Recently I’ve heard lots of reaction to Dr. Boyce Watkins’ remarks likening BET to the KKK, and I decided that I would perhaps contribute two cents to the discussion. The gist of it, as I understand it, is that BET is essentially the enemy of the black community because of the image it perpetuates by feeding negative images of “Black Culture” to the masses. I guess I would really be upset with BET if I looked at BET as the sole representative of “Black Culture” existent in the world. But Dr. Watkins has a point in one respect—BET is just about the ONLY network I get that has shows for and about black people featuring black actors. But is that enough? At some point in the past we could be proud that Hattie McDaniel won an Academy Award, but that doesn’t mean that we are satisfied with only seeing black women as maids on the big screen. We can similarly be proud of Denzel, but understand that we aren’t satisfied with black men only being criminals. The same with Halle and the single mother/sexual object. But neither of those films or roles is a product of BET. So what is to be done?
Surely some of us remember the days of Video Soul with Donnie Simpson and Jacque Reid, Tavis Smiley, or Ed Gordon holding down news desks. Teen Summit used to be a program I watched faithfully. But times change. For any remnants of “Soul” in the form of a video I have to rely on YouTube now, and all of my news comes from the major networks. And the only teen programming that comes to mind now, honestly, is the show on MTV that follows pregnant young women around to highlight the struggles they face, which seems more like a social experiment than any programming directed at actually educating young folks. Would I prefer to get my “entertainment” from BET, or a network with a focus on issues relevant to me and my community? Yes. Is this what BET is offering? No.
Maybe we are beyond the NEED for a network with such a format. Perhaps we truly are living in a “post-racial” society with “our” president, and the need that existed in 1980 is no longer present. Or maybe BET is a propaganda machine that is trying to negatively influence little black minds to be thugs, whores, criminals and such. I don’t know. I guess the benefit of having cable is I can always turn the channel, or better yet, turn the television off. Surely there have to be better examples somewhere outside the box.