Last week, Raven-Symoné announced she would be leaving the popular daytime talk show, The View, to focus on filming the spin-off of the Disney Channel original series, That’s So Raven.
When the last episode of That’s So Raven aired in 2007, many millennials, including myself, were disappointed. If a continuation of the show were announced 5 or 6 years ago, I would have been elated, and anxiously anticipated a Raven, Chelsea, and Eddie reunion. But now, I feel differently.
One thing my family, friends, and readers know about me, is how passionate I am about my culture, and how unapologetically I embrace the beauty of being an African-American woman. As a little girl who grew up watching repeats of The Cosby Show (to specifically see my favorite character, Olivia), and That’s So Raven, I looked up to Raven. She exemplified such a positive image of an African-American girl and I appreciated that, even as an elementary and middle schooler.
Recently, Raven has let me down. How do you start from one of the greatest, blackest sitcoms of all time, to predominately black, culturally inclined Disney Channel show(special shoutout to the racism episode), then land a spot on predominately white daytime television and suddenly forget where you came from?
Last year, on Oprah’s Where are they now? Oprah asked Raven about her public, and seemingly happy relationship with a woman. Raven went on to explain her preference of not being labeled as a lesbian. “I am not a lesbian, I am a human. I am an American, I’m not an African-American. I’m an American,” she repeated, as if we didn’t hear her the first time. Raven said that she is “colorless” and “made up of a variety of things.” A variety of things, yes. Colorless, though? In what world?
In a conversation on Joe Madison’s radio show The Black Eagle, Madison spoke to Harvard African-American studies professor, and founder of The Root, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and asked for his opinion on Raven’s comments. Dr. Gates explained what he teaches his eager Harvard students about structural and systemic racism, and that in order to one day exterminate the two, they must not be ignored or denied. He said, “Maybe Miss Symone’s vision of a colorless world will come true one day, but it won’t be in this lifetime.”
As a little African-American girl who grew up admiring the “African-American” Raven because she looked like me, talked like me, and dressed like me, I find it not only disappointing, but offensive, that she would have the audacity to deny the very thing we have in common.
But it didn’t stop there. Not only did Raven deny African-American culture, but she degraded African-American identity when she claimed during a discussion on The View, that she would not hire someone whose name is “Watermelonadra.” Not only is this statement completely discriminatory (which she is actually proud of), but it’s hypocritical. No, her name is not “Watermelonadra,” but Raven-Symoné does contain a hyphen and an accent mark, both of which are, arguably, unnecessary and, what some might call, very “African-American”.
So, what’s the problem? Isn’t Raven entitled to her own opinions and beliefs?
Yes, she is. The issue is this:
My unborn daughter will have an ethnic name and is already genetically African-American. Upon her arrival, the world will view her as such. She will need to see positive images of women who share similar features (without surgery), and women who are proud of the blood which runs heavily through their veins, just as her mother did. I was blessed to look up to the Moeshas, Kyla Pratts, and Raven-Symonés who were cute, funny, respectable, and black, and who I knew were proud to be.
Everywhere I go, I am aware of my brown skin, and every time a new hashtag circulates social media, I am reminded that my name is not excluded from a police officer’s bullets. Every time I apply for a job, I recognize my chances of being hired last are great and chances of being fired first are even greater. Therefore, seeing powerful women on television who share that commonality, inspires me, and serves as reassurance that I can reach success as well. Which makes me proud to be an African-American woman.
The end of 2016 is near, and African-Americans are still longing for this country, the land where our ancestors were forced, to accept and respect our heritage and identity. We simply cannot afford to disown who we are in this struggle for equality, which America has endured for centuries. There is no time for an identity crisis. How can we expect the world to accept us if we do not love and accept ourselves?
I thank Raven for Olivia and the 2003-2007 Raven-Symoné, but until she supports us, I can no longer support her. I wish her the best in her future endeavors, but in the meantime, I certainly hope she spends some time on myancestry.com.