Why Didn’t BET Let B. Scott Be Himself?

The station shows its true colors with shaming and gender policing on the red carpet.

B. Scott (B. Scott Instagram)
B. Scott (B. Scott Instagram)

(The Root) — The 2013 BET Awards aired last night, and black folks across the Internet kept a watchful eye on it from beginning to end. Given BET’s record of less-than-stellar shows, I think it’s safe to say that many people watched hoping to catch the screwups as much as to see who performed, who won and who wore what. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable show.

BET looked especially open and progressive when popular, openly gay, gender-bending Internet personality B. Scott lit up the screen during the preshow as Adrienne Bailon’s co-host. In the battle to change its image (its own co-founder has accused BET of reinforcing negative stereotypes), BET seemed to be making some progress last night — until word began to spread that BET had treated B. Scott poorly. He acknowledged on his Twitter page that he hadn’t been allowed to wear heels and was forced to make a full costume change minutes before the preshow cameras rolled.

Was anyone really surprised? It would be folly to expect more than that from a corporation that once refused to play music because it was “too intelligent.” Although BET appears to be trying to evolve, its treatment of B. Scott proves that it remains most comfortable inside particular stereotypes. There was flamboyance all up and down that red carpet last night — rappers draped in gold, men with their pants slung well below their waistlines — but a well-heeled man was not allowed to be himself, presumably because of the discomfort it might have caused.

BET essentially told B. Scott that he could participate in the evening’s on-air events, but only at the expense of his own identity. You do not and cannot effect change while catering to people’s comfort levels, and you don’t get a pat on the back for looking progressive. In the words of Audre Lorde, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, and BET wielded patriarchy like a hammer last night.

That this happened at the end of Pride Month and after the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned is a disheartening yet necessary reminder of the work still to be done in the quest for equality. BET can set this right with an apology to B. Scott and an acknowledgment of the dangers of shaming people for who they are. Until then, B. Scott definitely has plenty of support on Twitter. (BET, are you listening?)