Over the weekend, two Black women, allegedly Black Lives Matter activists, confronted Bernie Sanders at a rally in Seattle. That’s where things on the left went left. Bernie Sanders’ supporters took to social media and called these two women everything but their given names.
Both women were repeatedly called “bitches,” “fat pigs,” and “uncivilized.” The disrespect was unbearable, as a Black woman to watch, and those of us who did speak up on their behalf were also attacked and demeaned by these so-called liberals. The majority of those attacking Marissa Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford and anyone who defended them were self-identified “white progressives,” and Black males.
This will not be the only attack on Black womanhood we will see this week, however, by those who fancy themselves open-minded and righteous. On Friday comes the release of the much-anticipated film, Straight Outta Compton, which chronicles the rise of Compton-based hip hop group N.W.A., a group whose success, in part, hinged upon lyrics that glorified misogyny and abuse toward Black women. Friday will be the culmination of a week-long attack on Black womanhood, but the pinnacle attack of the week will come on Aug. 11 at 11:00 p.m. and be owned by BET. when they bring back the controversial video show Uncut.
Once popular, Uncut, aired on BET, weeknights at 3:00 a.m. from 2001-2006 and featured overtly sexualized music videos, too raunchy for regular daytime or prime time television. For a network that is already socially impoverished, this is a bad move with a lasting negative impact on the young generation of African-Americans, at least the very few who still watch BET.
It is also a very contradictory move considering BET’s sister station, Centric, has repackaged itself as a network for Black women and focusing on issues that inspire and uplift Black women. This is not what Uncut does in any form or fashion. In fact, Uncut does its best to denigrate Black women in every way possible, much like social media did to those two women at Bernie Sanders’ rally.
Every year thousands of Black women are brutalized and sexually assaulted. According to Department of Justice statistics, African-American women have higher intimate partner violence rates than their white counterparts and nearly half of all Black girls have experienced sexual abuse by age 18.
We are already living in a rape culture that is glorified by “stripper mentality,” where men are being conditioned to think that if a woman is not behaving like the women they see performing their jobs in strip clubs all the time, that somehow these women are depleted of femininity. It is disrespectful to all women and demoralizing to strippers. There are strippers who are intelligent women, who treat it as their job and go home and behave totally opposite from how they perform at their jobs. However, rape culture and to some degree, modern hip-hop culture, will have you believing otherwise.
Should we be surprised at BETs gutter antics? Not at all. BET hasn’t been “Black” since it was Black-owned. Its current parent company, Viacom has pretty much reduced it to nothing. Few are the standards of quality television designed to support and uplift the Black community. In a time where so much is at stake, there is not one show of value that serves to accurately reflect discussion about the issues pertinent to the generation it markets to.
People over 40 and quite a number over 30 have stopped watching BET consistently for years, save a BET Awards Show here and there, Being Mary Jane, and maybe Sunday’s Best. We are parents, professionals and thinking people who do not see ourselves reflected in the overall programming. How did anyone think that bringing back Uncut would increase viewership, particularly among this demographic? And most especially among women in this demographic? The ones whose purchasing power their advertisers rely on? Who did this?
In an unbelievable betrayal of sisterhood, BET’s CEO Debra Lee, a Black woman, green-lighted Uncut’s return. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering she was CEO when Uncut was first aired in 2001. Clearly the public shaming that BET suffered after the Nelly “Tip Drill” scandal has eluded her because she thought it would be a good job to resuscitate the network by bringing back the show. Her marketing department also must have forgotten how that video nearly ended BET because they used it to promote Uncut’s return. Still, they are no more forgetful than Lee because she gave Nelly a reality show.
It’s not surprising Lee could be so forgetful because in her own words, “I don’t spend a lot time worrying about criticism from the past. I’m worried about how many people watch and enjoy the network now.”
Lee claims that, “[At BET] we don’t try to be all positive, we don’t try to be negative, we try to be realistic and show diverse images of the way that our community really is.”
Uncut is not representative of either black women or our community. The show is neither realistic, nor diverse. And, yes, it is all negative.
Look, Black women are tired.
We are tired of being relegated to the status of bitches and ho’s. A great many of us are laying in wait for this purported “bad bitch” phase to phase out as well. We are tired of not being included as part of the discussion when the topic is Blackness or Feminism. We are tired of having our work depreciated and misappropriated. We are tired of having our bodies, hair, and skin vilified on us and praised on others. We are tired of being told to not be angry, when we have every right to be. We are tired of making substantially less income than everyone else while being asked to work five times harder. We are tired of being blamed for the social ills in the Black community as the bearers of Black children.
Most of all we are tired of corporate frat boys pimping our bodies and lining their pockets while brothers quietly condone the nonsensical mess for the sake of being “turnt up.” And we are tired of our sisters selling us out, too, because it makes for good television.
Debra Lee, you know this isn’t right, so I charge you to stand for Black women and kill this show now! In the words of Maya Angelou, “Sister, you know what’s right. Just do right! All of us know, not what is expedient, not what is going to make us popular, not what the policy is… but in truth each of us knows what is the right thing to do.”
Do it now, please!
So, BET decided to “punk” us all, with the suggestion that it would bring back Uncut as a regular staple in its current prime time lineup. Women and others were quite incensed at the idea that BET and its CEO, Debra Lee, would seek to bring back a show that was offensive to Black women and whose content glorified misogyny and abuse of the Black female body.
Well it didn’t.
Instead, it was all a big joke at the expense of audiences to promote a new show to BET, a re-up of a former MTV show. BET debuted Punk’d, hosted by DeStorm Power with special guest, Andrew Bachelor. Punk’d originally aired on MTV from 2003-2007 and made Ashton Kutcher a household name. Last night’s show featured clips from the old series and promised that upcoming episodes, which will air on Tuesday nights at 10:30 pm following Real Husbands of Hollywood, will be different, but bring “new energy.”
Is it still okay, though? Was it necessary to use the promised exploitation of Black women to launch a new show on a network whose audience is largely comprised of African-American women? While it remains to be seen what the ratings were or who actually viewed the show, it is clear BET is not moving toward steering away from controversy. With the marketing of this new show, it walked right into it, proudly having the last laugh.