Black Anchorman Rakeif Washington Gets
High Ratings And Champions The Cause Of African Americans. But Is He Wrong for Doing It Wearing A Monkey's Head?
Rakeif Washington is a primetime News star. His show "Rakeif Washington's Journal" draws three times the audience of his nearest competitor and his brand has changed the game of news. He has a mid seven figure contract and he has been quoted by every news outlet in America.
The only problem is he does his show wearing an animatronic monkey's head.
"Actually, I dress as a chimp," says Washington, 38. Chimps are the smartest of the primates. Only man is more intelligent, well, unless we're talking about certain parts of Mississippi."
Washington has angered many Blacks who say his persona is harmful and supports the racist notion that Blacks are closer to monkeys than men. Washington says the monkey is a metaphor.
"I don't fuc***g believe this!" said Don Lemon, a black anchor at CNN. I'm busting my ass to be a journalist, working crazy hours and some asshole puts on a monkey mask and gets a show? Ed Bradley has to be turning over in his grave. This man is a panderer and there's no other word for it."
Washington took umbrage with these statements and said on his twitter feed that Don Lemon was "a loser and could go straight to hell."
Others agree with Washington. "He's getting the issues out there," said Deena Riverton, an African American news reporter from New Orleans. "Rakeif's talking about things other Black journalists are afraid to say. He called for Reparations and an end to the Penal Industrial Complex. And he wants blacks to return to the church. When he said there should be a tax deduction for hair weaves, I wanted to kiss his big, hairy face."
Washington wears a full-sized simian head as he rails against injustice on his show. His segment, They Got To Be Bananas" features the faces of politicians of the week on bananas. Washington peels away their arguments then eats them.
"The man's getting paid and that's the bottom line, " said Renaldo Weyburne, a black blogger from Detroit. I don't find him offensive. Look, I got a couple of cousins that I wouldn't know where to place on that evolutionary chart. Those other black journalists are just bougie haters. They don't have the nerve to dress like a monkey. They're just hatin' the hate that's hatefully hateration."
Still others say it's a matter of subtlety. "Chimps are cute and brown," says. Thelma Anderson-Jones, a Black local news anchor from Seattle. "Now if he dressed like a gorilla, that would be offensive. Gorillas are, you know, really dark."
Donna Brazille, Black news commentator and Obama aid says Washington is a disgrace. "Are people crazy? There's no gray area here. The man's dressed as a goddamned monkey! The attempt to explain it as satire is to ignore years of denigrating imagery forced upon African Americans. Some fool even tried to tell me that the monkey character is a metaphor for iconic males in black families! I wanted to smack his dumbass silly."
But Washington is indeed getting paid. His Funkey Monkey Brand has been put on books, T-shirts, coffee mugs, banana flavored milk and men's boxers. Some suggest that he's taking home and extra $5 million a year in endorsements. That ain't peanuts, folks.
Washington's success has sparked heated debate from the board room to the barbershop. Does a black journalist's work carry a dual responsibility to the image of his race? Is it wrong to impose some cultural standard on him? Isn't there room for both monkey and non-monkey journalism? And if you don't like Washington's show, can't you just turn it off and let him do his thing?
"Black people should never criticize each other," says Melinda Hines, president of the Rakeif Washington fansite. "We should be able to say anything, do anything, present any image no matter how offensive and no matter how much it corrupts, influences or otherwise harms the existing perceptions of our race. No black expression should ever be taboo-- except that bitch NeNe!
WHN Incorporated, the parent of World Headline News, is sticking by it's hairy host saying that "[W]e fully support Rakeif's brilliant interpretation and his efforts to fight for his people. We do not feel that a Black man in a monkey head is per se racist or offensive or represents black people anymore than a camel represents a Middle Easterner or an Indian represents a 7-11."
Washington doesn't plan to let detractors stop his empire from growing. He has a new studio deal and he's shooting a TV drama about a brilliant but sensitive intern who wears a monkey head at a big city hospital called Simian's Wake.
But the protest against Washington continues to grow. The American Society of Black Journalists have petitioned WHNI to remove Washington from the air and vow to fight until the network is "monkey free."