A few days ago I read Tyler Perry’s account of his encounter with the police after he made an illegal left turn from the right lane on his way to the airport. Mr. Perry wrote that he was taught by his security team to drive in an erratic manner to throw off people who might be trying to follow him. A man of Mr. Perry’s prominence can’t be too careful. Anybody could be trying to hijack him for whatever reason. Mr. Perry would be an attractive target for anybody looking to kidnap somebody with deep pockets for ransom. Mr. Perry’s problem was that he did his trick traffic maneuver in front of a police car.
When he was pulled over the police were suspicious of him and his behavior. A black guy driving along is already a suspect. A black guy driving like shit is more than enough reason to pull the car over and investigate what’s going on. When the police walked up to Mr. Perry’s car to find out what’s going on, Mr. Perry replied that he drives the way he does to make sure he’s not being followed. At that point the hairs on the back of the two police officer’s neck must have risen up. Their hands may have already been on their service pieces in their holsters. But I’m quite sure at that point they disengaged the safety and whatever straps were used to keep their piece in check. A black man talking about he’s being followed must be a drug dealer or something else criminally oriented.
It’s one of the most vicious stereotypes about black people, especially black men, which have been used to justify the mistrust and suspicion of black people since day one. Black people are violent and so you have to be prepared for anything. And Mr. Perry is more guilty than just about anybody else in the perpetuation of these stereotypes with his minstrel heavy persona that has helped to make Mr. Perry a very wealthy man. For people who are familiar with his work, obviously not the cops that pulled him over, you cannot help but think of Madea when you think of Tyler Perry.
Mabel Simmons, highly more recognizable as Madea, is a character portrayed by Mr. Perry as an extremely tall black elderly woman. She is about seventy five years old, very argumentative, and will threaten people with the gun she keeps with her regardless the occasion. She has a criminal record that goes back to when she was nine years old when she was arrested for shoplifting. She has been charged with illegal gambling, check fraud, identity theft, insurance fraud, assault, attempted murder, and car theft. She has a history of running from the police. In the movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, Madea was charged with criminal trespassing, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a handgun, assault with a deadly weapon, driving with a suspended license, driving a vehicle with an expired registration, and reckless driving.
Considering Madea’s reputation maybe the police that pulled Mr. Perry over really did know who he was. If this is Tyler Perry and he writes about that kind of shit, he might know a little something about that shit, so he might be in the middle of doing that kind of shit at that very moment. You just can’t take a chance with black people like that.
Mr. Perry’s more notable work revolves around his Madea character for which he has been praised to a large extent. But less well known is the criticism that condemns his work as buffoonery at a time when a lot of black people are struggling for respect and equal treatment. Black people love his movies and Mr. Perry is more than ready to give his audience what it wants. But if his chickens are rooted in comic stereotypes that help reinforce every negative stereotype about black people, should Mr. Perry be surprised when those chickens come home to roost and the police approach him the way that they would approach his Madea character? What else has Mr. Perry given people to consider about black people?
To be fair to Mr. Perry he has done a great deal for black people. When most people in Hollywood were employing black people as if they were only trying to meet a quota, Mr. Perry was employing black people for a predominantly black cast in his predominantly black film. And those films have done extremely well. But enough of the type of juvenile comedy that only makes people think that black people are only up to no good. It’s time to do something that black people can be proud of and promotes the idea that black people should be respected as contributors to our communities and not just users.
Hopefully Mr. Perry will come away from his brush with the long arm of the law with an awareness that he needs to do more to help people understand that black people are more than just foul mouthed characters always toting a gun. Maybe he can do something to promote the idea that black people are people too. He’s done well with his minstrel show. Maybe it’s time to do something a little more sophisticated that can help undo some of the damage characters like Madea have already done.