It is that time again. Each time new season of ABC's The Bachelorette is set to air, I get approached to comment. Three years ago, I was picked to be a candidate on that show, but I refused. Why? Because I did not want to be the token black girl that gets booted out in episode two! Also, I was not going to be the ratchet "ethnic character" that gets drunk and pulls another girl's hair out on TV. So instead, I challenged ABC to make me the first black Bachelorette. I mean, not to brag, but I hold a doctoral degree. I am a pediatric dentist and run my own successful non-profit organization. And yes, I carry myself with class and aim to be a different example of a Black American woman.
Little did I know that my challenge would turn into a major hoopla and garner national media attention. I pretty much became known overnight. But that wasn't even the most amazing thing. I had an epiphany. You see, my challenge to ABC was never really about starring on a television show, being adored by 20 some-odd men competing for my affections, or landing a boyfriend. It was, and is, about creating a new paradigm of how we as women of color are portrayed in the media, and in the world for that matter.
If you're roughly my age and skin tone, you probably remember a time when our moms introduced us to Oprah as our voice on TV. Our moms all had subscriptions to Essence, Ebony and Jet magazines. The media we followed gave us examples to live by, and important discussions to engage in. Discussions about the things that mattered to us, which included viewing both sides of a story, accepting our different views and not dissing or trolling at each other.
Today, in the age of social media and reality shows, it has fallen unto Basketball Wives, Love & Hip Hop, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the constant scandal news on The Shade Room and World Star Hip Hop to constantly drag down our image in society. Yes, I said it: "our image."
Don't get me wrong. I don't hate reality shows or celebrity news. In some ways, I myself, benefited from the celebrity news cycle. But where is our Oprah? Where is that platform for the issues we truly care about? I cannot tell you how many times I hear snarky talk of black women being considered angry, masculine, bitter, hot tempered, ratchet... I know I'm not the only one hearing this mess. The first thought that always comes to mind is, "Who are they talking about?!" They aren't talking about me. I'm none of those things and neither are many of you, I am sure. So why does TV and social media make it look that way?
To make matters worse, the Obamas are leaving the White House soon. Many of us in the black community don't even realize how much we will miss them. Okay, I get it, you may disagree with our President's politics. But I think it's safe to say that many Americans will miss having a man as their president who is real. Not as in reality TV. And yes, a man and a family who provide a positive image we can hold ourselves to as 21st century black Americans.
So what does the future hold for us? Well, for me, life has certainly changed after the day I woke up to hundreds of emails and phone calls about that black Bachelorette challenge. I started a blog to talk about some of the same issues I thought were underrepresented in our media. As my online audience grew to hundreds of thousands, and my website climbed to being a major news source for the Black community, I became a moderator for the topics that move us. I have learned that rather than chasing what's "trending," large numbers of people actually appreciated being able to follow up on quality stories that effect our community, and delve deeper.
You see, I believe that if you want to flip the script and protect yourself from the harmful image the media puts out, rather than complaining, you have to speak positivity. Build something. America, not just Black America, needs forums of open, respectful dialog. And black American women need a voice. With Oprah's show gone, and the generations shifting, we don't have that at the moment. I mean, who is going to speak for us? Al Sharpton? Gloria Allred? Blac Chyna?
I am stating here and now that as a professional, education, well-traveled and cultured black woman, I am proclaiming that I would like to take the reins, and humbly ask for your support in my campaign to be National Spokeswoman for African American women and women of color in this country. I will be posting about this across my social media channels and hope to gain your support and your proverbial "vote."
Championing and protecting the betterment of the representation of black women and women of color in the mainstream media as well as in black media. Watching and calling out media outlets, entertainers, and other public figures who portray women of color in a negative or undesirable light, or those who perpetuate negative stereotypes of us in the media.
Misee Harris holds a DMD with a specialty in pediatric dentistry, and she travels the world doing pro bono pediatric dental work in underprivileged communities. She is a media influencer with 600,000+ social media followers and garnered national media attention when she publicly campaigned for ABC to choose her as their first black Bachelorette.