I don’t watch BET. As a teenager, I remember wishing that BET would come to the UK so I could enjoy what I perceived I was missing out on by not being African American. By the time BET made it over, I was grown enough to know better. I’ve learnt not to support something simply because it’s black, but to support something because it is good. Black AND good is even better. BET has fed the black community trash for too long. I can no longer fly because it’s black trash.
So I heard BET now have a show where black people discuss real issues. In my head the revolution had come and I thought, now is the time to rise from ignorance into a new black stereotype of being socially aware, intellectual and articulate. I found out it was hosted by TJ Holmes, so I googled him. I thought “wow”. BET had signed a former CNN anchor to front a new show on their network about socio-political discussion. It was supposed to be a “Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert” type show. This is too good to be true. I was over the moon. I am a HUGE fan of The Daily Show and even more of The Colbert Report and have long since thought this arena is not exclusive to white men. I couldn’t help but notice the guy is good-looking. I rolled my eyes as I imagined women being distracted by his masculine charm, and missing the real importance of this show like they often do when watching sports. Ugh, women get so silly like that.
Ladies, I hope you made it past the picture and you’re still reading. Men, feel free to rejoin the article here. I even liked the name of the show – “Don’t Sleep”. A clever turn of phrase emphasising the need for the audience to not be found ignorant on certain issues (as in “Don’t sleep on Ola, he’s doing big things”) as well as the show being a late-night show.
So I googled the show and luckily enough, BET were gracious enough to have an episode lined up for me to watch without restricting it from my region, as many other US network websites do. Maybe it is a good thing they came over to the UK. So I started watching the show.
This episode’s panel was made up of Vivica Fox, the actress, Tony Roberts, the comic, and Crystal Wright, a member of the endangered species of Black Republicans and political analyst. First of all, I was already upset. No one had spoken a word and I could already see what would happen. It’s known that the media is said to have a liberal bias and that those in entertainment tend to be Democrats. So essentially both Vivica and Tony are likely to be against Crystal. That’s how it goes sometimes, it’s not always equal, but my problem was that Crystal was the only political analyst. Now, I would love to speak at political discussions, heck I’m even about to join The Great Debate Tour next week. However, I don’t think I’ve been invited to do this simply for entertainment value but because the organisers perceive me to have some idea of what I’m talking about. Something told me Vivica and Tony may lack in this department a certain amount.
Then TJ opened up the show. He showed an interesting montage from the candidates, Obama and Romney and set the theme of the role women play in the upcoming US election. Now both candidates had plenty to say. A lot sounded good and progressive for women. However as Twitter has picked up there is a slight debate in Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment. Some say it shows he doesn’t really care and sees them as a monolithic group to be passed around. Some say his record for hiring women whilst Governor speaks for itself. TJ brought forth statistics that showed black women being at the very pinnacle, through the percentage of degrees being obtained in the black community, in a segment called “The Wake Up Call”.
All in all, i’m liking the show. I feel like the show has room for growth and improvement, but they’ve got the basics down. This was until they let the panel speak. Now for the next 15 minutes, what could have been a useful debate descended into two women clawing at each other with Tony Roberts in the middle. Very few points were actually made. Crystal spent a lot of time addressing Vivica’s pointing and hand gestures. Vivica spent a lot of time pointing, making hand gestures and snide comments about Crystal. They interrupted each other. They spoke over each other. They were an absolute mess. Whilst TJ mainly jumped in to try and take the show to commercials (and the women kept talking) he did try to come in with something to regulate and moderate the debate. He brought up a statistic about the aggressive nature of black women and it was like neither of them got the hint. They carried on to be incoherent and neither got a chance to state a well-articulated thought. I almost cried. At one point I couldn’t watch. The audience became the playground witnesses to a fight with their “oooooh’s”. All we needed next was someone to shout out “Jerry! Jerry!”. The first time the show had 2 female panellists and that is what it became. Ugh, women get so silly like that.
Tony Roberts jumped in to make a point about Mitt’s policy flip-flops and let his Democratic leanings be known but did little to get any information out there to young impressionable viewers. The debate ended. I was thoroughly unsatisfied and I almost stopped watching. I saw there was another section and I hoped it would be TJ (alone) bringing some sanity and clarity to this quagmire but I was even more pleasantly surprised.
Thank God for Issa Rae. Now I have been a fan of hers for a while. Some of you may know her from her popular Youtube webseries, Awkward Black Girl, which she started as a student at Stanford. However, she has gone on to a lot more since then in the form of producing other series, a creative Youtube channel backed by Pharrell Williams and now a spot on “Don’t Sleep” in a segment called “The Week in Why?”. She used her deadpan flair and sarcastic wit to ridicule the show, “Bad Girls Club” shown on the Oxygen Network. She quietly stood for something positive but used humour in perfect balance to point out the ridiculousness of the show. I cannot help but love her more. I would watch the show for her segment alone. Women can get so awesome like that.
As TJ closed up the show with information for certain US citizens to go and register to vote, a noble cause in a world of democracy, I recollected my thoughts. I looked at Vivica and Crystal and thought, maybe they showed us the reason why women (much like black people) don’t get the representation they deserve. Their inability to put the petty things aside in favour of sporting debate played into every negative stereotype about female invalidity in the workplace and the angry black woman. Issa Rae on the other hand showed me why it is important to seek out female talent. Not just to fill out binders but to make our society the best possible. Women – don’t sleep on ’em.