(ThyBlackMan.com) A couple of months ago, I was hit with an interesting controversy. I wrote an article to young black men, arguing that they should reject the influences of mainstream media and embrace the idea of sexual responsibility. My point was that sleeping around with a lot of different women is risky for many reasons, including: Unwanted pregnancy, STDs, child support issues, disappointing/harming the well-being of others and the risk of a false rape allegation from a woman you don’t know.
Personally, I thought I was doing the world a favor by telling young black men to be sexually responsible. Despite my best efforts, there were some who unbelievably thought I was promoting rape culture by even MENTIONING the idea that black men might be falsely accused of rape. I didn’t understand any of this, because thousands of black men have been falsely accused of rape over the centuries, this is nothing new. We should be happy that there is someone warning brothers to respect their bodies.
So, as I saw the flood of angry feminist scholars, some of them being black males, I thought to myself, “This doesn’t make any sense. It’s almost as if they are coming from the same Cyborg play book.” In case you aren’t aware, a Cyborg was a fictional creature on Star Trek that had many individual entities, but they all shared the same brain. I thought about this as I literally heard at least 20 critics (many of whom never actually read my article and couldn’t quote a word from it) repeat the same false statistic claiming that a man has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than he does of being falsely accused of rape.
So, this bogus, scientifically inaccurate and dangerous statistic was saying that
a) false accusations don’t happen,
But let me tell you how silly I can be. I actually did something that many of us aren’t trained to do in this political climate: I listened. I talked to my feminist friends about the issue. I spoke in detail about the issue with my feminist God-daughter who went to Columbia. I did research on other points of view.
I tried to understand where they were coming from and hear their perspective. I also respected the unified outrage being expressed by people like Rosa Clemente, Mark Anthony Neal and others, who took issue with my article, even though I can’t say they did a very good job of using actual proof (vs emotion) in order to make their points. Where I come from scholars debate with each other. They don’t get angry and refuse to speak to those with whom they disagree. Expressing inexplicable outrage might say that your argument is too intellectually weak to stand the test of meaningful scrutiny.
But here’s what I find astonishing. While I saw seemingly endless anger (and a lot of support) over my article, which was well-intended and written in full respect for my daughters, I hear almost nothing from many of these critical feminists when it comes to BET’s promotion of hip-hop artists who are entirely committed to some of the most horrific, humiliating sexist imagery imaginable.
Let me give you just one tiny sample of a verse from Rich Homie Quan, one of the artists being promoted at the 2014 BET Hip-Hop Music Awards – from the song “Chasin Paper” – notice the references to drugs, murdering black men, and disrespect for women:
She suck me sleep , She suck me sleep whenever she come in town Baby girl that swoop , Baby girl that swoop Rich Homie done tore her down
Plus she wanna f*ck me cause I order up the ones by the motherf*ckin’ pound
Oh My God Im Trippin’ , Oh My God Im LazyYou’s a b*tch nigga , Ima rich nigga
Make your wish nigga , Ima prince nigga
We ready for shootouts , We don’t dodge em nigga
Need about 15 bucks with this carbon nigga
Whole team eatin’ , We not starving nigga
Plus my b*tch and car , It stay foreign nigga
Got a b*tch from Magic City who wanna ride himGotta be loaded just to ride him (WASTED)
If you a b*tch then they gone disrespect you , You a lame them niggas gone press you Got a pistol but that don’t impress me, I’m the nigga that killed your nephew
This right here a banger , I ain’t talkin’ bout no singer
Put A hole in a stranger cause’ Guwop Don’t Run From Danger
Gucci Mane ball like an athlete , Nigga I might break your ankles
Someone call El Chapo , Tell him Guwop said I’m Thankful
Gucci Mane rock with vatos , Carbon 15?s I got those
Big buck shots I bust those , I leave a doughnut hole in your uncle
Told the plug send em nigga vamos , 150 bricks send pronto
Re-rocking squares in my condo and I don’t give a fuck if my Ma
In case people don’t know, “Carbon 15s” are guns, 150 bricks means 150 bricks of cocaine, and re-rocking squares is basically reconfiguring cocaine so you can sell more of it. This is the bullsh*t that BET is promoting to young black kids: Stay high, kill black men, sling dope, women ain’t sh*t. This is a consistent consistent consistent message being promoted to our young kids.
You can imagine how astonished I am to see many of the leading black feminists in New York remaining silent over BET’s consistent disrespect for both black people and women, while at the same time, somehow twisting my article into something that it was not. I’m also dismayed that many of the black male scholars and public figures who will readily speak out for white females and the gay community in the liberal space don’t have a damn thing to say when a white-owned network like BET is promoting the mass murder and incarceration of young black men. But when you analyze what’s going on, their reactions aren’t that surprising.
1) BET is paying them: BET does a good job of keeping some of the loudest voices on its payroll, largely because most of us know that you can’t bite the hand that feeds you. Many of us work for companies which exhibit blatant racism, but say nothing because we are afraid to lose our jobs. One of the primary reasons that black people can’t progress is because a) We’ve been wired to believe that acceptance by white people is a measure of success (there are even black people who listen to me more when CNN calls me than they do when I appear in black-owned media outlets and scholars who proudly boast of their affiliation with prominent white universities while considering HBCUs to be inferior), b) We are brainwashed into believing that our self-worth is higher if we drive a nice car and have a big bank account, and c) We have been taught to believe that “if it makes dollars, then it must make sense.” This is why white people laugh at us behind our backs: We have no money but worship money at the same time….that’s a very bad combination.
BET’s support of the show, “Black Girls Rock!” every year might be a convenient way- to pay off leading black New York feminists who are seeking to remain connected to the project. I’m not sure if they would normally sign off on a network that promotes artists who describe women as worthless pieces of meat without getting a nice paycheck in return for their silence. If any of these messsages were to come out of the mouth of Bill O’Reilly, they would be all over it.
2) They are afraid of confronting a major television network: BET is powerful, let’s be clear. Since I wrote my article comparing BET to the KKK three years ago, I’ve basically been blackballed from the network (other than one documentary that they interviewed me for long before they realized how much I despise their message). A prominent BET insider told me that the executives have had long conversations about my articles in their board rooms and that I’ve been identified as the enemy. A similar outcome occurred with Fox News when I told Bill O’Reilly seven year ago that I would never appear on his network again.
My point is that this path is not for the faint of heart or for those of us who are accustomed to depending on white owned media outlets like BET and Fox News as our primary means for survival. Taking on a major network can mean being pushed out into the cold, and many of our leading black/feminist scholars and public figures are dying for a chance to be in the spotlight.
One thing my father taught me long ago is that when it comes to protecting the people you love, you can’t be afraid to lose friends. Our children should matter more than our paychecks, and anyone who asks you to surrender your decency in order to get an opportunity isn’t your friend at all.
3) They too have been brainwashed by the music: It’s easy to become immune to even the most ratchet messages in media. Twenty years ago, artists like Queen Latifah were openly rejecting the idea of women being called “b*tches and hoes” in music. Now, her song would make her seem corny. Many young women see nothing wrong with an artist referring to all women out of their name, they think it’s normal. This makes me sad, because black women are the only group that has been trained to accept this language in their music. The white guys sing to the women they love. Black men “spit rhymes at the hoes they wanna f*ck.” This is our perpetual double standard.
Over the last two decades, we’ve become quite comfortable with the idea that our favorite artist might steal our daughter, r@pe her in the middle of the night, put her dead body in the trunk and bury her before breakfast. We’ve made mental illness something worth glorifying, as our men are presented to the world as a pack of hyper-materialistic, violent, drug-addicted, lazy, distracted bufoons. Somehow, we think this is good for our community because “niggaz is gettin money.”
I hate telling you this, but all of this makes our people look STUPID. You can’t go out and ask police to respect the life of Mike Brown when you’re supporting a corporate record label that profits from the glorification of black male genocidal behavior. When you idly support this stuff, you’re telling the world that your life has absolutely no value. So, don’t be surprised when the NYPD believes what you say.
4) They don’t want anyone to think they aren’t cool: One of the instant temptations of being on national television is that you get to make friends with celebrities. The people that you’ve grown up seeing on TV suddenly want to be your homies. You get to cut in the front of the VIP line at the club. You get invited to exclusive events that you’ve dreamed of attending. All of these little perks are most impactful on those who aren’t clear about who they are or what they stand for, are obsessively materialistic, are afraid of creating enemies, or use social acceptance as a measuring stick of success.
One reason that the will of the people isn’t always represented among leading public figures is because everyone is afraid of losing powerful friends. It’s not easy to explain to 2 Chainz why you blasted his last album. Or, if you’re making money from white liberals, the last thing you want is to be criticized by Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. The collective self-esteem and poverty problem of the black community often makes us vulnerable to those who threaten to alienate us if we get out of line. The problem with the “soft and quiet negro” approach is that we soon learn that when everyone likes you, there’s a good chance that nobody actually RESPECTS you. Many leading black public figures suffer from this dilemma and it leaves us socially neutered and incapable of empowering anyone.
5) They don’t understand the impact of marketing: I am a business school professor, so I’ve taken tons of classes on Marketing along the way. I’ve also had extensive conversations with psychologists like Dr. Monikah Ogando, who’ve explained how music has a powerful impact on the shaping of neural pathways. I speak on these issues regularly with marketing experts like Dr. Tommy Whittler, who understand that repetitive messages do impact the behavior of the recipient. This is what leaves me frustrated when I hear educated adults say, “It’s only music,” or “this music didn’t create the problems of the black community.”
First and foremost, it’s not “just music.” It is a repetitive marketing message that impacts both the conscious and unconscious operation of undeveloped young minds. Secondly, while record labels didn’t create the problems in the black community, they do not have a right to profit from them by glorifying the very worst of who we are. BET, Clear Channel and other racist corporations saying “We didn’t cause these problems, so stop blaming us,” is similar to a neighbhorhood drug dealer saying, “I didn’t invent drugs or bad parenting. So don’t hold me accountable for selling crack in an elementary school to kids whose parents aren’t watching them closely.”
The bottom line is that in order for the black community to confront many of the critical issues that we are facing, we are going to need a series of social, psychological, cultural, spiritual and economic adjustments among ALL OF US, and not just young people. As someone pointed out on my Facebook wall today, many of the older people saying that black teens are lost are the same ones who are profiting from selling them psychological poison.
Here are a few things that should happen to make us more effective:
1) Stop cooning for cash: Yes, money is nice, but as the rapper Immortal Technique once said, “Not all money is good money.” No paycheck BET can ever give you is worth the price of your soul or your integrity. Also, if you’re constantly bending, folding and morphing who you are in order to make a little more money, it only increases the odds that you’ll be caught in some kind of embarrassing hypocrisy. That’s how the NFL and ESPN made fools of themselves during the Ray Rice debacle.
2) Do your research: Read some of the studies that link marketing messages to the actions and mindset of young people. The interview I did with Dr. Monikah Ogando and rapper Dee-1 might be good places to start. All of us must become educated and informed on how propaganda and brainwashing work in a society, and how this impacts the image of the black man and woman around the world. Adolf Hitler once said that if you control the minds of the youth in a society, you also control the future. Additionally, it was the consistent promotion of negative propaganda about Jews that made it easier for German society to become comfortable with their systematic slaughter and incarceration. The EXACT same thing is happening to the black male in America, and much of this is occurring in music.
3) Start telling the damn truth: BET makes hundreds of millions of dollars promoting the kind of racist music and imagery that would not be acceptably targeted toward any other racial demographic. BET’s Viacom sibling, VH1, does the same thing. If you call it for what it is and not apologize for the truth, people will have more respect for you. But they will never respect you if they know you can be bought. Most of us will speak openly about BET’s toxic messages behind closed doors, but everyone is afraid to say anything in public. Millions of people are sick of this nonsense and it’s time that we start opening our mouths.
4) Develop more black-owned media outlets: I dare say that if BET had a conscientious black owner, they wouldn’t do many of the things they do. Unfortunately, many of the black scholars and public figures who bend and fold to BET do so because they don’t have anywhere else to go. This is where the development of black-owned media and business is so critical to our future. Not everyone is strong enough to proclaim their freedom. I am hopeful that another conscientious black-owned media outlet will emerge that will give these commentators an opportunity to speak without having to tell lies for their own survival. That’s what we’ve tried to do on this platform, and I even support the voices of those who disagree with me.
5) Stop trying to be friends with everyone and don’t be afraid to make enemies: There are times when, in order to protect a community, you must draw clear lines in the sand. You can’t compete for a Super Bowl championship and be afraid of pissing off the opposition. Malcolm X knew that there was almost no way he could stand up honestly for the rights of black people and appease white Americans at the same time without looking like a weakling and a fool.
The greatest compliment I ever received from a fellow scholar was when he said that “You’re the only person I know where people can disagree with you and still respect where you’re coming from.” That’s all I needed to hear. I don’t care if people like me, because I know that if I am firmly committed to telling the truth, I’m going to lose some friends. My goal is to make sure that, whether you like me or not, you know what I believe in. Not that I am anyone’s template for excellence, but I say these words to give courage to my colleagues who know the truth on the inside, but are afraid to speak up. Children are dying when we do not use our voices, and it’s critical that we gain the courage to do what is right.
BET is not going to go away and they aren’t going to stop making money. Capitalist, racist corporations like this one are not designed to change willingly, since anyone on the inside of BET who tries to change the organization will probably be spit out onto the street.
But even though BET isn’t going to change its ways anytime soon, we can certainly make it uncomfortable to do business. We can speak up on what matters, challenge racist/sexist imagery and make sure that people know that we are a force to be reckoned with. It might cost us some money and a few powerful friends, but it just might help save the next generation.
Had others not made similar sacrifices for us in the past, we wouldn’t have the opportunities we have today. Those who have a voice need to use it.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins