Drake in Blackface & The Lack of Racial Diversity in Teen Canadian Dramas #Degrassi

So Drake dressed in Blackface for a picture for a short-film that was supposed to tackle the lack of film roles for black actors. Too bad that film titled Us & Them did nothing to educate the public about the polite of black actors in the film industry and the pictures which were never released with the film and so played no part in it. Then when he did put the pictures out there they were for this line of clothes called “Jim Crow Couture” by Too Black Guys (this is their names not just what I’m calling them).

Why am I bring this up when I don’t care about the rap beef between him & Pusha- T?

Two words: Canada & Degrassi   

To understand Drake and why he thought it was ok to dress in Blackface you must go back to him as person and the place he came from before he became Drake the hip-hop artist.

Aubrey Drake Graham was born on October 24, 1986, in Toronto, Ontario. His father, Dennis Graham, is an African-American and a practicing Catholic from Memphis, Tennessee, and worked as a drummer, performing alongside country musician Jerry Lee Lewis. Bass guitarist Larry Graham and the late songwriter Teenie Hodges are his paternal uncles. Drake’s mother, Sandi Graham (née Sher), is an Ashkenazi Jewish Canadian who worked as an English teacher and florist. Drake attended a Jewish day school, and had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Drake is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.

Drake’s parents divorced when he was five years old. After the divorce, he and his mother remained in Toronto, while his father returned to Memphis to find a way to support himself financially. As a child, he witnessed his father’s arrest while visiting him in Memphis.

A black dad who was not there for him or his mom as they divorced when he was very little. A Jewish mom who did everything for him while he was on Degrassi. 

Drake was raised in two polarizing Toronto neighborhoods; he lived on Weston Road in the city’s working-class west end, until grade six. In his youth, he played minor hockey with the Weston Red Wings. Drake then moved to one of the city’s affluent neighborhoods, Forest Hill, in 2000. When asked about the move to Forest Hill, Drake replied, “[We had] a half of a house we could live in. The other people had the top half, we had the bottom half. I lived in the basement, my mom lived on the first floor. It was not big, it was not luxurious. It was what we could afford.”

He attended Forest Hill Collegiate Institute, where he demonstrated an affinity for the arts, first acting while an active student at the school. He later attended Vaughan Road Academy in the city’s multicultural Oakwood–Vaughan neighborhood. Due to the economic status associated with the neighborhood, Drake described the school as “not by any means the easiest school to go to. [It’s tough].” Drake was often bullied in school for his racial and religious background, and upon realizing that his busy class schedule was detrimental to his burgeoning acting career, Drake dropped out of school. He later graduated in October 2012. 

So we can see there was some tension at his high school over race & statues.

Then Degrassi Came Into The Picture:

At 15, Drake encountered an acting agent who was the father of a high school friend. The agent found Drake a role on Canadian teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation. Drake portrayed Jimmy Brooks,[54] a basketball star who became physically disabled after he was shot by a classmate. When asked about his early acting career, Drake replied, “My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was off of Canadian TV”. He would continue to appear on the show until 2007, returning for sporadic appearances until his character graduated from school. Overall, Drake appeared in a total of 145 episodes.

I suggest everyone who never watched Aubrey Graham on Degrassi as Jimmy Brooks and only knows him as the kid who got shot or as “Wheelchair Jimmy” you’re doing the character a disservice by not understanding why these events made a big impact on his character as a whole. Now you might be thinking what does any of this have to do with Drake as a person or as a hip-hop artist? I think it has a lot to do with it because from what I have seen of Aubrey Graham as a person he is very similar to Jimmy Brooks the character.

I will say though they never touched much if at all on race in the Next Generation and wouldn’t do a race related episode until season 7 or 8 and would do a real black lives matter episode until Next Class.

This had me thinking if Degrassi never really talked about race this had to have had an impact on Aubrey as a person not having to deal with this issue on a big scale. But this opens a bigger discussion that Degrassi: TNG was not fully showing the real reality of teen life with leaving out the race discussion especially when they showed this show all over the world and in the US where race has always been a big issue.

The Degrassi universe was created in 1979 by Playing With Time, a production company owned by former school teacher Linda Schuyler and her partner Kit Hood. The franchise began with The Kids of Degrassi Street, which was spawned out of three half-hour short films. Degrassi Junior High followed in 1987, Degrassi High premiered in 1989, and the television movie School’s Out aired in 1992.[3]

Schuyler and original Degrassi series head writer Yan Moore began developing a new television drama in 1999. As the months progressed, they began to think about what had happened to the characters of Degrassi High to develop a school-reunion theme. However, they decided that a series would not work effectively if based around adults instead of children. Moore realized that the character Emma Nelson, born at the end of Degrassi Junior Highs second season, would soon be entering junior high school, and development for the series took a new direction by focusing on Emma and her school experiences.[4][5]

Schuyler’s husband Stephen Stohn suggested Degrassi: The Next Generation as the name for the new sequel series, borrowing the concept from Star Trek: The Next Generation, of which he was a fan.[6] The project was pitched to CTV in May 2000, with the originally planned reunion episode serving as the pilot to the new series.[5]

In the 1980s version of Degrassi they did an episode where they had a character named B.L.T. who was called the n-word in one episode and they also explored how people see him when he wanted to date a white chick.

Now there were other black characters on the show but not that many but much more than on TNG. You had Lucy, B.L.T., Tim, Bronco and other people of color like Yick Yu, Luke and other extras which was way more than TNG which only had 5 black characters (with only 3 having real storylines).

For the most part though even with many black characters in the show they very rarely dated each other except for Bronco & Lucy, B.L.T. & Cindy, Jimmy & Hazel, Liberty & Towerz and Danny & Chantay in later seasons of TNG.

This being said they did not really use their black characters to their potential on the show especially one Hazel Aden played by Andrea Lewis who on her website later after leaving TNG stated that the show producers and writers didn’t like her due to her race. She said “Recently I had a conversation with a filmmaker in Canada who had worked with me while I was on Degrassi and he unfortunately confirmed to me the feelings that I had always had but never wanted to admit to. Degrassi had an issue with my race. He told me how the writers and producers had no intentions of developing the story lines of my character unless it was to enhance the story of one of their other white characters.  He told me to get them to do the one major story line that my character had was like pulling teeth and after a few more years of working on the show he had to leave because of the blatant hierarchy system that they had in place and he couldn’t work with people who didn’t share the same beliefs.”

If you remember her character only got one real episode about her being muslim and how she dealt with that when she was mean to another muslim student and hid her identity until it was pulled out of her. Then she became Jimmy’s girlfriend & Paige’s best friend but nothing else. Which was one of the reasons no one really liked Hazel as a character and to me that was pretty sad. But I feel like Andrea Lewis was type casted as the “black best friend” because in the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly that she was in she was the poor black best friend with a troubled home life.

Andrea also said that they type cased all the black characters on the show to fit one mold of blackness. She says “They had some plans for some of the other black characters on the show but their ideas were only to cover the usual stereotypes that we see of people of color on television teen pregnancy, petty theft, basketball, broken family homes etc and he usually had to fight with them to think out of the box with those characters to not have them go down the road of the usual cliches.”

Which if you watched the storylines of Jimmy & Liberty the only other black characters for 7 years on the show then you would have noticed they made Jimmy play basketball and be the cool black best friend to Spinner up until the shooting and then he became wheelchair Jimmy. After that when they couldn’t explore his basketball career anymore they tried art and music to be his next path. With Liberty they didn’t fully care about her and made her a nerd until she fell in love with J.T. and got pregnant. She then had to deal with J.T.’s death and went to University for a minute where she was racially stereotyped by a sorority who because she was black thought she was ghetto especially when she told them about her pregnancy and J.T.’s death.

What Andrea wrote is true they used most of the black characters on the show to advance storylines or made them very stereotypical even if they made them come from well off families.

(New Post) A REAL conversation about Degrassi….#tbt

Anyway Degrassi was a show that depicted the real life things teens go through everyday & it continues to do this to this day but sadly for a long period of time missed the mark when it came to showing racial storylines that the viewers could relate to. This especially felt like it could have benefited from these stories due to this show being shown in the US and that being its biggest market outside of Canada but it didn’t get the chance until much much later.

All this to say I’m sure Drake didn’t feel or understand race the way we do in America due to growing up in Canada which I don’t think has no racism but is not in the same boat as America. Canada had slaves back in the day but not like in the US. Their slaves didn’t come directly from Africa and the ones they had come from the US mostly except for First Nations who were captured by the Indigenous tribes in wars and such. Canada also tries to make it seem as if they are these liberal-minded folks who are not racist and don’t have the same problems as other countries in the world. They are very racist against their First Nations tribes and can do small text-book racist things like not hiring ethnic sounding names or white washing their history. They also have a chapter of black lives matter there as well but they don’t handle such hot button issues as the American and other countries do.

So you see this is the world Drake came from. These issues were not on the tip of every persons mouth good or bad like in the US so when he came over to this country and tried to make his blackness more known then before and play up his black dad who did nothing for his family just to prove a point I thought that was kind of sad. Yes bi-racial people have existed in his music and this hollywood world forever but being American they didn’t feel the need to go this far because they had to learn about or experience first hand race in a country designed to hate you just for being black. Because just because your bi-racial if you look black then your black point-blank period. People like J. Cole, Kaepernick, Logic, The Mowry family, Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, Alicia Keys, Bob Marley, Vanessa Williams, Rashida Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Bonet and many other artist, actors and musicians are bi-racial and I’m sure in their own way have had to deal with being not black enough or not white enough depending how dark they are but never had to resort to blackface to prove a point.

Sadly this all just shows how naive Aubrey Graham can be as a person. I mean maybe Drake is feeling some type of way about his race and wanted to really show that with the movie and clothing line but it just didn’t work in his favor. As much as some people think Pusha took it too far with the pictures and talking about his son I’m glad he did. Drake never fully opens up to the public like most artist and so we never get to see how he is feeling on certain issues and without these rap beefs we never would have known that he doesn’t write his own rhymes or posed in blackface and has a secret son which I think does him more of a disservice then helps him in the end.

I really just hope this is a learning experience for Drake as well as Canada as a whole to be more open about race and how it does affect their population of people of color in general & those who act.

Well this has just been my two sence as I knew most people wouldn’t look at this from this perspective.

Till Next Time…Don’t Dress In Blackface!

 

 

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