BET: Wipe Your Feet on the Mat
Min. Paul Scott
One of the most disrespectful things that you can do to a southern woman's house is to walk into her living room without first having the courtesy ie."home training” to wipe your feet on the welcome mat. Many a child hood friend has found himself banned from the premises for life for tracking mud on an immaculately clean carpet. For us black folks our culture has historically been our house and Black Entertainment Television has been that rotten little kid who tracks mud all over mama's rug without as much as an "I beg your pardon."
One of the most interesting ongoing debates in theblack community has been the impact of BET on the black community. There seems to be a 50/50 split between those who feel that BET is the embodiment ofMarcus Garvey’s dream of black empowerment and those who swear that the network is the worst thing to happen to black people since Amos and Andy. One has to admit that BET has been responsible for launching the careers of some of or best and brightest like Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon. Not to mention giving birth to the first black billionaire Bob Johnson.However, BET is also responsible for making Snoop Dog and 50 Cent household names not to mention giving young black men a new national anthem called "We don't love them hoes.
And yes, one could argue that the network is responsible for such programming as BET News which gave a voice to concerns that the maintream felt were not important and Teen Summit which gave black children an intelligent alternative to a Saturday morning ride on the Soul Train. However, BET also was gave teenage boys a reason to set their alarm clocks to 2AM to watch an Xrated episode of BET Uncut and also provided black latch key kids with a sassy, trash talking cartoon VJ named "Miss Cita."We all have our fond and not so fond memories of BET.Which one of us, over 30, can deny rushing home from school everyday to watch Donnie Simpson and Sherrie Carter give us the best in black entertainment. Also, no one went out to play baseball until Chris Thomas"The Mayor of Rap City" declared our daily rap video meeting, ajourned. Who can’t recall staying up lateat night serenading our love interests while the unseen VJ played those sappy 80's, lovey dooveyvideos.
Those were the good old days when black folks took pride in just being black.
But this isn't 1987 and both black culture and BET have been on a downward spiral for years.
The politically conscious Hip Hop of 80's icons like Public Enemy has been replaced with songs of sex,murder and mayhem. Shows that motivated high school black children to go to college like the Cosby spinoff" A Different World" so that they could make something of themselves have been replaced by BET's reality show"College Hill" and Spring Bling which feature our future leaders in exotic places getting their "freakon.
"My how times have changed.
As BET prepares for its crown jewel, the June 26th 2007 BET awards, the eyes of a post Imus America will be on the network. I am sure that the Hip Hop hatin' bloggers who would normally be watching Fox NewsChannel will be tuned into BET with their Urban Slang Dictionaries and lap tops handy just waiting to pounce on the first rapper who says the dreaded "N"word or some funky equivalent. In all fairness, the award show has traditionally been one of the networks"classier" events. Who can forget Jada Pickett Smith's admonishing of a bunch of millionaire black folks not to act "ignant" at the 2005 awards show. This would have been really funny if she hadn't been dead serious. Despite its downfalls, millions of people will be watching the BET Awards which proves the network has yet to be fully excommunicated from the black community . Even those of us critics, just want BET to wipe theirfeet on the welcome mat before they enter our living rooms.
Min. Paul Scott is an activist and writer in Durham NC. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283