Guest by Christina Sanders
This past weekend I was watching the BET Awards and thinking about how they really tried to incorporate many generations and flavors of the African American community into this year’s awards ceremony. Not sure of the last time I sat down and watched the BET Awards, but I have to admit this year’s show was very good and, despite the blunders it showed how the very fragile BET is trying to connect our community at a welcome table of music. Hats off to BET! But, I could not help but to become choked with confusion when reading a review from a scholar that I highly respect and admire, Syracuse Professor Dr. Boyce Watkins, which placed the most atrocious claim on BET by insinuating they are “The New KKK”. Dr. Boyce, in the most unprofessional manner, evoked the notion that BET was somehow a cosigner in the evil plot of hip hop and R&B like artists “Lil Wayne” and “R. Kelly” to advance their roles in the “holocaust occurring within Black America today.” Utterly ridiculous!
The most uncomfortable part of reading Dr. Boyce’s article was the arrogantly insidious manner for which he connected the Ku Klux Klan to BET and hip hop. There were many things that could have been said and much ways to say it, as this subject has been beat to death before, but to seek frills by using an organization like the KKK is unacceptable and should be rejected at all cost. This article is about condemning obnoxiousness, so why do we see this unmerited and unscholarly criticism from “the people’s scholar”? Ratings.
This junk opinion from a smart, articulate business professor has got to be the new face of the “Palin Effect”. ABC News reported that since leaving office for cross country tirades against President Obama, former Vice-Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin has collected about $12 million dollars for what I interpret as preaching hate. Palin has been the new-age example of how to say anything no matter how far fetched and ridiculous it is to get money. Dr. Boyce has earned his place as a nominee for the Palin award because it is so divisive that it has got to be for ratings.
BET was just the buffer and this is probably because the awards trended like crazy on twitter. But, Lil Wayne has been on the professor’s radar for sometime now. Dr. Boyce may have just spent a week in New Orleans but he has for sure been eyeing the self described “Louisiananimal.” Maybe it is for ratings. Just so happens that The Carter IV album will be coming to stores soon and this rant is linked not to a scholastic, fact based concern, rather the same “unethical corporate behavior” that both BET and Mr. Carter are being accused of.
The fact of the matter is we have got to stop abusing the “bully- pulpit” to tear the same segments of the limited African American culture we tend to share and embrace. In fact, lets just start being real about who we are, where we are fiscally as a community and what we must do to not leave our children with the mindsets of “yester – America” and allow them to flourish in their “more–perfect America.”
Hip hop has become a global phenomenon, embraced by all people from all walks of life, and to be used in comparison to the “Holocaust” is disrespectful and insulting.
Recently, the Black Youth Project published a report showing that young Americans of all races listen to hip hop on a daily basis. If Dr. Boyce’s accusations were in fact we would see the “abuse and murder” of women, “suicidal amounts of drugs and alcohol’ and “engaging in irresponsible deadly sexual behavior” leading to the “holocaust” and “mass incarceration” of more youth than disproportionately young Americans of color. Now you see how there is essentially no correlation.
Perhaps we will collectively use our voices and speak up in legislative sessions when gun laws are being discussed, or when schools in our neighborhoods are being closed or when Legislators vote to remove sex and health education classes. Issues that are causing pain and detriment to African Americans, Hispanics, and the poor in America extend far beyond a sound bite or self accepted stereo type. Problems in our community are REAL and if Lil Wayne, BET and all the rappers went away this evening – those problems would undoubtedly still exist.
As a university professor at Texas Southern University (I LOVE MY HBCU) and a community organizer, I am constantly working to progressively engage our young people in relevant social conversations and get them involved in the community. What I see most and it haunts me is the continued disconnect in the generations. This disconnect will always resonate with many in the community as we all have the same internal lingering to be defined and affirmed as a people with an identity. Dr. Boyce’s article, and articles like them, are damaging to the effort and struggle to translate a message of connection, unity and advancement. Radio One Houston is a prime example of where the use of hip hop mediums works well in bringing good to youth in our communities. Their work has been effective simply because they deliver messages to their hip hop audiences that are both socially conscious and urban without reverence or judgment.
No “free passes” for BET or Lil Wayne and contextual scrutiny to Dr. Boyce because we cannot speak to that which we do not understand and we cannot dismiss the names, identity and culture of any group that has chosen to define itself. We can only seek to understand, hope to do no harm and lift as we rise. The sky is the limit.
(Christina Sanders, also known as "The Polichic", is a political science professor at Texas Southern University and serves as the State Director for the League of Young Voters Education Fund - Texas. Christina has been a community organizer and activist for over 10 years. Christina's articles have been published in the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy and she is a known expert on student voter disenfranchisement. Follow Christina on Twitter at @thepolichic.)