The crazy thing is, I've actually never been called a “nigger” in real life, you know like to my darkie face. It's actually a shame, because I have so many witty comebacks prepared for when it happens, i.e., “Nigger?! [neck roll and snap] Oh no you didn't, Massa!” ©
In the online world however, which is where most of my social life resides, the word is tossed about as freely as it was in the 50s and 60s, before the Internet even existed. Users hide comfortably behind their computer screens and type the most obnoxiously offensive things they can think of and thirstily WAIT for an angry response; a validation of their modest efforts.
Take Monday night, for example. After campaigning via Twitter and Facebook for several weeks, our web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” beat out 783 other web series to win the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show. For the unfamiliar, the Shorty Awards honor the best in social media and Internet content, so it was quite the honor that: 1) our viewers rallied to nominate us into the top five shows and 2) the Shorty Award committee recognized our impact on the web series community.
So it was with great pride that I announced our accomplishments via Facebook and Twitter, much to the mutual excitement of our awesome supporters. And that's when the Internet-equivalent of the Tea Party appeared:
In particular, producers and fans of two of the other nominated web shows were outraged. Particularly because many had traveled to and paid to attend the New York ceremony, ready to receive what was obviously due to them.
When the announcement came, they listened with bated breath. Best Web Show was one of the last categories announced, and fans in the audience had to sit through what felt like thousands of awards until the winner was finally named. Then, the award show's two hosts shouted, “Awkward Black Girl!” and it was all over.
It was bad enough that fans had traveled all this way and lost, but to lose to a “black show” that they had “never even heard of?!” The NERVE! The Shorty Awards “are bullshit,” they cried. Completely unfair.
I can only imagine their confused anger at the fact that their “envelope-pushing,” irreverently racist comedy shows lost to something called, “Awkward Black Girl” -- it not only makes me laugh, but it reminds me of why I wanted to create ABG in the first place.
I was a huge fan of shows in the 90s, specifically because there were SO many shows of color on the air at the time. Fresh Prince, Living Single, New York Undercover, Martin, Moesha, the list went on and on, and on every channel! Maybe it was Y2K's fault, but since the 90s, black shows in particular haven't been given the chance to evolve on television.
I found myself relating more to the humor in shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Arrested Development, but the relatable characters of color in these shows were far and few. With Awkward Black Girl, I set out to change that. I wanted to create a character who was racially specific, but who goes through universally uncomfortable social situations, so you're forced to relate to her, no matter what color you are.
But, as was demonstrated by some of the Shorty Award tweets, some people can't get past the “black” in the title. The bewilderment that our show not only exists, but that it could actually be good is indicative of how mainstream media thinks. I'm pretty sure none of the people tweeting that I'd only get three-fifths of my award had even seen an episode of our show, but they were 100 percent positive that it couldn't be as good as whatever it is someone who didn't look like me produced.
This mindset is exactly why creative shows of color don't get to exist on television anymore. There's an overbearing sense of entitlement that refuses to allow shows of color to thrive. How dare we even try?
The next morning, in a pleasant twist, I noticed that one of the members of the web series who had initially written something negative about us, tweeted us again: "OK. So I actually watched an episode of your Shorty Award-winning web show and it's really quite good. Congrats."
And that, to me, was the best thing ever. Amidst the anger, hatred and the obnoxious quest to be offensively extreme, she put all of that aside and acknowledged that she enjoyed the show. It's what gives me hope and keeps me going. It's the type of bravery to be admired. Because, really, it takes sour grape-sized balls to start a trending topic (#ThingsBetterThanAwkwardBlackGirl) about a show you haven't seen.
All in all, I just want to thank the sore losers for promoting the hell out our web series and most importantly, for causing it to exist. Because of your ignorance and extremism, you've made it possible for us to succeed. You've actually made people grateful that a show like this exists to combat what you do. You helped us WIN! And thank you so much for continuing to lose, we're really grateful for it.