Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 17, 2010

Some have said that the best part of 2010 is that it is ending. Nevertheless, we celebrate the gift of every day:

Happy Birthday BET?

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Black Entertainment Television. There is a lot to celebrate, but not everything.

As the first black-owned national television network, BET is undeniably an historical achievement. It has served as a unique and important news source as well as the launching platform for scores of black men and women in the journalism, entertainment and corporate management professions.

However, it was also BET that served as the spigot from which spewed some of the most racist, sexist, violent and misogynistic portrayals of black Americans in the history of this country. The music videos that have been the cornerstone of BET pioneered the popular and common usage of terms like “nigger”, “ho”, “bitch” into common parlance.

It is a noteworthy achievement, but certainly not a laudable one. It is fair to say that some of the music videos played on BET make “Birth of a Nation” seem like a Black History Month documentary.

There is no direct statistical connection between BET programming and the explosion of blood and gore in too many communities. But it stands to reason that if images of mindless violence are pumped into impressionable minds of adolescents, the results will be counted in numbers of body bags and shattered lives.

The disrespect for black women in these images has reached epic proportions, all in the name of “keeping it real”. The dumbing down of culture and language is undeniable and while BET cannot be held totally accountable for this tragedy, its contribution to the tsunami of ignorance, self disrespect and mindless violence that is sweeping across too many communities is a matter of fact.

The corporate achievement of Black Entertainment Television is undeniable. The damage inflicted by BET is also undeniable.

Senior executives of BET have been quoted as saying that they would never let their children watch the kind of programming that depicts violence and misogyny. Presumably it is alright to profit from letting other people’s children soak up the poison.

It is hoped that as the 30th anniversary of BET is celebrated that there may also be a new commitment by this company to instill more positive values in the community that has sustained it for three decades.

Tom Brokaw – The Aesop of the “Greatest Generation”?

Tom Brokaw has had an outstanding journalistic career including stints as a host for “The Today Show” and the anchor for “NBC Nightly News”. Then he decided to be a historian. And it’s a funny thing about history; it all depends on who is telling it.

Mr. Brokaw decided to describe the generation of Americans that came of age during the Depression and World War II as the Greatest Generation. Presumably, this was in comparison to the Baby Boomers who came of age in the Sixties and by his standards came up short.

After all, in the World According to Brokaw, it was the Greatest Generation that survived the Depression, fought World War II, conquering globally tyranny in the process. Then this mythic gathering of gods and goddesses established America as the transcendent and dominant nation on the planet providing a virtual cornucopia of goods and services and luxuries for its citizens and for all the people of the world.

A closer look tells a very different story. To be fair, we have to also recall the Greatest Generation countenanced the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, vociferously and violently supported racial segregation, gave birth to McCarthyism and participated in lynching until well into the 1960’s.

Under the benevolent hand of the Greatest Generation women were lucky to get half the pay for doing the same work as men. Environmental concerns were limited to Ansel Adams exhibitions.

There are many good things that were accomplished by this generation and all the generations before and after. But Tom Brokaw is walking on very shaky ground when he starts using the G-word.

Have a great weekend!


One thought on “Weekend Edition – December 17, 2010

  1. Sheila Williams says:

    I was privileged to hear a lecture by Dr. John Hope Franklin not too long ago ( he was in his 90s and spry). While Dr. Franklin maintained a regal bearing and scholarly composure throughout most of his remarks, when the topic turned to “The Greatest Generation” (perhaps Brokaw’s book had just been published), his tone (and the room) got pretty cold. He said – without disclamer – that they were not the greatest generation, having been just fine with the internment of Japanese-American citizens, widespread racial discrimination and segregation and injustice to all – including the amazing men like my father (and probably yours) who served in WWII and had to put up with a lot of @#$% both in and then after their service. Many in the audience (it was predominantly an older crowd and mostly white) were uncomfortable. Not me! I remembered my dad’s tales of his service with the Tuskegee Airmen – he was a mechanic – and how the men sometimes got the wrong tools and parts to repair the planes yet kept them flying with, as I overheard my father to say, “with spit, safety pins, bobby pins and prayers. Lots of prayers.” So many wanted the unit – and all other black units – to fail. The fact that they didn’t fail is a credit to them and a legacy for us.
    Sheila Williams

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