A Different World (1987–1993): Season 5, Episode 11 - Mammy Dearest - full transcript

Whitley throws herself into an art exhibit in order to forget her break-up with Dwayne, and Kim is furious that Whitley wants to include stereotypical "Mammy" items in the exhibit. Whitley discovers an unpleasant truth about one o...

What is it?

"A house is not a home."

Ladies, your eaves are dropping.

Whitley hasn't come out
of her room all week, so...

We were just...

You were just busted.

Come out from over there.

Tell us the truth, are she
and Dwayne splitsville?


As resident assistant

I'm officially changing
the subject.

We have a very important
dorm dedication ceremony

coming up, and...

I heard she gave the ring back.

I heard she swallowed it.

Hello, my sisters.

Whitley, you look great.

How else would I look?

Haven't you ever seen fashions
from the motherland before?

Not on you.

I intend to put the chic
back into dashiki.

We were discussing
the dorm dedication ceremony.

What a ceremony
it's going to be.

Kim, you be in charge
of the auditions.

I'll do the art exhibit.

Come on, people, let's get busy.

Whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo, whoo.

Whitley. Whitley.

Are you okay?

Never been better.

Take cover.

She's going to blow.

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Thank you. Next.


She's cold.

I would like to perform
a selection

from for colored girls

who have considered suicide
when the rainbow is enuf.

Thank you.

That was lovely.

That was just the title.

Well, make it snappy, winnifred.

Take your time, winnifred.

Thank you.

"I can't hear anything
but maddening screams

"and the soft strains of death

"and you promised me,
you promised me



Sing a black girl's song.

Well, now we know why
colored girls consider suicide.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Remember, she's in pain.

I thought you were in charge
of the exhibit

and I was in charge
of the audition.

I was just trying to bring out
the best in my sisters.

Whitley, are you okay?

Why do you keep asking me that?

First, because you're
dressed like a disco
babe from Botswana.

And second, you
haven't said a
word about Dwayne.

Kimberly, why do women feel

that they have
to define themselves

in terms of men?

From now on,
sisterhood is my solace.

Maya angelou.

Leontyne price.

Marion Anderson.

Angela Davis.

We must use these women
as examples to keep us strong.




What is this?


She's part of my exhibit

"from mammy to modern times"
about how African-American women

have struggled to survive.

She's part of who we are.

She's a part of me?

I don't think so.

No way.

She's a powerful symbol

of our struggle, Lena.

She's right, my sisters.

Did you just agree with me?

Disturbing, isn't it?

Lena, have you ever read
a real live slave journal?

You know, i's a'been meaning to.

Why don't you carry
your ignorant behind

to the Gilbert archives?

You could learn something
about slavery

and the civil war
and my fantastic family.

I won't learn anything
about myself

by looking at this.

Kimmie, in order
to neutralize a stereotype

we have to reclaim it.

It's called reappropriating
the symbols of our oppressors.

Thank you, my sister.

Don't push it.

Just because her face
is on a pancake box

doesn't mean
that's who she really was.

Mammy is a racist stereotype.

That smile isn't laughter.
It's fear.

If not for mammy,
you wouldn't be here.

Thank you.

All mammy did was cook vittles.

That's all I do for you.

Some black people
forget their folklore.

That's what makes us strong.

Even if it's demeaning?

We don't look like that.

I say get a mirror
and get a sense of humor.

Some don't think it's funny.

Honey, all of us have
our crosses to bear.

Personally, I've often been told

I look like Lena horne.

You are sick.

Dwayne, would you stop
thinking about whitley?

Listen carefully.

Your mother is so black

when she wears orange lipstick
she looks like a cheeseburger.

Come on, Dwayne.
Snap out of it.

Come back to me.

Your mother is so fat...

She jumped in the air
and got stuck.


Your mother is so black

when they pour water in her head
coffee comes out her mouth.

Your mama's hair is so nappy

when she braids it,
it looks like stitches.

It's not funny!

What's wrong with her?

We're just doing
the dozens.

"She's black, she's fat,
she's nappy."

If you knew where
the dozens come from

you wouldn't want
to be laughing about it.

The expression "dozens"

comes from the slave auctions.

If they didn't think
you were prime quality

you were sold by the dozen.

I wouldn't be in that group.

Has anyone seen Kim?


Listen to this.

"Old master told
the little slave children

"the stork brought
the white babies

"to their mothers

but you were all hatched
out of buzzard's eggs."

Them good old days
on the plantation.

Oh, Kim...

Kim, you should really

check this out.

Slave journals
from the Gilbert archives.

Real heavy stuff.

No, thanks.

Kim, I wanted to apologize
for this afternoon.

Let's just drop it, okay?


I need to talk to you
about the ceremony.

Whitley, I need a favor.


Don't put these mammies
on display.


I don't want to get
into it right now.

you're not listening to me.

We have to embrace our history

so we can deal with it.

You're doing this

to forget your personal life.

That is an ugly untruth.

Well, so is this.

You do the show.
I quit.

Well, Mr. Gaines, I have learned
to keep on keeping on.

You and Gladys.



How are you?


And you?


Okay too.

Nice tie.

You chose it.

- I know.
- Hey, whitley...

Oh, is this a bad time?

Not at all, miss Lena.

Excuse us.

I went to the Gilbert archives
like you suggested

and I found out a lot
of interesting things

especially about your family.

Yes, I'm very fortunate
to have come

from such a rich and diversified
African-American family.

Diversified is right.

I mean, imagine coming
from an African-American family

that owned over 100 slaves.


Are you saying that...

My family owned slaves?

Black slaves?

Back in the early 1800s

you had a relative
named Jeremiah...

granddaddy Jeremiah?

He was a freed slave.

He got rich
from making cotton gins.

And part of his wealth
went into buying slaves.

There must be some mistake.

No, this doesn't look
like a mistake.

That's a reproduction
of a bill of sale.

Your great-great-granddaddy

had just bought ten new slaves.

Now, he was a free man of color

but he was also a black master.

But, Lena...

I didn't know

that black people owned
other black people.

Only a few did.

Now we know why you're so bossy.

It's DNA...
"dem no-good ancestors."


Lena, wait a minute.

Little muckraker, you.

Let's just keep this
our little secret.

So in other words,
keep my mouth shut.

That's such an ugly,
yet accurate way

of putting it.

And here's a little
something for you.

Whitley, whitley, whitley...

That's not even my style.

Put that down, Mr. Gaines!


Never again will
a brother get dishpan hands

on my account.

Well, I wear rubber gloves.

Yeah, good night, Greg.

Kimberly Reese, you've been
acting teched all week.

I'm pre-med.

I know the difference

between median behavior
and psychosis.

I'm a short order cook,
and I know the difference

between catsup and hot sauce.

I'm sorry, Mr. Gaines.

It's this
dorm dedication ceremony.

Whitley put me in charge
of the entertainment

and I can't handle it right now.

Well, Dr. Reese...

For your particular ailment,
may I prescribe to you

a couple of my
pecan praline cookies?


I just lost my appetite,
Mr. Gaines.

Kimberly Reese, what's
wrong with you?

I hate these things!

You know what I want
to say to whitley?

"It's easy for you.

Who does this look like...
Me or you?"

Is this what you think
you look like?

Mr. Gaines...

When I was a little girl

Halloween used to be
my favorite holiday.


One year, I wore gold earrings

a beautiful scarf,
and a flowing skirt...

I was a nubian Princess.

And there was this costume
contest in my grade school

and I really wanted to win...

And I did.

And I was so proud
when they called my name

and I went up on stage...

And as they were handing me
a silver dollar...

The principal announced

"first prize to Kimberly Reese
as aunt jemima."

You know, the worst part is,
Mr. Gaines

I just took the silver dollar
and smiled.

I guess that's
how people see me.

How do you see yourself?

I don't know!

I look in the mirror,
and I see Kimberly Reese

always getting straight a's,
always polite, always smiling

but that's not me.

It's a mask.

Do you know
why mammy is smiling?


Because she knows

the treasure that
she's got inside.

My great-great-grandmother
was a mammy.

Strong, full of love.

Kept the family together.

Now, that's nothing
to be ashamed of.

You should be proud.

You know what I see
when I look at you?

I see a beautiful
nubian Princess

from Columbus, Ohio.


Yes, is this the green residence
in culpepper, Mississippi?

Hi, Mrs. Green.
This is whitley Gilbert.

You don't know me, but...

There's someone at my door.

Just hold
one skinny little moment.


Thank you.

Whitley, um, I... well...

I'm sorry, Dwayne. I'm
on a long-distance call.

Well, um...

Things have been
really awkward between us.


Well, we haven't spoken
in over a week.

Be with you in a moment,
miss green.

Spit it out, Dwayne.

I was just hoping
that we could be friends.


Like buddies?

Like pals?

Like homeboys?

- Forget it.
- Oh!

I'm sorry, miss green.

Um, this is whitley Gilbert

and I just have
a personal question for you.

It may seem a little strange

but I think my family might
have owned your family in 1835

and I just feel so bad, um...

Do you know what your ancestors
were doing in 18..?


Whitley, the ceremony's
about to start.

Come on!

Is that you, Freddie?

Come on!

At first, we all had
a problem with mammy

but thanks to our dorm director

we've learned a lot
of interesting things.

So, we would like to dedicate
this performance

to miss whitley Gilbert.

Miss Gilbert,
where are you going?

This performance
is dedicated to you.

I... I... can't stay,
Mr. Gaines

I don't really belong here.

I'm not one of the sisters.

What are you talking about?

I found out that my
great-granddaddy used
to own slaves

and I don't know how
any black person

can justify the enslavement
of other black people.

I've heard of black men

who bought back
their wives and children

but that's your ancestors,
not you.

I'm sick of this talk
about color

and who did what to who when.

Now, just look
at the people in this room.

It's a rainbow of colors.

The entire rainbow is pretty.

Now, just look.

"We wear the mask
that grins and lies

"that hides our cheeks
and shades our eyes.

"This debt we pay
to human guile:

With torn and bleeding hearts
we smile."

Yowser, yowser, yowser.

I don't know nothing
about birthin' no babies.

Oh, mammy

yowser, yowser, yowser.

"I was born in the Congo

"I walked the fertile crescents
and built the sphinx

"I designed a pyramid so tough

"that a star that glows
every 103 years

"falls center

"giving divine perfect light

"I am bad

"I'm a gazelle

"so swift, so swift, ha

"you can't catch me

"for a birthday present

"for three years

"I gave my son Hannibal
an elephant

"and he gave me Rome
for mother's day

"my son Noah built a new ark

"and I turned myself into myself

"and was



"I am so hip

"even my errors are correct

"I mean... I... can fly

like a bird in the sky..."

Kimmie, how did you
get that idea?

Nikki Giovanni's poem...

Mr. Gaines...

And you.

Oh, yeah.

That was wonderful, my sister.

Thank you, my sister.

Kim, your mama...

Don't talk about my mama, Ron.

Your mama's daughter...

Is so beautiful...

Ron Johnson is speechless.