Buffoonery, Exploitation, and Taboo
By James Clingman Jr.
That’s what BET means to me. The so-called “Black” entertainment network, owned by Viacom, is immersed in at least 20 hours per day of videos, hype, jokes, Black-folks-in prison movies, expletives, “Beefs,” gangsters, and even snake-oil selling preachers offering blessings in a bottle for just $106.00 a whop. And we wonder why so many of our youth act the way they do. Admittedly, BET is not the entire problem; but it sure isn’t any of the solution either. Impressionable youth are being negatively programmed everyday by this money-machine called BET, and all most of us do is complain about it.
It’s true that parents should keep their children away from TV trash and teach them better; but we also have an obligation to confront the perpetrators. How do we do that? Glad you asked. Stop buying the stuff their selling, and let those who are selling it know your feelings about the negative programming. Also, write to them and let them know your dissatisfaction.
Remember when BET at least had several programs that were informative and helpful to Black people? News, interviews with folks we respected and appreciated, Lead Story, Bev Smith, Tavis Smiley, George Curry at Emerge Magazine, Jazz. At least our children could learn something of value from it. Old BET aired some ridiculous stuff too, but it wasn’t as stupid as most of it is now.
Does that mean Viacom sees us as stupid, blind, conspicuous consumers who will go out and buy everything they advertise on BET? If we continue to buy the gold chains and medallions, “grills,” spinners, plasma screens, cars, gym shoes, guns, athletic jerseys, champagne, liquor, and all the other things we see during the daily BET video orgy of excess and nothingness, the answer is obvious.
I think Viacom not only believes we’re stupid, they believe we’re stuck on stupid. They pipe in garbage, and we lap it up. They insult us and our children, especially our young women, and we insult ourselves by participating in our own exploitation,. And the monotonous beat goes on and on like the drumbeat of a new Bataan Death March.
Yes, I do remember when I was young and impetuous, and how I liked to watch things that were not necessarily in my own best interests. An honest assessment of myself would reveal many of the same vulnerabilities and excesses as the young men today, relatively speaking. Each generation has its demons. But when we know better, we must do better – or no better for us. Many of our young people are sitting in jail right now because they followed through on something they saw on television. It was their choice, for sure, but that is no excuse for us, the adults who know better, not to speak out against things that influence their choices. My bad choices as a child do not exempt me from the responsibility of helping the younger generations make good choices.
Because this society is all about money, power, and material gain we are scraping the bottom of the garbage pit when it comes to providing our children with reasonable, attractive, and lucrative alternatives to much of the behavior we often get on their case about. Black people remain at the bottom of every economic category in this country, yet we allow our children to sit for hours watching Buffoonery, Exploitation, and Taboo, vicariously living the bling-bling life of the rich and famous.
Meanwhile, they cannot speak in complete sentences, and when they do you can’t understand what they are saying. They know nothing about their history and culture, and their Black consciousness is nonexistent. They drop out of school by the thousands, and you and I both know what awaits them after that, right? Our youth need all the help they can get – from us – and a major part of that help must be our willingness to speak out against attempts by profiteers and biased media to brainwash them. Then we must be willing to economically punish those who use our young people as fodder for their own economic empowerment.
And you know what else we must do? Those of us who are supposed to be men and women, adults in every sense of the word, must portray the proper examples for our youth. If we tell them Buffoonery, Exploitation, and Taboo are bad, and they see us watching it, what kind of message are we sending to them?
I don’t know about you, Black folks, but I am hurt and saddened by what I see in our youth, much of which emanates from media like BET. I know our young people are into a lot of other negative behaviors; I know they are running rampant in the streets and hurting one another. But I also know that, wherever and whenever I can, I must use whatever resources I have to try to save just one at a time. In order to do that, I cannot be afraid, neither can I be tepid in my response to folks who strive to mislead and exploit our youth.
Does all of this sound quixotic? Maybe it is; but our young people are worth it. Just as you and I of the older generations learned in our later years, we must pass on those lessons to our young brothers and sisters so they too may “get it” in their later years, if not sooner.
The supporters of BET will tell me about all the jobs and entertainment opportunities BET has provided over the years, and that’s true. But can’t BET do the same thing in a more positive way? It sure use to. Ask Donnie Simpson.
Stop allowing your children to be programmed by Buffoonery, Exploitation, and Taboo.
Originally appeared in Blackonomics.