Fantasia-Gate, Day 2: We need to do better

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about news coverage of Fantasia Barrino’s overdose not because I like to gossip, but because the mainstream media puts out a lot of crap about people without dealing with the substantive issues related to a celebrity event. Stories about Lindsey Lohan focus on her hair extension what she’s wearing when she gets out of prison, rather than the help she (and perhaps other young people) need to get sober, get healthy and stay out of trouble.

To be clear, my take on Fantasia’s story was about 1) how the media has focused on the alleged affair, not the fact that she took a bunch of pills and hid in the closet; 2) how the societal myth of Black Superwoman possibly contributed to Fantasia’s need to take care of her family before herself and, thus, drove her to the overdose; 3) how famous people in desperate situations do not represent a time for ridicule, but a time for public discourse on emotional health. For a while, I was feeling pretty good about what I wrote, not because it was my best writing, but because the piece resonated with my followers. I thought, maybe I can succeed with my goals for this blog, with bringing mental health into the forefront of pop culture, with getting people go consider their own mental health, and with generating much-needed conversation in the Black community about mental illness and how we hide it behind the same old bullshit instead of tackling it head on.

My optimism was short-lived.

I criticized Fantasia’s people, and @BlackMediaSCOOP, for trying to “spin” the situation into rainbows, lollipops and record sales instead of admitting that the woman has a problem. Here’s what I got back from the Twitter:

“It’s not even a PR nightmare. If anything it will probably help boost her album sales.”

“…I don’t think she has a mental illness I think she’s a coward.. She’s scared of that money she owe thewife [sic]“

OH MY….oh, Hell. I can barely muster the proper amount of outrage that people just don’t really get it, or would rather just be haters. Especially after @PepsiWeInspire posted my blog on their Facebook page and I got an eyeful of reminder about why I do this blog thing in the first place, and an eyeful of wonder about what it will take for us to stop living in the weeds of gossip and look at larger issues:

“Uh, pepsi…this isn’t inspiring at all. :-(”

“EVERYBODY ATTACKING HER THEY NEED TO GET AT THE MAN HE WAS MARRIED SLEEPING WITH HER TOO SHE IS A SINGLE WOMAN FOR REAL”

“When fantasia found out he was married she should have backed up off him.both fantasia and this guy r low.then men have this attitude wondering why women don’t trust them fantasia story is why.”

“i’m done with her already, don’t come to tampa with that cause you gonna have some problems sister, we don’t play that.”

My people, my people…

Don’t misunderstand: what I wrote yesterday did get some people thinking and commenting, aand I’m still proud of myself for eliciting that kind of feedback. But I’m still kinda mad that the day I get over 800 hits to my blog, and a bunch of Facebook likes, most of it perpetuates the myth that Black folks are like crabs in a barrel, and we tear each other down instead of helpling build each other up. Yep, the commentary I mention above was from my people. Yep, comments excerpted above are exact quotes, and represent the majority of what I see in the world, on the internet, and in popular culture with respect to mental health. Yep, I’m annoyed that @BlackMediaSCOOP has over 19,000 followers for just putting out “news” (not shaping opinion), while I choose not to talk about #hoshit and I’ve got less than 1,000.

Still, every time I read a news story about a celebrity that I think is hurting, that I think needs some therapy, and that I think we could learn from, I’m gonna write a post about it. Not for the RTs and the blog hits, but because I feel like someone needs to be responsibile for putting useful information into the atmosphere. Every time an manager or PR company misses the chance to tell the truth and say, “hey, my client is human, my client is hurting, my client is getting treatment for emotional issues and is not ashamed to admit it”, I’ll point it out instead. Chances are, someone in the viewing audience is looking for an excuse to get emotional help without being judged, or blamed or put down. So I’m going to keep writing for her.

And for myself.

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