Most decent, educated, hard working black Americans have their own particular reason for disliking the BET Awards. All the while, it must be acknowledged that there are some Americans who love the show. Finally, there are those who love to watch the show so they can talk about how much they hate it. BET appreciates these viewers as much as anyone else, since most networks value ratings, no matter how they are obtained.
My personal anti-love affair with the BET Awards began when the singer R. Kelly was accused of having sex with an underage girl and videotaping the act. This occurred during a time when people were under the mistaken assumption that most African-Americans actually care about young black girls. Of course, this silly notion was quickly dismissed by BET, who not only continued with the planned R. Kelly performance, but gave him the longest segment on the show. The segment was the only one to actually include video and even ended by honoring him with an award.
Sure, we know that R. Kelly had been technically acquitted of his crime, but I hold to the reality that being found not guilty is not the same as being found innocent. Also, my friends who’ve watched the video “for research purposes” (no, I didn’t watch that video, I have daughters the same age as the young girl allegedly involved in the incident) report that the man on the video has a striking resemblance to R. Kelly. Either way, BET had an opportunity to take a stand on principle, and they did: They proved that they are incredibly principled about the idea of making money at any cost. When BET founder Bob Johnson reminded us that the “E” in BET stands for “Entertainment, not education,” that is when the network officially became similar to the purely capitalist entities who exploit poor, black Americans for financial gain. The difference is that you can get away with an extraordinary amount of exploitation if you disguise it with a blackface.
The R. Kelly/anti-black girl trend of the BET Awards continued years later as Lil Wayne rapped about wishing he could “f*ck every girl in the world” all the while, having underage girls dancing on the stage behind him. Finally, along with every other person who grew up admiring Michael Jackson’s talent, I wasn’t happy to see BET’s botched and hastily-designed tribute to the singer last year. But of course the execs at BET could care less, since the show was one of their most highly rated in history. When it’s all said and done in black America, making money seems to justify any and every activity utilized to make that money. This, my friends, is wrong.
Through the years, the BET Awards have become a staple of unhealthy and counter-productive broken black family fun. The show is as dysfunctional as those of who love to watch it, and the ratings turn out to be a major money maker for BET, who continues to line up the best artists in America. The problem for BET is that long ago when being founded by Bob Johnson, their soul was sold to the devil of modern American capitalism. Therefore, nearly every BET employee, executive, producer, and writer goes to bed wondering what damage he did to black America that day.
Like our broken financial system, I don’t blame BET employees for the problematic choices of the network, I blame the system and culture that has been established within BET over the past 30 years of its existence. Any employee who tries to fix the problem would surely be replaced by one who is willing to go along with the program.
When I reflect on the ups and downs of the last millennium, I think about Jim Crow, the introduction of crack cocaine, the spread of HIV, and the growth of BET to be among the great black disasters of the 20th century.