Columns, Opinion

BURSTEIN: Raven-Symoné may want to think before she speaks

When Raven-Symoné first joined the daytime talk show “The View” in June as a permanent host, I had high hopes. For as long as I can remember, the show has been extremely aggravating to me. It is basically an hour of older women arguing about current events pertaining to both pop culture and greater politics, and it usually ends with someone saying something both ignorant and offensive. And, let’s be real, we all get more than enough older people arguing about politics at our Thanksgiving dinner tables.

So, when I heard that Raven-Symoné was joining, I expected her to be a voice of reason. She was a young, queer woman of color, and I looked forward to hearing her opinions and to seeing how they clashed with those of some of the more traditional women on the show. Plus, who didn’t love her Disney Channel show, “That’s So Raven,” which challenged classical ideas of race and beauty standards.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Raven-Symoné turned out to be my personal daytime television nightmare.

On the Oct. 27 edition of “The View,” Raven-Symoné commented on a recent viral video that depicts a white security officer at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina violently assaulting a black student after she allegedly refused to get off her phone in class.

But it seemed Raven-Symoné was more interested in providing reasons for the officer’s violent actions.

She said, “The girl was told multiple times to get off her phone,” and “There was no reason for him to be doing this type of harm, but at the same time you’ve got to follow the rules in school.”

First, I just want to qualify that I am white, and am not trying to speak for the entire black community. But Raven-Symoné’s comments are simply problematic from a moral point of view. Anyone who saw the video in question knows that the officer used an excessive amount of violence, which ended in the girl being hostilely dragged from her desk, flipped over and handcuffed.

The video ends with the officer, Ben Fields, threatening another student with, “I’ll put you in jail next.”

Raven-Symoné’s attempt to take a neutral stance on the video does more harm than good. It does not make her seem fair and unbiased, but instead makes her seem unaware and oblivious. I do not think that Raven-Symoné sees the impact her comments have as a person of color on the show, as people can easily perceive them to be the opinions of the entire black community.

This isn’t the first time Raven-Symoné’s comments have incited anger from viewers. Before she came to “The View,” she sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an interview and told her that she did not like to be labeled as “African-American,” because she is simply an “American.”

She also defended an Univision anchor after he likened U.S. first lady Michelle Obama to a cast member of “Planet of the Apes,” saying that some people simply “look like animals.” Those comments led former “View” co-host Rosie Perez to respond angrily: “I am the Latin person here on this table, and I would like to tell you that it was racist, period.”

Earlier in October,Raven-Symoné said on the show that she would be opposed to hiring potential employees with “ghetto” names, like “Watermelondrea,” causing widespread offense and even inspiring her father to write an open letter to his daughter via Facebook, calling her comments and “inexcusable gaffe” and even acknowledging that she occasionally says “some dumb S#%T.”

Honestly, I do not really know why Raven-Symoné has made these comments. Part of me wants to believe that she feels like she has to express these opinions, or else people will label her with the “angry black woman” stereotype. But her blatant outspokenness tends to make me believe that she actually believes what she says.

Whatever the reason is, viewers have had enough of her continuous blunders, and have started a petition, complete with Twitter updates as recent as Oct. 30, to remove her as a cohost of “The View.”  The petition cites her “ignorant and self hating spiel” that culminated in her comments about the viral video. The author of the petition urges that black people “need a voice representative of their views and not a voice representative of what white people want us to say.” So far, the petition has garnered over 100,000 signatures.

On Monday, however, ABC, the network that airs “The View,” released a statement saying they “love Raven” and that she is “confident, genuine, and opinionated, all qualities that make her a great addition to the panel.”

While this statement from ABC significantly lowers the chances that Raven-Symoné will be leaving “The View” anytime soon, I hope the show’s producers use this outrage from viewers as a hint to hire other hosts with more diverse opinions.

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