Entertainment, open letter

Dear Raven Symone,

Dear Raven Symone,

In the infamous words of the Tyra Banks, “We were rooting for you. We were all rooting for you! How dare you?” It has come to my attention that you have been making some very disheartening comments regarding people of color in general while serving as a host on The View. I find this so hard to swallow.

Growing up, I loved watching the Cosby show. Charges of sexual misconduct aside, I believe Bill Cosby and the cast did a great job of positively portraying a black family in the media. Born in 1994, I missed out on the show’s original airing. I would stay up late watching reruns on television of both that show and its spin-off, A Different World. My mother didn’t mind much because these were shows that we could watch and discuss together.

Years later, I was in middle school, and Disney Channel announced a new show called “That’s So Raven.” Having a fondness for superpowers, comics, and all things alike, I tuned in to the show marketed as a teenage psychic getting into adventures. Little I know I would grow to love this show so much. I also did not expect to see a children’s show tackle such tough topics like racism and school bullying. To this day, the show has remained one of my favorite childhood shows. I was even ecstatic when I saw the mini reunion held on The View.

From then on, I had grown to admire you. I followed your career as you embarked on a journey into music. I’ve seen every Cheetah Girls movie, and I’m not ashamed to say it. As a matter-of-fact, the second movie inspired me to visit Barcelona while studying abroad last fall in Spain. Up until then, I had never heard of many places outside the U.S., but I knew I had to visit there. You blossomed as a star. Unlike the Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and the Brittney Spears of childhood stars, yourself and Hillary Duff seemed to be doing a great job job of staying out of media with bad press. The verdict is still out on Shia Labeouf. To transition from child to adult gracefully in the harsh Hollywood spotlight is a great feat to have accomplished.

This is the impact you have had on my life. This is the reason why I defended you when everyone was ready to shade you for your comments to Oprah about not wanting to be labeled an African American. “It couldn’t be self-hate”, I thought. “She just doesn’t like labels and neither do I.” I supported your courageous decision to come out via Twitter in spite of the disagreeing views of some of your fans. I commended you on keeping your personal life actually personal for this long. However, I can’t continue to support you when you don’t offer your support to my people.

The “name thing” in particular really got me. My full name is Kobina  Amissah (prounounced Ko-bee-nuh Uhh-mee-sa). My dad is from Khamasi, Ghana in West Africa, It’s common to name children based on the day they were born. This isn’t to say that the culture lacks variety in naming, but fact that I was born on Tuesday definitely played a part in my parents’ decision. Growing up, I could barely pronounce my middle name. I was constantly taunted and picked on because my name was different than many of my peers. “That sounds like a girl’s name’, students and faculty would say. I can’t count how many times I would have to correct someone pronouncing my name in a day. I usually gave up and just told them to call me by my nickname, “Kobi”. People were already familiar with Kobe Bryant so they couldn’t possibly get it wrong. It wasn’t until going to a very racially diverse high school that I grew to learn to appreciate my name as much as my friends with other interesting cultural names.

See, I also learned that unique names are unique for a reason. In the case of many African slaves, it was the only thing that was they could hold on to as they were stripped completely of their culture upon landing on American soil. If they refused to assimilate to American culture, they were beaten and tortured. This is the same Africa that you claim to have ancestors from every continent of.  Many of the variations of “ghetto names” that we see today are actually rooted in names of African origin, as slaves tried to preserve their culture by giving their children cultural names. So when you said you wouldn’t hire anyone withe a “ghetto name”, to me, it sounded like you said want to deny a person of their individuality and background.

By saying these things, you only help to perpetuate the systemic oppression black people have to deal with. History has shown that people of color have been taught to feel inadequate because of their differences from the majority, especially in the United States. People are turned down for loans, employment, education, and many opportunities on the basis of something as simple as their birth name, something out of their control.This is the same system that leads to authorities abusing their power and violating our people, which you seem to also have no problem with. Luckily, your your wealth and success afforded you the chance to be able to somewhat removed from this discrimination. However, for most of us, this is something we must deal with every single day.

I’m not asking you to save the world. I am asking you to choose your words wisely, however. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but you must keep in mind the impact it has on both your fans and community. I don’t agree with the petition to get you removed from The View, because I am glad that you have the freedom to express your opinion and I wouldn’t want to hold another black woman back from success. With such an elevated platform, I just hope that you will use your voice to advocate for black people, your people.

P.S.- Raven Symone could be thought of as a VERY “ghetto-sounding” name, and the flaming red mohawk you donned while making that comment might be considered “ghetto” by many people as well. Just saying…

Author: Kobi Elliot

Kobi. 25. College grad. Philly native. Ghanian-American. Creative

2 Comments on “Dear Raven Symone,

  1. Hey Kobi! I’m glad you chose to write on this subject. I am a fan of Raven as well, even more so after she came out publicly. Yet, I can’t disagree with her more about her stance on not hiring “ghetto names.” My name is of European origin, however, after Hurricane Katrina in ’05 it is persistently associated with New Orleans and Black America. My brothers’ names, too, have an “unfamiliar” ring to them as their father is Kenyan and most people have trouble pronouncing their last names…It just really makes me upset that her view is what it is because I know it wasn’t easy for her even being privileged; as Kanye once said “even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe.” Black America has to fight systemic violence, bigotry, and fiscal inequality every single day; and now, thanks to Raven, we have to fight against our own heritage, too smh…Raven should know better- especially while saying a thing while wearing a very audacious, flaming red Mohawk!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I definitely agree that she still faced hardships, even having access to more resources than most people. It’s just sad that comments like these are still being made in 2015 by people being looked up to.

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