The World Is A Ghetto:
Is Hot Ghetto Really Messin' It Up For Black Folks?
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott
Don't you know that it's true/ That for me and for you
The world is a ghetto
Meet Bob Roberts. He lives in a gated community with manicured lawns, talks "good" English and was the first "black" admitted to the Glen Haven Country Club. He thinks that he is a living example of the American Dream until a case of mistaken identity lands him in the same cell with Tyrone "T-Boogie" Johnson...
For those who aren't down with Black Entertainment Television, the network's latest attempt to provide wholesome family entertainment is a reality show called Hot Ghetto Mess, which (so far) is scheduled to debut on July 25th. The show is a spinoff of the website of the same name started by Jam Donaldson a few years back which bought attention to the "ghettorization" of Black culture by exposing the perpetrators to public ridicule.
Initially, it was a good idea as it was able to shine the spotlight on an issue in the Black community that had not really been addressed. And, believe it or not , a lot of really smart people visit the site on a regular basis. Also, to Donaldson's credit, she didn't duck the controversy surrounding the site but answered the critics, head on. So I ain't mad at Jam. I just question HGM under the auspices of Sumner Redstone's BET/Viacom empire.
Based on its line up over the last decade, one could make a convincing argument that BET wouldn't know good programing if it smacked it in the face...(And no, showing the movie Baby Boy twice a week with the introduction borrowed from Dr. Frances Cress Welsing doesn't count as uplifting the race.) But the main question is can Viacom, which brought us such "positive" shows like BET's sister company’s VH1's "Flavor of Love" and "I Love New York," really be able to separate "ghetto" as an unfortunate economic condition from "ghetto" as a comedy skit?
When I hear the term, "ghetto", my mind flashes back to the 70's sitcom, "Good Times" and the Evan family’s endless attempts to escape tha hood. However, the term "ghetto" wasn't originally a black thang. The term originally referred to the places where European Jews were forced to live and then where European immigrants resided when they came to America. It wasn't until decades later that the term became used to describe tha hood. The difference is that if Viacom was poking fun at the ghettos of Warsaw instead of the ghetto's of Chi-Town, nobody would be laughing.
So how did the ghetto become Chocolate City?
According to the 1965 Moynihan Report:
"the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle-class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated....So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself."
And who is to blame for this?
According to the Kerner Commission Report published in 1968:
"..white America society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain and white society condones it."
The people of the ghetto have always been a source of embarrassment for the black bourgeois. Kinda like the light "skinned-ed" sista that was ashamed of her dark skinned mama in "An Imitation of Life."
It must be noted that the gains of the Civil Rights Era were mostly because of the "ghetto people" who were busy fighting in the streets while the "bougies" were busy trying to get "gov’ment" jobs. Instead of reaching back and hooking the Brotha’s and Sista’s up with a gig, those ingrates got their first paychecks and kept on truckin’.
What has changed since the 70's and 80's is that "ghetto" is no longer a place from where you try to elevate yourself but a place that you carry around for life, like old luggage. Also, the authentic "ghetto" look is expensive these days. Have you checked the price of gold grills, lately?
So, ghetto has moved from being a class to a caste from which one cannot escape.
Thanks largely to the entertainment industry a group of "untouchables" has been created that is not characterized by red dots on the forehead but gold teeth and jheri curls.
Since HGM is supposed to be an accurate portrayal of how "we" act I can't see Lakesha going out of her way to make sure that she watches the program every Wednesday night. However, I can see Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity loungin' around their living rooms, popping popcorn and laughing themselves silly at our expense.
The bright side of the controversy is that people like Latrice Janine, who started an online petition to remove the show months before everybody started jumpin on the post Imus Hip Hop bashin’ bandwagon and groups like Turn Off Channel Zero, that have been ragin’ against the machine by pushin’ anti -Viacom DVD’s in hood's across the country are proving that everyday folks can stick it to the man without the help of the Civil Rights leaders. Instead of burying the "N" word wouldn’t it have been more effective if the NAACP would have burned a wax figure of Sumner Redstone in effigy?
Already, sponsors are dropping their ads like hot ghetto hot cakes.
Surely, some will ask what good will boycotting Hot Ghetto Mess do and the critics will say that we are only fighting against it because we are too concerned about how white folks perceive us. In reality, it’s all about how we see ourselves...Because, to keep it real, white folks make an initial judgement based on skin color not what's in your wallet nor the degree hanging on your living room wall.
As the original theme of the Hot Ghetto Mess website proclaimed "We’ve got to do better." And that goes far beyond cancelling a television program.
I applaud the efforts to prevent another "diss" to black culture but removing a TV show still won't change the root causes that created the ghetto in the first place.
At the end of the day, will cancelling Hot Ghetto mess change the economic condition of the inner cities?
Will it force those Black folks who have "made it" to come back and help "tha hood?"
And lastly, will it change the perception of Black people by white society ?
As Malcolm X once asked in a debate.
"You know what white racists call black PH.Ds?"
TRUTH Minista Paul Scott is a writer and activist based in Durham NC. His blog is http://www.nowarningshotsfired.com
He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org