appalled by the constant number of "black" shows . . . that continue to berate the black man, either directly or indirectly. Every black man in America is not a drug dealer, does not beat women, is not unemployed, does not have an out-of-control sex drive or is not an absentee father.
Am I saying there aren't any black men who fit the stereotype? Absolutely not. I am not blind to the fact that we as black men can and should do more to better ourselves. That is something about which no reasonable person will argue.
The point of this response is to let you know that while you use terms such as "heroic" and "rewarding" to describe "South Central" and the characters portrayed on the show, there are those of us who are more apt to use terms such as "degrading" and "stereotypical" instead.
When you have been discriminated against; when you have been pulled over by cops and harassed (and the list goes on)--your opinion regarding what I choose to watch on television as an African American may hold some value.
GREGORY A. KING
With Louis Farrakhan on the move, we hardly need an old-hat sitcom like "704 Hauser" to stir up more black anti-Semitism. "All in the Family" fooled a lot of people and most naysayers came to appreciate some very funny episodes. A clod of a white bigot was amusing to the majority because, of course, "people are above that sort of behavior."
I doubt that there are demographics that profiled Archie fans as to political orientation, but many people were viewers because they loved Archie insulting the minorities. He said things they would love to say. In Norman Lear's new attempt, he will attract the "haters" who will love seeing Jew and black at each other's throats.
I had to chuckle about your column on ABC's "Viewpoint." It appears to me that your sour grapes reflect the fact that your side (James Carville) was outsmarted and out-debated. Rush Limbaugh showed restraint and class and your boy revealed what a slime ball he is. It is a delight to watch you liberals squirm and maneuver about Whitewater and to see you attempt to weasel-word out of it. I love it.
WILLIAM L. BANNING
When I think of you, one word always comes to mind: smug . This irritating quality must be the reason I got so much pleasure from Roger Ebert's "Counterpunch" in Calendar. Ebert defended his performance at KABC's pre-Oscar show quite well and in the process exposed you for the highfalutin' pseudo-intellectual fop you are.
GRACE TAYLOR SEGAL