Dear E! News, Lee Thompson Young’s Death and Yoruba “Religion” Link is Irresponsible
I used to watch The Famous Jett Jackson and swoon because Lee Thompson Young was SO CUTE! The teen me would just get my life from that show, and I couldn’t even tell you the plot. I was shallow then and I’m shallow now (-_-).
Finding out that Lee died on Monday was incredibly sad since not only was he really young (29) but he took his own life. Well, death is devastating no matter what form it comes in but there’s an extra gut punch to suicide because people ask “What happened?” but the answer is seldom clear. It is NEVER comforting. Plus, it puts a face on mental illness, and it becomes harder for us to ignore this REAL problem.
Lee’s death started the conversation we always have but never sustain long enough. At its most productive, people talk about their experience living with mental illness: what it’s like, what it’s not and what helps them carry on. At its least productive, which is where most of the conversation lingers, people throw around assumptions and what they think happened. And at the VERY BOTTOM are the people who want to demonize the person who made the choice to end their life. GAHHHHHH!!!
Where am I going with this? Well E! News’ Rebecca Macatee wrote a piece yesterday about Lee Thompson Young‘s death. However, instead of adding value to the conversation about mental health, she took the path too often chosen to play Psychic Friends Hotline and tell us all what she thinks was to blame here. And she seems to have placed it on the “Yoruba Religion.” So this sternly-worded letter is to E! News for being ill-informed ignoramuses. They’re welcome in advance.
Dear E! News,
What the hell?? Seriously. We know fact-checking and correct reporting is all 2008 and we’re all 200-late but GAHTDAMB! Make an effort to look past Wikipedia as a source because when you don’t, FAIL happens.
The ignorance that soaked in every paragraph of the piece on Lee Thompson Young’s death was just mind-boggling. It was more problematic than a world map drawn by Sarah Palin.
This paragraph is where I started fighting the air.
First of all, contrary to what Wikipedia says, Yoruba is not a religion. Let’s get that straight out of the gate. Yoruba is the name of a people; Yoruba is a language; Yoruba is culture. Yoruba people are MY people and that’s MY tongue and that’s MY culture. Yoruba is NOT a religion! Talmbout “practicing Yoruba.” You mean he was outchea figuring out how to say “Ba wo ni” and “e ka le?” That better be it.
I went to my Mom and asked her: “Is Yoruba a religion?” and she hit me with a head shake so hard that I thought she was gon give herself whiplash. She was firm with her answer of “YORUBA IS A PEOPLE.” The Elders ain’t with it so NOPE! WELP!
Ifá is the traditional religion that you probably meant, but assuming that a majority of Yoruba people practice it is incredibly pinhole-minded. Just like we speak different dialects of the language, our beliefs are diverse. Us Yorubas are a religious people and most of us practice Christianity or Islam.
Even if Lee was practicing Ifa, he would not be encouraged to take his own life. So let me shut this line of reasoning down now. I’m so upset that it even comes up!
To further add insult to injury, you call Yoruba “Africa-based,” because you know Africa is a small region O___O. The Yoruba people are in West Africa, across Nigeria, Togo and Benin. But why be specific when you can just say “Africa?” This whole bit is like saying “began practicing Chinese, an Asian-based religion.” It’s a conflation of history and culture and it’s pretty lazy!
Always relevant: AFRICA IS NOT A COUNTRY OR A RURAL STATE, JERKWADS!
It’s 2013 and you’re still speaking of the cradle of civilization like it’s some county in Texas. People are gon learn to PAY #AMISH to that epic continent in all it’s glory! One sweet day!
In addition to ALL’AT diminishing of Yoruba culture and Africa as a force, you are implying that Lee’s alleged involvement in this “religion” that is linked to Yoruba (O___O) before he died led him to kill himself.
“Death before dishonor” isn’t used just in this context. Some people are walking around with the Japanese symbol for that phrase tattooed on them as we speak. Doesn’t mean they’re gonna go kill themselves!
It’s pretty ballsy to insinuate this and it’s the biggest crock of bullshit. Methinks it demonizes Yoruba people as advocates for suicide. It’s irresponsible, full of bigotry and plays into the “Africans are barbaric” trope. For you to even dedicate an article to talmbout how a celebrity who joined some “African” religion killed himself possibly from the belief that he was sacrificing himself for honor is just outrageous! The thought just gave tylenol a headache and I’m not here for it.
AND on top of that, it’s only been 2 days since Lee was found dead. Why are you so thirsty to report on the WHY right now? Tuck in your dehydration, E! Sip some gatorade and relax.
You’re bloody IJOTS for that rubbish article! It is careless, wrong, stupid and unnecessary. More importantly, it’s dangerous. Instead of placing weight on the severity of depression and mental illness, it places onus on faith that you know nothing about. It minimizes the real issue here and spotlights something that is probably of little to no relevance. Be ashamed of yourself for depressing the dialogue about depression and doing the most with the complete least.
Oh and WHO WAS YOUR JANKY SOURCE?!? Ugh! I don’t care. Have ALL the seats you can find and do better.
Stay Classy, E! STAY GAHTDAMB CLASSY!
Yours in Proud Yoruba-dom,
P.S. Not only was this reported online but E! News talked about it on air. UGHHHH!!! The wackness is too much for me to handle.
P.P.S. I asked my Mom what it means to be a Yoruba Priestess like folks call Iyanla and she said “that means nothing.” OOP.
So what are your thoughts on this E! article? Many of my Yoruba friends hit me up LIVID about it.
Edit: Rebecca Macatee, the author of the article tweeted me that she made the following update to it:
Update: Sources confirmed to E! News that Young was a practitioner of the Yorùbá religion, a faith based on the ancient traditions of the Yorùbá people. It should be noted, however, that Yorùbá more commonly refers to the West African tribe which is made up of Christians, Muslims and a multitude of people from different faiths.
NOPE. That’s not enough.
UPDATE #2: Rebecca emailed me a nice note and apologized for this article. She wants us to have a conversation so she can learn more and I’m open to it. And I do appreciate her for reaching out and trying to understand what I was saying here. We’re going to chat.