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Charlie Sheen: What's Black Got to Do With It?

I'm not sure you're aware of this — but there's this actor named Charlie Sheen, and he's having an itsy-bitsy meltdown, and it's getting just a smidgen of press coverage. Before last week, I hadn't mentioned the name "Charlie Sheen" in years. He was a part of the Hot Shots film franchise when I was a child, so I've laughed at him before.

I didn't know much about his apparently terribly lucrative CBS sitcom, Two and a Half Men. But the more Sheen goes on his batsh**-crazy offensive, the more I'm forced to acknowledge his presence. Day in and day out, Sheen continues to up the ante on the ridiculous, saying things that normal human beings don't say on national television.


But I don't particularly like him.

Upon waking this morning, I received a few tweets and Facebook messages saying I was quoted on The Root in an article called, "Why Black Folks Love Charlie Sheen."


I was thrown a bit because I don't feel that way at all. I don't love him; the guy is simply comedy gold. I named an episode of my podcast "Bi-Winning" because I thought his statement on possibly being bipolar was so spectacularly ridiculous and clueless that I couldn't not acknowledge it.

And sure — I know some black folks who have found his commentary incredibly amusing, but I know way more who find his behavior unacceptable. They reserve a special place of annoyance in their hearts for guys like him, because we all know a black guy couldn't get away with this. Kanye West interrupted somebody and was immediately on the pariah list. Sheen brags about his drug use and is reportedly violent, yet he's currently the darling of network news.

I'm not even sure why this sort of idea would be peddled within black media at all. In a society where we are constantly being placed within some sort of black box and then told how we're going to react or how we feel (What up, Huckabee?), why would we ourselves create narratives that are so all-inclusive?

It's annoying when CNN says things about "black people" as a unit, but when those of us in media who are black or black-owned entertainment-news sites follow the same pattern, it's even more disheartening. Whatever happened to leading by example?


And why do we need to create black connections that don't exist? Nothing about the Charlie Sheen story has to do with Negroes. He's not pulling a Mel Gibson and throwing racial slurs at us. He's on a fairly white broadcast network on a fairly white show.

Is the issue that black sites want to talk about things that aren't specifically black and feel like they have to create a connection? Do we think that black people can't read things that aren't specifically mentioning them at that very moment? This obviously isn't true, but lots of places operate as if it were.


When arguing against the monolithic branding by mainstream America of minorities in general, we have to make sure not to do so ourselves. And sometimes popular news stories simply have nothing to do with blacks — and that's OK.

Elon James White is a writer-comedian and host of the award-winning Web series This Week in Blackness and the Internet radio show Blacking It Up. Follow him on Twitter.


Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr.

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