Sister, Sister was a prominent show for those who, like myself, grew up in the 90s and came of age in the early 2000s. Though Tia and Tamara were older than many of their viewers, their lives and their evolution from girls to young women provided what many young viewers hoped awaited them in the future. An exciting component of this series is when, upon discovering their birth parents, Tia and Tamara transitioned from the children of black parents to biracial children.
For many viewers, this was the first time Tia and Tamara’s ancestry became a topic of consideration. This revelation revealed what was always the case—that Tia and Tamara were selected to represent a shared experience that was not entirely true. This contention is not to say that Tia and Tamara are not black women—they are, and they have consistently identified themselves as such. This revelation, however, does not negate the reality that their role marks an erasure. Particularly, that the black women who has two black parents is largely omitted from occupying central placement, and most recently, the position of matriarch in small screen representations of the black family.
More recently, black women witnessed the casting of the bi-racial or tri-racial lead as a black woman on Greenleaf starring Merle Dandridge, Blackish starring Tracy Ellis Ross, Family Reunion starring Tia Mowry, and now Black AF starring Rashida Jones. Family Reunion, which stars Tia Mowry, perhaps best delineates the attack at hand. Particularly, Mowry’s early functionality as a black girl obscures her role in representing those who would not be selected its play themselves in a small-screen representation.
This erasure illuminates a larger hegemonic ideal that the direct inclusion of white people in black genetics marks an “improvement on a design” worthy of the spotlight.
The black community most recently witnessed this same praxis with former presidential candidate Kamala Harris and former Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle. Both biracial women were heavily marketed to a black female constituency, bearing a representational promise designed to veil the core issue.
The issue here is seemingly obvious. The bi or tri racial woman playing black characters, or occupying the matriachal position in the contemporary black family, delineates a nuanced eugenics that simultaneously attacks black biology through the black psyche. This attack exists to posit diluted black women as a societal preference and constructs a portrait of what an anti-black world needs the black woman to detach from her own abilities.
This praxis lures black women into relationships with white men or non black men of color in addition to living vicariously through the diluted black woman—all in pursuit of “improving her design” in accordance to western standards.
The same can be said of non-adultered black woman who either aesthetically, socially, or professionally seek whiteness.
Black female TV protagonists Olivia Pope and Mary Jane Paul, though not biracial, embody an “Americanism” that betrays their similarity to black female figures like Michelle Obama, who evidence social bleaching, which physiologically consummates eugenics.
Taken alongside the genetically diluted black female imposters, the socially bleached black woman betrays eugenics as both a biological and psychological warfare that specifically targets the black woman–the keeper of black culture.
Though the attack on black women is perhaps more overt (in these instances specifically), it is imperative not to issue a myopic gaze onto a collective attack onto the black community. Family Reunion, Black AF, Blackish, and even Greenleaf, amongst other series that depict a similar evil, habitually cast unadulterated black men as the lead alongside the bi, or tri racial woman. Here, the western media subconsciously casts the diluted black woman as a worthy mate for the black man and the key to “improving his design.” Additionally, the western media posits a black man’s mother, sisters, grandmothers, and the black woman at the beginning of his ancestry, as more feasible as a mammy, sapphire, or jezabel than a matriarch.
Yet, while the hegemonic world actively pursues black female erasure and launches a concerted attack against the black bloodline, the world steadfastly pursues black female duplication. The beauty industry remains anchored in attaining color and the feminist movement as Toni Morrison told us in her essay “What the Black Woman Thinks About Women’s Lib,” remains geared toward white female acquisition of a stature the black woman has always had. Similarly, the same masculinity that the western worls works tirelessly to strip from the black man, remains the branch every white and non-black man of color spends generations trying to reach.
Conclusively, the desire to annihilate yet duplicate remains the core praxis of an anti-black America toward the black collective relentlessly re-presented on the small screen. The display proves a showcase of makeshift supremacy that need not kill the oppressed but rather invites an oppressed constituency to kill themselves off.