We know that you are sick of hearing about it; I was too all the way from when they took off informative and constructive programs like Teen Summit (which I thought I had only missed) to hearing the rhetoric about them refusing to show Little Brother videos on their rotation of what must be the same 12 pop-rap videos. We know that BET represents the end of creative, forward thinking, post-modern black entertainment as we know it, particularly under the hand of executives put in place by Viacom, the new owner. BET used to be one of the reasons I wanted to move to Washington, D.C., yet their entertainment is no longer a reflection of what was one of the success stories of the middle class African-American community but now a minstrel show of demeaning images that showcase the absolute worst of African-American society, leaving controversial movies like School Daze about as friendly as Barney on a Monday afternoon as you’re popping pain killers to phase out your screaming children because you were stuck babysitting.
The arguments of the protesters outside of Debra L. Lee’s home are simple enough; BET has digressed to the point where Caucasian kids find entertainment in what should be insulting to African-Americans with any remote form of a conscious. Yet in truth progressive Blacks have long given up on the network years ago, and while it was interesting to see Fox News attempt to put some type of a positive spin on this we were greeted by yet the unwelcome face of an African-American man, (an intelligent, articulate one at that) defending the right of the network to do so far better than Russel Simmons ever could have expected to defend hip-hop against the likes of Bill O’ Reilly, and that is just outright disturbing. Clarence Thomas had a harder time selling me arguments against Affirmative Action, and I am almost ready to agree with the hyperbole of what should be our civil rights leadership.
Where does this leave us, if anywhere? While the marketplace is there, and most likely will be for another 30 years (if anyone has forgotten we were found power in blaxploitation films 30 years ago and many of today’s rappers are inspired by those films) does this mean that we continue to subject our children to the materialistic, hedonistic worship of nothing but status and the women who love to do whatever it takes to get next to the man with everything that is most likely going to give them nothing but herpes? We used to be ashamed of how ignorant some of us act at black colleges, yet now it has turned into daytime television for some of us. If women aren’t being called denigrating names actions alone should denigrate them far more so than anything that actually comes out of anyone’s mouth.
This is the problem; Viacom also owns a bunch of other networks that aren’t necessarily conscientious, thought-provoking or positive, towards anyone, such as MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. If anyone forgot this is where you can find Flavor of Love where “sisters” and white women who want to be sisters get into catfights and spit on each other, Dave Chapelle shows us just how convoluted racism is in his very first sketch in the first season of his television show and Spongebob shows how insanely retarded living at the bottom of the ocean can be. People make even more of a mockery of the idea of their being a television star 20 years ago on the Surreal Life, and you can watch a former child actor turn into a raging alcoholic almost on que. So why should anyone expect more from BET, which is now part of the fold? If BET had been picked up by another company a lot of this may have never happened, and many are now wondering if it is even worth the notoriety of having what was the only network ran by Blacks for Blacks in light of these new developments.
Many of the new shows are still breaking ground and pushing the idea of Black entertainment forward and many simply are not. I still enjoy Comic View, and Bobby Jones Gospel is still the only place worth being on Sunday mornings if you want something other than a sermon. Yet this is part of the problem, BET’s best shows still revolve around a predictable, unimaginative reworking of their Sunday ethos of capitalizing upon the fact that African-Americans are more compelled to watch preachers on television as opposed to the News shows that deal with national politics. So tell us something about what is good about BET, and change it from the inside out, instead of humiliating them. Then again, when concerns are not heard, people take things to the streets as usual …