While watching BET’s Tiny & Toya, I thought to myself, “geez, I hope we don’t spend the rest of the season listening to Tiny whine about T.I. being in jail.” Shortly after having that thought, I started to think about it outside of a reality show context. To me it’s just another “storyline” in a television show I watch occasionally. To her, the head of their family and the love of her life is gone for a year and a day. While she’s trying to maintain a normal life down in Atlanta, GA, T.I. is on ice up in Forest Hills, Arkansas. Normal life might be a bit of a stretch. She’s in front of the cameras on her own reality show. She’s dealing with a father who is steadily losing it due to Alzheimer’s Disease. She’s struggling with resurrecting a singing career. Those things alone would be enough to stress out any one of us. Tiny, though, is shouldering a burden that many women of color carry at some point in their lives… losing a man to prison/jail.
I understand that as of late, T.I./Clifford Harris, Jr. has been trying to give back to his community and fly right. He has put in 1,500 hrs of community service by reaching out to the young folks and warning them about drugs, violence and gangs. For full disclosure, that was part of his plea deal but I’m sure he wants to do that on his own anyway. He also addressed some remorse and tried to help others avoid the same pitfalls on his MTV reality show “T.I.’s Road to Redemption.”
Yeah, T.I. can be a nice guy. That being said, T.I. and men like him need to realize that they’re actions are not their own. We do not live in this “me, myself and I” type of world where you can do what you want without regard for how your actions affect your community, your family and unseen folks the world over. Felony weapons charges! After you had already gotten busted years ago for drug charges. I’d like to acknowledge the disproportionate sentencing, imprisonment, administration of parole/probation and blacklisting of Black and Latino men in this country. I’m not going to go into depth with that point here, but you all know the deal. I just wanted to give a nod to the issue so I can say this: Some shit is not about the police or the justice system or the parole board. It’s about you. Now grow up and get your life together. We all make mistakes but your insistence on making MORE mistakes at the expense of your family and loved ones is selfish. Not only do you take away from your wife/girl/children/parents/siblings/friends. You take away from the Black Community’s power by diminishing our collective strength and self-esteem.
Now I’ve got to watch Tiny skip out on a night with the girls because she’s trying to spend every moment possible with her man before he goes away. I’ve got to see her cry (and that is not a pretty picture). Instead of Toya focusing on her mother and trying to get back with Wayne, she’s comforting her friend (see, it affects her as well).
The positive thing is that unlike many women in like situations, Tiny has the benefit of being a top-selling rapper’s main ride or die chick and the mother of his children. Not to mention that she was putting out hits of her own with the group Xscape before anyone knew who T.I. was. Her family is well off and taken care of. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how she handles his absence as the show runs its course. Because while she has the means to take care of everyone while he’s away, her happiness and emotional well-being is clearly tightly bound to his happiness and proximity to her.
I’ve had a boyfriend in jail before and it was not fun. I’m not really trying to compare to Tiny and Toya because county jail is not prison, I could walk there to see him if I wanted, he wasn’t up for nearly as long as T.I., and this was years ago anyway. I mention it to say that if I could be all torn up over my little high school boyfriend being locked up at county, Tiny’s really in the middle of a whole heap of hurt. I just wish more people thought about how the people they love (and who love them back) would deal with the repercussions of their actions. Because real talk, if a teary Tiny pouts and pokes those lips out any farther I’m going to take a bath with a toaster. And you all can blame T.I./TIP for that.