Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wives: Antoine Dodson x Social Justice x Black Bourgeoisie

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wives, and Your Husbands: Antoine Dodson and the Collision of Media Images, Social Justice, and the Black Bourgeoisie

The Background : It Aint Over!

Though the furor over the original video has been replaced with a catchy song, as Teddy Riley (G-rated version) and Ice Cube (R-rated version) have quipped: “it aint over!”  With over 32 million views on YouTube and a live performance on the BET Awards, Antoine Dodson and his story continue to remain extremely relevant.

A Social Justice Smorgasbord (insert the sound of the Italian chef kissing his fingertips here)

The National Association of Independent Schools identifies eight aspects of diversity: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, age, and exceptionality (ability/disability).  For those of us who do work in social justice (diversity), rarely does one event come along that encompasses almost every one of those categories.  Acts of racism usually involve race and socioeconomic status.  School reform consistently revolves around those same themes.   Islamophobia involves the trifecta of religion, race, and ethnicity.  But every once-in-a-while there comes along an incident that hits the diversity jackpot.  This summer, when I first saw the local news interview of Antoine Dodson, I felt as if I was watching the Super Bowl of social justice.  While the sound of bourgeois Black America collectively sucking its teeth increased with each YouTube click (an even that’s occurred over 15 million times now), I looked at it in an entirely different manner.  In barely two minutes, this video touched on a smorgasbord of social justice issues: racism, poverty, crime, media portrayals of young Black people… and the coup de grâce?  There’s a gay Black man named Antoine serving in the starring role.  As Russell Crowe’s Maximus sarcastically asked us: “Are you not entertained?!?”

The Reaction: Things Bourgie Black People Hate

I know that the immediate reaction our demographic (read: bourgie Black folk) has to seeing impoverished Black people on newscasts typically involves a lot of eye rolling and dismissive hand gestures.   I’ll cut you a little slack on this point though, because it’s a sentiment that isn’t wholly unwarranted.  We’ve all seen local news stations make more than a few, shall we say, ‘dubious’ interviewee choices when they cover breaking news in poor neighborhoods.  But in the case of Antoine Dodson and the bed intruder, I really feel that Northern Alabama NBC affiliate WAFF-48 – and subsequently, the rest of America – got a whole lot more than they bargained for.

A Closer Look

Let’s start here: this is ultimately a case about sexual battery and the attempted rape of a woman.  Though there is light-hearted intrigue – and yes, a lot of humor – in the aftermath, it does not go without saying that the premise for this scenario is a very serious one; one that definitely deserves to be addressed in a more serious discussion, and can be devastating to the families affected by it.  That said, the semi-seriousness follows.

The first thing that stands out about the interview is the star himself.  I know as soon as you prejudiced… ahem… “folks” saw Antoine Dodson with his unkempt hair, his red bandana, and his black tank top on in front of his project home, you immediately tuned out – some of y’all literally so.  But look closer: he isn’t “making a scene” because he’s on TV, and he isn’t simply answering questions.  He’s very clearly articulating a message about what happened, the violence of the crime, and making a not-so-subtle statement about the general danger of living in the projects.  The fact that he’s looking into the camera, and not at the reporter in the background, turns this from a simple spectacle into an impassioned plea.  And his warning at the end, when he discourages the perpetrator from “coming to confess”, is a clear statement about his lack of desire for police involvement – another serious topic of discussion for people who are Black, and especially those of us who live in poor neighborhoods.  (And clearly, despite how small he looks, Antoine has some ability with his hands, as he was able to help fend off his sister’s attacker.  His threat just may not be all that idle!).

With his small-time fame (and money) from the video and the subsequent song, Antoine Dodson has since moved his family out of the North Alabama project in which they resided at the time of the attack.  Including the aforementioned BET Awards appearance, Dodson has done everything from selling merchandise bearing his image, to enrolling in an associate’s degree program, to graciously donating some of his earnings to juvenile diabetes research, which caused the death of his niece.  While the man who attacked the Dodson family may have been “so dumb”, Antoine apparently isn’t.

The Red Bandana Wrap-Up

So what does this all mean?  What do we do with this information?  Hopefully it causes us to consider and even reconsider how we view and label ourselves, especially the impoverished and Black.  It doesn’t take a nuanced approach to see the differences between the very worst of our images portrayed on the local news and Antoine Dodson’s positive one.  Oftentimes we‘re our own worst critics, especially when it’s entirely unwarranted.  We have to be much more discerning when it comes to critique, or we’ll end up missing very important messages, simply because the messenger fits into our preconceived judgments.  Now run tell that, home-home-homeboy.

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0 Comments

  • Billy

    Reply Reply October 21, 2010

    The author of this post has already deemed me as “bourgie black” because I’m “light-skinnded” (which I’m not ) and because I went to an HBCU (by the skin of my teeth mind you). So my reply, may not be heard unfiltered from that prejudicial pov. But here goes:

    Initially, purposefully I did not watch the Antoine Dodson circus. I had no clue what it was about. Just saw a lot of chatter from the usual suspects: The Twitter, Facebook-ers, Tumblrs, news blogs, etc… The photos depicted a man looking “to’ up” ashy mouth and dry hair. Didn’t feel like it. So by the time I got to watching the clip, a lot of the Antoine fanfare had died down. Watching it, I did laugh at the man… I mean it looked like he was chilling at home in his jammies and decided not to partake in the morning ritual of wash, brush, comb and lotion. Hey, I can testify to doing that. But unlike him, I don’t have a camera crew in my face. So, I empathized and laughed. Then I felt a surge of pride, because the brother was concerned about his sister. He was standing up for her and was not scared. Yeah he is skinny, sort of odd looking, may be gay (I did not jump to that conclusion first. I just thought he was “country”). All of those things are comedy on top of a very real situation of sexual assault. I saw him as an unexpected protector/hero. He does not fit what we think of as the big, handsome protagonist. Just wonder if folks were really laughing at him or sneering at him for being a “black stereotype” as opposed to laughing at life’s human follies.

  • Mr. Cleveland

    Reply Reply October 21, 2010

    When I saw the initial news report, I was appauld that news station handpicked this “guy” for the interview. Negative images and sterotypes proliferating the airwaves of our people is not something to be laughed at.

    However, when I did see the You Tube video I thought IT was funny because it was a pardoy of this fruitcakes lunancy.

    I was exteremly disappointed, BET exploited this whole incident during a Hip Hop awards show. It appeared to cheapen the product.

  • Reagan

    Reply Reply October 21, 2010

    We are condoning this foolishness? So just because he has a “message” we ignore the way its being delivered?

    I would say under a fourth of the people see Antoine as someone who is spreading some type of awareness..and because of him (not entirely) black people will always be looked at as ghetto, project, ignorant, attention happy fools who will do anything for that attention..

    The fact that he has millions of youtube viewers and was solicited to be on a black award show validates it..We are entertained by nonsense and and the few who are not entertained by it are considered bourgeoisie?

    Lauryn Hill said it best, “And even after all my logic and my theory,
    I add a muthafuckker so you ignint niggas hear me”..

  • Mo the Educator

    Reply Reply October 23, 2010

    @Billy

    Just so everyone knows, those are mutual jokes!

    It may have been best for you to see it long after the furor. There were way too many people forcing Antoine Dodson into some stereotype lodged into their heads that belied reality. It can help to see things with a clear head without all the chatter.

    @Mr. Cleveland

    I saw the exploitation the other way around. Mr. Dodson has been able to parlay his news interview into a new home for his family, higher education, and some philanthropy. BET just gave him more publicity to do so. More power to him.

  • Mo the Educator

    Reply Reply October 23, 2010

    @Reagan

    The answer to your initial questions, the “foolishness” comment notwithstanding, is “yes”. I disagree with the implication that the only people who should be on TV telling this type of story – one of sexual battery, attempted rape, and injustice in the projects – are those who speak academic English and fit some sort of heteronormative stereotype. My point is that what he looks like and how he speaks only diminishes his message for those who have decided that what’s most important is “how Black people look”. And that in these types of scenarios, bourgeois Black people display the same lack of analysis and judgement that any other bigot would.

    While Antoine Dodson is somewhat entertaining to me, he’s much more intriguing because of the social commentary he provided and that his case invokes. What’s really entertaining to me is watching bourgie Black people don their sheets and hoods and decry him as “some ignorant Negro” without paying any attention to what he’s actually saying.

    And I think I Lauren Hill’s poignant commentary deserves a remix in the case of Antoine Dodson and the Black Bourgeoisie:

    “And after all my logic and my theory,
    the only thing you muthafuckas hear is a ignant nigger”

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