BET: Turning its backside on its people

What with the unmitigated success of Oprah Winfrey, Gwen Ifill, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, and the Williams Sisters in the “Free Market,” White folks in America must wonder aloud, quite often: “Why are Black people still complaining?”

Well the fact of the matter is that the vast, vast majority of us are still wallowing in the mud of civilization, believing wrongly that the answer to all our problems will be solved if we “get rich or die trying.”

There are others among us whose very access to some of the delights of their lives today, come as a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, some such persons have turned their backs on the very souls on whose shoulders they literally stand.

One such individual is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who expresses total disdain for the Movement and its goals, in everything he says and does on the High Court, despite the fact that in Pin Point, Georgia where he was born, Black men and boys like him were beaten (if not lynched) for committing “Eyeball Rape (just looking),” of the White woman to whom he is now married. So much for “progress.”

Not to be overlooked is the ritzy Cleveland Park neighborhood where Debra Lee, the President of Black Entertainment Television (BET), now lives in Washington. Such addresses were once sold with covenants legally prohibiting them from being sold to Black folks like her parents and grandparents. There was a time when the money of prosperous Black folks was not good enough to buy the home where she now lives.

While Justice Thomas has yet to be reckoned with by the fickle finger of fate, Debra Lee has been getting hers, right in her home stomping ground.

For weeks now, hundreds of demonstrators, most from Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., have been holding noisy, weekly Saturday protest demonstrations against the “derogatory images and negative messages” about Black people aired on Ms. Lee’s network, right on the sidewalk in front of her home.

Under the banner of “Enough is Enough!” the protestors carried signs reading, “I am not a pimp,” and “I am not a bit’h.”

The Enough is Enough campaign is demanding corporate responsibility in entertainment, and to protest the “commercialization and marketing of negative and derogatory images of Black men and women in the entertainment media.”

The campaign is demanding that starting with BET–our “own” Black network–and other media and music companies develop “universal creative standards” which prohibit lyrical and visual content that “objectifies, degrades, or promotes violence against women, promotes illegal activity, and portrays Black and Latino men as gangsters, pimps, thugs and players,” according to campaign literature.

I don’t know whether or not Ms. Lee “gets it” yet, however.

“People ask us why we are demonstrating in front of Miss Debra Lee’s home,” attorney Dr. E. Faye Williams, president of the National Congress of Black Women, and leader of the anti-smut campaign launched 15 years ago by Congress-founder Dr. C. Delores Tucker, said during one of the protest marches. “She says that it’s endangering the life of her and her child. Well, let me say to you every day that we turn on BET there’s an endangerment to the minds of our children and we will be here until we get some satisfaction.”

The campaign demands that the Federal Communications Commission and Congress regulate indecency between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; and that advertisers on television and radio get their acts together as well. In addition, the protestors want local, state and federal governments to divest public tax dollars and contracts from corporations which refuse to end their sponsorship of offensive content.

“We’ve had people who’ve said they are going to wait us out,” Dr. Williams told the crowd. “Well, my brothers and my sisters, they’ve got a long time to wait. Nearly 15 years ago, Dr. C. Delores Tucker and the National Congress of Black Women saw where this disrespect for women, disrespect for Black people, saw where this was going and decided then that enough was enough.

“It was very lonely 15 years ago when we tried to tell our people where this was going. Now, today we have people like Isaiah Thomas, a brother we have loved and respected in his career, who can say it’s okay for a Black man to call a Black woman a ‘bitch’ or a ‘ho,’ but it’s not okay for a White man. We’re here to tell Isaiah he’s wrong. We’re here to tell those who decided it was okay to call a Black woman a ‘bitch,’ but not okay to call a Jewish woman a ‘ho.’ We’re here to tell them we’re not going away. We’ll be here every Saturday until we, as the song says, ‘get some satisfaction.'”

“This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s not a Democratic issue. It’s not a liberal issue. It’s not a conservative issue,” the Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church told the crowd. “There are people on both sides that might disagree on a variety of other issues, but they stand in solidarity on this one issue, and that is that it is not right to denigrate and degrade Black women and people of color.”

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