Have you heard the good news? If not, let me be the first to tell you.
BET has FINALLY gotten the ol' Don Imus treatment. That's right. Some major sponsors have pulled advertisements from BET, due to the gratuitous violence, profanity and obscenity on some of the cable network's programs, according to a report in the Chicago Defender.
Forgive me for saying it again, but, hallelujah!
Indeed, this is truly a watershed moment for black people everywhere that are determined to reverse, or at least retard, the influence of ubiquitous, destructive images and messages in media. It's a victory for people who believe "corporate responsibility" means more than an empty slogan.
Viewers have tirelessly petitioned BET's top advertisers, such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble, to pull ads from programs such as RapCity and 106 & Park that air during peak after-school television watching hours, attracting a large, under-18 audience.
What's the triumph in this, you ask? Kids are just watching two shows full of music videos. Could they really be that bad?
Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes!
In fact, an April study by the Parent Television Council found high levels of violence, profanity and sex in both programs.
I don't think it was necessary to commission a study to see that, but it is stunning to see the corrosiveness of the television network quantified. Most damning is that the report found that RapCity featured on average 31.6 instances of sex, 25.3 instances of explicit language and 11.7 instances of violence per hour. For years, this poisonous cocktail has quietly undermined the advances of an entire people—neatly packaged into unassuming television programming, hour after hour, day after day.
The campaign at the helm of this movement has captured this sentiment and aptly titled itself Enough is Enough. The Rev. Delman Coates, chairman of Enough is Enough, has done a fine job of putting companies like GM, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, YUM! Brands and Verizon on notice. He has armed himself with the findings of the report and made companies that advertise on BET aware that they're running commercials during programs that feature this content.
One would think that there would be only one reaction from companies faced with these findings: withdrawal of all advertising dollars, period. Well, not quite. Even when presented with this information, most companies have not made a move to pull ads, and those that have didn't pull their ads from the network altogether. They have only shifted their advertising dollars to other programs, which has sheltered BET from any loss in revenue, according to the Chicago Defender report.
So this small triumph is not giving us all we need, but it's a step in the right direction. We should not get complacent with this mitigated victory because the battle has not been won until, at the very least, BET does a serious overhaul of its programming.
We've already suffered for years from this toxic material wreaking havoc in the core of our community and shaping the public's perception of us. Our communities have watched as our youth have moved further and further away from our rich cultural and historical legacy and closer to the fictitious universe of media caricatures that bombard us daily: images of the black man as a wreckless and violent thug. These characterizations have instilled distrust and fear among law enforcement, which in the cases of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, ended in tragedy.
What will it take for all of us to stand up and finally use our Ujima to draw a line in the sand and send a message? What will it take for you? What are we willing to do to show big business that we mean business?
I don't know when or how it will happen, but just like Sam Cooke said, It's been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.
And let the church say, amen.
Janelle Jolley is a writer in Washington, D.C.