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More On The Black British Versus Black American Experience...

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 21, 2011 at 7:04AM

Maybe I'm only just now starting to pay attention to these matters... but, as an addendum to my post last week on the supposed talent drain, as black British actors migrate to the USA where better opportunities to work are believed to be in far more abundance, when compared to England... here's another article lamenting the state of the African in the UK - specifically, the lack of "an educated ethnic middle class... to counter the black 'street’ stereotype," which in turn affects the quality of content produced for black British audiences.
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Maybe I'm only just now starting to pay attention to these matters... but, as an addendum to my post last week on the supposed talent drain, as black British actors migrate to the USA where better opportunities to work are believed to be in far more abundance, when compared to England... here's another article lamenting the state of the African in the UK - specifically, the lack of "an educated ethnic middle class... to counter the black 'street’ stereotype," which in turn affects the quality of content produced for black British audiences.

This one is from The Telegraph, and is written by Lindsay Johns, writer, broadcaster and self-proclaimed "hip-hop intellectual;" he's of African descent by the way (British/South African).

The article itself is quite damning! I'm not familiar with the man's work, but he pulls no punches here, and I'd really like to know what our UK-based readers have to say in reaction. Like the article I highlighted last week, this one also pits the African in the UK squarely with the African in the USA.

Here's a sample of the piece:


When it comes to film, Noel Clarke’s successful Kidulthood and Adulthood focused exclusively on the pathologies of the “You get me, blood?” ghetto underclass. Likewise, radio. When the new BBC radio station 1 Xtra was set up a few years ago, the thinly veiled rationale was to placate the black demographic with “urban” pirate radio-style “street” music. In short, give them what we think they want.

But hang on a minute. Where was the black Radio 4 equivalent? Don’t black people in this country want intelligent news, current affairs, drama and cultural programmes, too? Or are they only reserved for educated, middle-class white people?

On TV, black British protagonists – like Luther, the BBC detective played by Idris Elba – are a recent and rare phenomenon. How psychologically debilitating this must be for young black people, to be devoid of balanced, fair, let alone positive portrayals. Black America, with its educated, middle-class depth in numbers, is 30 years ahead of us. Think of The Cosby Show, a hugely successful middle-class family sitcom, whose patriarch was a black doctor. What do we get in the UK? The Crouches, whose father-figure worked on the London Underground.

So is middle-class black America the promised land for the educated black British? For all its many problems, America offers far more opportunities than Britain does right now. Hence the trans-Atlantic brain drain, which speeds up year after year: novelist Caryl Phillips and poet Fred D’Aguiar left for America years ago, as did actor Idris Elba. Playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah has just gone to be the artistic director at a theatre in Baltimore.

Over here, “black”, “working class” and “street” are still seen as synonymous terms.

You can read the entire article HERE.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm..., oped


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