If We Let Shawty Lo’s Show Get on the Air, We Will Have Failed Ourselves

By NICK CHILES

Surely there has to be a line out there somewhere—a level of degradation, of downright sewer-level grossness, that is so low even a television network will not sink below it to make a couple of bucks.

I would have thought that rapper Shawty Lo’s new show, “All My Babies’ Mamas,” was solidly below the sewer line, a revolting theater of ghetto indecency so embarrassing that even a desperate cable station would deem it beneath them to put it on their airwaves.

But apparently this skin-crawling mess is about to be available on your local dial, thanks to the fine folks at the Oxygen network.

The show will feature the real-life dramas of the rapper and his 10 baby mamas and their 11 children, all thrown together in a festering stew of ratchetness. Each baby mama is even given a descriptive name—such as E’Creia, 29, “First Lady Baby Mama,” who handles Shawty Lo’s finances and who was actually engaged to him at one point after he already had three children; Angela, 32, the “Fighter Baby Mama”; Amanda, 34, the “Jealous Baby Mama; Serena the “Shady Baby Mama; and Liana aka Pebbles “Baby mama from hell.”

This is the way the show was described in a press release last week by the Oxygen Media Senior Vice President of Development, Cori Abraham, who clearly had some role in green-lighting the show.

“Oxygen will give fans an intimate look at unconventional families with larger than life personalities and real emotional stakes,” says Abraham. “’All My Babies’ Mamas’ will be filled with outrageous and authentic over-the-top moments that our young, diverse female audience can tweet and gossip about.”

And the press release proudly announced that “All My Babies’ Mamas” was brought to Oxygen by Executive Producers Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and will be produced by their company, DiGa Vision.

Ironically, painfully, Oxygen is the network that was started by, among others, Oprah Winfrey in 1998, with the brilliant idea—wait for it—of empowering women. But 1998 was a loooong time ago. Since then, it was purchased by NBC Universal in 2007 for $925 million and any kind of mission about female empowerment was long ago abandoned.

As our culture continues to pull us down the slippery slope into global irrelevancy, so thoroughly numbing our intellects and ambitions that we hardly even notice as we slip into the comfortable cloak of a has-been, former superpower, anthropologists will one day point to Shawty Lo (aka Carlos Walker) and “All My Babies’ Mamas” as the cultural nadir of America, the moment when we ceased to have a functioning moral compass, when we began to accept any bit of disgusting behavior as okay, as reasonable, as long as it entertained us. This cultural moment happened to coincide with the moment when we became so infatuated with the power of man-made killing machines that we chose to covet them above the lives of precious little first graders—the moments came at the same time, but they were no coincidence. They were both of a piece, the instant when we lost touch with our appreciation for each other’s humanity, when we chose frivolous entertainment—whether in the guise of video games where we blow each other away for sport or reality shows where we revel in the ignorance and vacuity of uneducated ghetto morons—over the upliftment and repair of the American experiment.

To someone committed to the black family, who has spent a good part of his career fighting to improve the image and perception of black men, this all feels like a sticky gob of spit in my face.

It must be so easy, sitting in a cushy office somewhere in Los Angeles or Manhattan, to glibly nod yes on the decision to profit off the exploitation of the ignorance that poverty and oppression produced. Of course it’s even easier when it’s some unfortunate black wretches, whose lives are so far from the good-white-folks gentility of these producers, Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto, and the executive Cori Abraham. So far away, so grotesque, so different, so damn entertaining—and if it happens to once again proffer to the world the handy image of black pathology as entertainment? Oh well.

I’m sure Oxygen wouldn’t take a camera and follow around a mentally challenged young white man so that we could laugh our asses off as he stumbles into goofy predicaments. But to black folks, it feels like that’s exactly what they are doing here. Laughing at ignorance. Making a buck off the unfortunate life circumstances of others.

There will always be extremists. In a sense, the primary thrust of our modern political and social culture is a fight against extremism. Extremism is a way to get attention, a way to make a point. That’s how it’s used by terrorists in the Middle East, how it’s used by reality show participants to get attention and get paid, how it’s used by Lady Gaga to get noticed and move millions of units of tame, uninspired music. Oxygen is trying to use it to make a buck by exploiting the lack of discipline and common sense of a group of black women and the idiotic man they laid down with.

As a community, we let Shawty Lo happen.

Where were the older men to pull Mr. Lo aside and counsel him about the irresponsibility of his actions, maybe after baby number three? To make him understand the difficulties he was setting up for all those children—and himself—by his wanton sperm?

Where were the older women to counsel all those baby mamas? To start warning them after he had impregnated maybe three or four that there wasn’t much of a future with a modestly talented rapper whose career hadn’t ever really popped? That any children of theirs deserved more?

But clearly the community never stepped up. Nobody told Shawty about the existence of condoms. None of those words ever made their way to the right ears.

We all failed those children.

There are petition drives, calls for the public to boycott the show, appeals being made to Oxygen.

Hopefully there are some serious second thoughts being mulled in the executive offices of Oxygen Media. Maybe some sleepness nights for Mrs. Cori Abraham, in her Los Angeles house where she no doubt lives comfortably with her husband and two daughters. Maybe Cori might think about the fact that those 11 children deserve just as much respect and consideration as her own precious little girls. Those 11 children deserve some grown-ups to protect them—apparently to protect them from the Cori Abrahams of the world.

If we let this mess get on the air, we will have failed ourselves.

Editor’s note: Author Sabrina Lamb has started a petition on Change.org, calling on Oxygen and the producers of “All My Babies’ Mamas” to pull the show. Please support her efforts by signing the petition here.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

53 Comments

  1. Powerful words. You are so right. No one is thinking about the children. Everyone is talking about how “ratchet” the adults are but what about the children? I am appalled that women feel it’s ok to be one of 11. It’s not. If he didn’t care about the first 3 why would he care about you? It’s time for our community to start loving ourselves and stop allowing disrespect to flow among each other.

  2. Well said Nick. And thank God we have GOOD black men like you to step up and speak out about this ratchet show. I will be joining in the effort to boycott this show. As for asking where were the women and men to pull these mothers and Shawty Lo aside, unfortunately a lot of them don’t want to hear what people have to say. A lot of them have their sights on a child support check. I have a brother who has several baby moms and I myself pulled the women to the side to tell them about him and in return got cursed out for not minding my business. I was trying to help THEM out and now they are mad because a baby didn’t earn them a hand in marriage by my brother. It unfortunately IS a sad reality but damn if we will stand by and allow the likes of the Oxygen network to expose this mess especially when there are men like you and my husband who could have a reality show that would rival the Cosbys. We need better programming about US and it takes US to stand up in protest against this mess. Thanks Nick.

    • I am in awe that Oxygen would stoop this low. They really need ratings! Wow.
      That was my thought Kia. We or someone tries to *warn them and they get upset with U. My thoughts are you don’t see the pattern here. 7 Mothers later! Wow. I’m with you on boycotting. We need to start now before it airs. Or get it off the air soon as possible. Our children are caught in the middle Per usual!

  3. Nick, you put your foot all up and through this! Wonderful piece.

  4. What IF* someone tried to talk to them/him but the just didn’t listen? Clearly they* saw $ a way out of the hood or a way that they could raise all the kids off his pennies n not lift a finger. Maybe they thought they would have that *Lifestyle. I said I not only blame them but the people who seek out this type of negativity. Some say what about Mob Wives & shoes like that. I say what about it. I’m black so I could careless! What can we do to stop rhis type of Foolery? Not watch it, boycott, sign petitions?
    Where does it end? Or does it end?
    Or is this a means of feeding 11 children whom otherwise would be on government assistance?
    We did fail the children. (Article well written & with Integrity)

  5. Love the piece and will share! I hope that Oxygen does not order a full season of this show. I respect the ladies for trying but they and Lo need to get jobs since the money from those 2 dumb songs is probably running out or close to it. They need to get jobs! There’s nothing really about this family that is worth watching and I don’t mean to sound harsh. I would actually be much more interested in watching a show about the guy with 30 kids and a minimum wage job because he really is going to have to pull some miracles to even begin to take care of 30 children. Sadly he probably won’t even try to take care of them all. SMH.

  6. I just signed the petition but note that we need more signatures!!! I’m not in favor of continued poor representations of African American families.

  7. Personally, I don’t agree that noone told him about condoms. As a grown man … especially in the type of industry that he is in, I would think he would see what happens first hand when you are not responsible. Maybe it is my naivety because I have never been in entertainment, but condoms are everywhere. Noone told me about sex either. I didnt have a father to counsel me on sex, and because sex was so taboo in my family, I never really received the “talk” growing up from my mom, and am nowhere close to fitting any of the profiles in ‘All my Baby Mamas’ . But to understand condoms, something that is readily available at any store/planned parenthood, and seen in tv commercials?? I dont find the lack of education from his elders as a valid excuse (but maybe its me). I dont feel it is fair to fault the village for the village idiot (and his associates for that matter). And essentially, I somewhat feel this post is doing that. He is a grown man. Personally feel that even if 100 saints talked to him, he would do what he is going to do. After all, should experience be the best teacher? So after the first few children, shouldn’t he have realized that ‘if i touch a hot stove I will get burned?’, something that even a child can comprehend … again, maybe its me.

    I feel that the way we have some black men who are rolling stones, there some men of all races, that are also a rolling stone. Its just that, this society chooses to capitalize off of a situation that exploits blacks doing it. But at the end of the day, a rolling stone is a rolling stone, whether it is black white orange or yellow.

    In the end, I agree that the show should be banned and it is extremely insulting to blacks, esp. those who are good parents, but I do not agree that it is our job, as a community, to make sure a grown man is not out there impregnating grown women … (stupid is as stupid does)

    • Furthermore, the community did not let Shawty Lo happen. He already existed. his profile has existed since he beginning of time. and will exist until the end. What the community allowed, was the acceptance of a lifestyle. the welcoming of something that was once taboo. Similar to the acceptance of homosexuality in American culture, in which it went from something totally taboo, to something where now it is seen in music, in theatre, in sitcoms, in movies, and in parades, politics and sports, it seems like sex with multiple partners and the term baby mama, will soon become more than a hidden subculture, but more of a trend. think about shows like ‘the girls next door’ or ‘sister wives’ … is it really that much of a difference, as far as whats being promoted? Food for thought.

  8. Even though I signed the petition, I think a lot of what’s on TV is an reflection of what we are as a society. The thing is we call the black reality shows “rachett”, however aren’t “The Bachelor” and “Survivor” just as terrible? Don’t they portray human beings as conniving?

    • Hi Moe! I agree: Shows like The Bachelor are terrible, but you should know by now that the media is biased against people of color–what a black or brown person does is denigrated, exaggerated and lampooned more than a white person doing the same exact thing.

  9. Just signed the petition. This is buffoonery!!

  10. Most reality TV featuring black people is embarrasing. Now there are preacher’s wives hollering and being nasty to each other, housewives of ATL acting so stupid the low class white girl left the show. And now a dead beat father parading unwed mothers and their children around as if it is our norm. Embarrasing.

  11. Hi Nick (& fellow readers)! I’m just as appalled as you are about the possibility of this show making it on the airwaves. However, I don’t agree with your statement that we as a community, or the elders of our community, failed Shawty Lo and the mothers of his children. Speaking from my own personal observations of certain relatives and friends in my life, people generally do what they want to do–even if it’s to their own detriment. For example, a male acquaintance of mine, “Greg”, has 4 kids with 4 different women. This is a man who went to a private school from K-12 but got his highschool girlfriend pregnant in his senior year. His mother (his dad divorced his mom at birth), three older brothers and some friends all advised him to go on to college or learn a trade and to practice safe sex so as not to impregnate his then girlfriend again or any other woman until he was more mature and financially stable. He hasn’t listened and last year fathered his 4th child. Greg will be 40 this year but he constantly lies to younger women and tells them he’s 25 or 26. He also doesn’t tell them about his other children except the last child he’s had. He lies about his income, spends all his money on them in the beginning so they think he’s financially solvent and makes alot of promises. I mention all this because maybe that’s how Shawty Lo got all these women. I’m sure the fact that he’s a rapper, even if not a well-known one, put stars in their eyes and he probably promised them the world, but who knows? As a young black woman without children, it pains me that people of varying persuasions react in surprise when I say I don’t have kids. While it bothers me on one hand that a black person can’t be stupid without it reflecting on all of us, it upsets me on the other that we give our time, dollars, and attention to those who engage in all kinds of shenanigans. All these “ratchet” shows on VH1, Oxygen and other channels wouldn’t do well if we didn’t tune in. At the end of the day, networks are concerned about money and if people didn’t watch, these shows would go away. As a community, our music, films, shows and books seem to glorify the baby-mama, baby daddy meme. If you notice, books, films and shows that actually have substance and show a different side of black life don’t do as well. I don’t know what the solution is. I’m tearing up as I write this because it’s 2013 and I can’t believe we’re dealing with this. When are we going to learn?! I could write more, but I’m too emotional.

    • I was really moved by your comment on here. Reality TV, I truly believe, only drags us all down the toilet, regardless of skin color or background. Teen Mom, which capitalizes on drama (Oh no! She’s getting married to the druggie! Oh, now they are divorced. Oh! She and her mom got in a slap-fight in front of the baby!) is one that I have never watched, but I -have- watched the predecessor, 16 and Pregnant. I noticed that the drama-free girls on 16 and Pregnant never seem to get a spot on Teen Mom. Gee, I wonder why.

      It’s as if watching these shows and seeing people who fail so miserably at rudimentary manners and basic life choices makes it okay for the viewer to act just a little bit lower, because hey, they aren’t as pathetic as Honey Boo Boo’s mom, or as violent as that one chick from Basketball Wives.

  12. I completely agree! We’ve become the laughing stock minstrel form of entertainment for the rest of the world. Pretty much all of the popular shows featuring a black cast (black women in particular) show the worst in us, most ignorant and childish, the most exaggerated and since is makes money it keeps this image in perpetual rotation and promotes that image for further reproduction by other outlets and creates these cartoon characters that our children and grown ups alike want to emulate. A show like this further strips us of our humanity, rendering us to mere entertainment. The shows about the white families with multiple children or wives still maintain a certain level of dignity and humanity, but this “all my baby mama’s” is exploitation, degradation and humiliation at its finest. The comparison to following a disabled person around and laughing at their misfortune was great and also raises the question of what we deem ‘entertainment’.

  13. I was just introduced to this blog. I’ll probably be back.

    Can’t say I’m too impressed with this show, but the “rolling stone” comment above captures the truth of the matter. Sad that the rolling stone has to be shown as a black person. In America, that’s particularly stinging, but it has ever been thus worldwide.

    Good stuff. Carry on.

  14. Once again, we blacks do not appear to want to address problems such as out-of- wedlock births, gang violence, illiteracy, child abuse, HIV/AIDS,etc. Instead, we focus on keeping the white folk from exposing these problems. As one who has worked in public health for years, this attitude is so frustrating and self-defeating. We can not solve a problem until we first define and acknowledge it. Also, white folk already KNOW how common it is for black men and women to have children by multiple partners. After all, they compile and access the data from birth records, social services, child support enforcement, etc.

    For years, I would try to start a dialogue within the black community about some of the above issues and would be met with, “they do it too” or “they are just making up these statistics,” Of course we all know who the “they” is. It was so frustrating.

    Related to the upcoming show about all my baby’s mamas, I think we should let it go forward. Maybe the show will result in an honest discussion within the black community about our lifestyles and how extensive the black subculture really is.

    Frankly, I think we waited too long to address these issues and are in serious danger of becoming an irrelevant subculture.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Emma Sue,

      Thanks so much for your comment and welcome to MyBrownBaby.com. Clearly, this is your first time here, otherwise you would know that “we blacks” here at MBB talk about such issues DAILY. It is, after all, the mission of this site to help parents raise, nurture, protect, educate and love our children in healthy ways. A huge part of that mission is to talk about the myriad of ways we all can come together to stem the devastation the problems of which you speak are wreaking on our community. In other words, “we blacks” are not ignoring anything, and certainly, part of the discussion must be about the image of black people and the stereotypes that play into that image.

      Again, thanks for stopping by.

  15. Denene, thank you for your comments. I hesitated to “post” since I am a minority opinion.

    I believe black leaders should lobby President Obama to appoint an advisory panel to address ways to strengthen the black family. This would include finding ways to ensure that public assistance actually help more families find a way out of poverty rather than become their lifelong support. With so many children being born out-of-wedlock, perhaps the government should impose a stronger legal bond between “baby’s parents” that automatically protects the child. In short, the entire social services system needs to be overhauled.

    • So you’re saying that children born into financially challenging situations is a racial or, more specifically, a black issue? There are so many wrong things within your post that I’m unsure which is the most worthy of a targeted response.

  16. I don’t think shows like this are just a problem for the black community; I think these types of reality shows are a detriment to our whole society. Check out Honey Boo-Boo if you want to see some truly mortifying white people. And I completely agree with the poster above who mentions the Bachelor and would like to add in Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, any of the Real Housewives shows…
    I get that I don’t really belong here – I’m white so maybe my opinion doesn’t matter to anyone here. I just wanted to say that I hate the idea of this show, too.

  17. Every word hit to the bone. We have not assigned this sort of daily behavior the shame it deserves and when you try, others will tell you to be more understanding and accepting and not force your moral opinions on those kids who didn’t chose to be here, or those single parents working hard to do the best they can. But then it happens again and again. Apparently their definition of “hard work” doesn’t include birth control and morals. I applaud you and others for speaking so openly about something others in the community have silenced for years for fear of “making us look bad.” Well, news flash, it looks bad.

  18. I agree that this show is an embarrassment but that’s all it is. I don’ t see it as an indictment of the African American family. It’ s just as bad as all the other reality shows out there…
    We can choose to be – reactionary and I think signing a petition is a reaction that just brings attention to the show. Or we can be proactive and work to get more positive shows about people of color on television.

  19. Great article. More and more I am starting to think we should also start putting more pressure on the ignorants around us. No that’s not a typo! The ignorants who are proud of their ignorance. The ones who have been saying “ooo chile…. this shawty lo is a mess… But I’ll be watching!!” They are a part of the problem, we all know one of them, but when you laugh it off or ignore their mentality multiplies like roaches. Pull em to the carpet and stomp em out!

    At the very least stop cosigning their ignorant talk and thought process. It’s not funny anymore

  20. I remember similar sentiments expressed when Flavor of Love came out. And yeah, it made the women (mostly black, but not only) look like gold digging pirhannas.

    But then it got topped by the women of Rock of Love (mostly white, but not only).

    My point is that reality TV exists to shock and offend. It’s best ignored

  21. My opinion might not matter to most here, because I am a childless white man who also happens to be gay (an anti-gay comment popped up above and went unchallenged by the regulars, so that may be the norm here. But it’s cool, us gays are used to it). That said…

    It would seem to me that the black community thus far has done a really bad job of reigning in this type of behavior; that’s probably painful to hear from a white guy, but there it is. Shawty Lo may be an extreme example, but the fact that he and his girlfriends all have no problem going on national television to flout their lifestyle choice tells me their friends and family have never successfully stood up to them to correct that behavior.

    That said, I’m not sure a petition to keep this show off the air is the right approach. You can’t just keep pushing it to the back of the closet, pretending it doesn’t exist and hoping for the day The Cosby Show comes back on the air. Might I humbly suggest the better approach would be to let the Shawty Lo show air, and hopefully it could generate some honest dialogue?

  22. Go for it. I think its great all the people who has something to say about it need to shut up I can name many show should not have aired talk shows on every day??????? This is no different for everyone who has something to say its because they were not picked for the show GET A LIFE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!

  23. sounds like we are working together haha this country is more divided now than when I was a kid in the 60′s.How come no bitches about tyeler perry shows and honey booboo ia no problem white and black are like are goverment so far apart it’s sick.not the country i’m proud of anymore

  24. It’s not just the Black Community this is going on with, it’s White Communities as well.

    We have many teenage kids in our area listening to this rap crap and wanting to emulate the lives of these idiots. These rappers make big money, they are famous, they promote these life styles–and THAT is what these kids want. Fame and Fortune.

    I have protested against Rap Music and the life style it represents and encourages for years, but people haven’t cared, it’s freedom of speech.

    Now that they are reaping what they have sown by supporting the lyrics and songs of these rappers they start speaking out??

    I’m sorry, but the black community has not always been this way where men have children by ten different women, nor has the white community always been this way. Easy access to abortion, and tax dollars to support these women and children has promoted and encouraged these things over the years. Soon it became the more babies you have the more money you got.

    Men, be they black or white have been told they are not needed (contrary to what most here are trying to get out there) the government and the schools by promoting abortions are telling men they are not needed. By telling men they have no say in whether a woman they have gotten pregnant has an abortion or not (because it’s her body) have told men, they are NOT NEEDED! By telling little girls and boys that an unborn child growing in her stomach is NOT a BABY, but a glob of tissue is telling the man HE IS NOT NEEDED.

    The value of life Starts in the WOMB, not after the baby is born, when we start valuing and respecting the life of the unborn (but not to the point of worshiping the unborn child) and start teaching that in the schools as opposed to promoting abortions and condoms. Teaching our children they can control themselves sexually, just as they can control their actions of not smacking someone up long side the head when they are angry and sitting still in the class room so they can learn, we can teach them self control over their sexual desires–then things can change.

  25. You make some strong points in your blog and I agree with most of them, but I believe that maybe the shock of seeing this on TV may be a wake up call for some, though I doubt it. Why are we mad at the Oxygen network, and not mad at the willing participants. We did not boycott the other reality shows that have been mentioned above. We did not boycott Maury, and Jerry Springer. We continue to make heroes of athletes, and entertainers, and now Life is imitating the art. Just like the comment above mentioned, all the negative publicity will make people watch it.

  26. Who, What, Where

    Dude, many of those posting speak of community which sounds like a grand idea but in the end is just a bunch of noise… people wanting to be heard for no real purpose other than a place in that community… we are all in it alone, and when anyone especially a politician tells you that we are in it together then watch out because the load will soon drop on you. We are responsible for ourselves and there is not one of the 10 women who made their point by not appearing in the show. A big payday weighed against the reality of their limited opportunities is a major point of that reality as well.

  27. We can get upset, be mad, and do all things related with regard to how we feel about this and all the other ignorant shows that Oxygen has on their network. But let’s get real, this type of stuff is real and there are a lot of ignorant “boys” that call themselves men because of how many baby mamas they have. Yet the ladies they sleep with allow this to happen. If you see a sorry behind man that keeps making babies with every vagina that he sleeps with, then you need to keep it moving. Also, the only way to get to Oxygen and to let them know how we really feel is to boycott the network and their advertisers, and don’t buy any of Shawty Lo’s music. Stop watching the shows and don’t support those that advertise with them. We can get a million signatures in protest, but as long as people keep watching these types of shows and giving them their hard-earned money, they will continue and all the “spoken” protest won’t mean a thing. Also, we must teach our sons and daughters to be better stewards of their community and not relate to these types of shows.

  28. Would there be this much outrage if the individuals on this show were white? I disagree that executives were perpetuating any stereotypes by greenlighting this show, it was strictly a business/entertainment decision and the focus of peoples disgust shouldn’t be on the Oxygen network executives, but rather on the moronic individuals who allowed themselves to be worthy of starring on such a show. This isn’t a racial thing, it’s a sad example of irresponsibility and unintelligence.

  29. I believe that Oxygen needs Oxygen

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