In case you missed it, in an early February interview with Hello Beautiful, actor Brian White said that “the most prevalent image in ‘urban society’ right now is women like Nene” Leakes and suggested that this portrayal was not a stereotype and resembles the majority of black women. These comments even made their way to Nene and garnered a response from the reality star while the rest of us debated the truth behind his claim and tried to figure out what he could have possibly meant by it.
Just in time for the release of Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds this Friday, which White has a role in, the actor spoke with Essence.com to clear the air by letting people know how he really feels.
Read some excerpts from the interview:
You’ve caught a lot of flack for your comments about how Black women, so we just have to ask, Brian White, do you hate Black women?
BRIAN WHITE: No, come on. I’m Black Carpenter [the tile of his book and youth development program]. I’m out making sure kids have a future. I did that interview on speakerphone and my mom was in my car with me. I said the majority of what we, as a community, celebrate in the media, isn’t worthy of our women. Not the ones that I know and love. I’ve been out on the road with the UNCF, NAACP, and National Urban League doing Black Carpenter or working with little girls and boys in schools. I’m about that, more so than anything else. I’m not trying to be famous; I’m trying to make a difference. That’s all I meant to say. I apologize for any confusion.
Speaking of substance, you were very critical of reality TV and said something like; ‘You can’t call it a stereotype if it’s the majority.’ What did you mean by that?
WHITE: I’ll use my role as Randy in the movie ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’. People get mad and say that’s a stereotype of Black men. I’m saying guys like Randy might be a stereotype but when I go to the club on Friday, I see 150 of them grabbing sisters by the wrist going, “Yo, come over here.” That’s not how gentlemen act. We support those images because they a little closer to truth than we care to admit. Let’s take a character like, Madea, who is based on Tyler Perry’s aunt. She’s like 6-feet-tall and probably has a gun in her purse right now. Tyler is holding up a mirror. In traveling across the South doing plays, I met a lot of Big Mommas, like Martin Lawrence’s character. Sure, we’re exaggerating a little bit, but there’s some reality in there.
Your comments may have been taken the wrong way since you were also criticized for marrying a woman who wasn’t Black [ his wife Paula is Latina]. Do you constantly feel like you have to defend yourself?
WHITE: Yes, I do. I have five younger sisters. My sister Ashley has a Caucasian husband and my sister Erin has an African husband, from Liberia. My other baby sister is a sophomore, and she’s dated every race from all over the world. And that was why I popped off about my wife. Because that’s the biggest love of my life, acting is second. It made me uncomfortable to be challenged on who I love. I thought, ‘There are 31 flavors of ice cream at Baskin Robbins, can I like one?’ Does it mean that I don’t like the others? No. It’s just confusing because I try to be positive and I think I’m about something that’s valuable, and to be slighted for love, or whatever, it’s just frustrating especially in 2012.
Brian White doesn’t owe anybody any kind of explanation for his life or his opinions, but I don’t think this response gets to the heart of the matter. He basically said “I have a mother and sisters and I work with kids and am a positive person” as if those attributes and having a negative attitude towards black women are mutually exclusive.
Most folks wanted to hear him say, no, I don’t think most black women behave like overly-aggressive reality show fight-starters, I meant something else…anything else. Instead he clarifies his comment by pointing out that people consider any negative portrayal a stereotype, including un-gentlemanly men, even if it has some truth in it, because most men are not gentlemen. Does that change his claim that the majority of black women are like Nene, especially considering she’s (technically) not a character? It seems to reiterate the idea while also speaking negatively about black men. Brian White doesn’t seem like a bad guy at all but I’m not sure that he needs to be the poster boy for discussing black stereotypes in media with this logic.
Read the rest of the interview at Essence.com.