ETRT: Embarrassing The Race Television

On Sunday, I wasn’t watching the BET Music Awards, so I didn’t catch Chris Brown breaking down into real or fake tears. I didn’t even know the awards were on because I don’t have cable and I can’t get regular local TV stations either.

Sometimes I do watch some of my favorite programs on the computer, the day after they air. I do admit that I am an addict for The Young and the Restless. I like to see all those folks who can’t keep a marriage going for two full calendar years; it makes me feel better about my own single status.

But even when I had cable, I had stopped watching BET a long time ago. Some of the videos were just short of porn. Hey, a little porn is fine every now and then (if you’re grown), but I like to be intentional in my naughtiness, not caught unawares at 2:45 in the afternoon.

Plus, the BET awards show is a Tacky Negro Spectacle every year.  Remember last year, when Lil Wayne and Drake sang “I Wish I Could [insert expletive verb] Every Girl In The World” and they had all these little underage girl-children on stage with them, including Lil Wayne’s daughter?

That’s just wrong. And very, very strange.

I’m all for pushing the artistic envelope and I’m all for telling difficult truths about our community. However, how much you want to “get down” all the time, how much weed you smoke, how much liquor you drink, and how many women you have, who by the way you don’t consider “women” but rather “[insert expletive misogynist plural noun]”—well, those aren’t difficult truths. Those are jenky, tacky, Negro Abominations.

So as far as I’m concerned, BET should be called ETRT: Embarrassing The Race Television.

But on Monday, when I read the news that Chris Brown had started crying while trying to sing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” I just got furious. Matter of fact, I’ve been so furious that I haven’t been able to write anything about it until now, what with all these Black folks—and Black women, in particular—defending that abusive boy, saying “he’s suffered enough and give him a chance.” That he’d “learned his lesson” and his life “shouldn’t be over just because of a mistake.”

Sometimes, some of my people make me want to weep, when I consider their lack of moral clarity and their racial double standards.

Or, make me want to, like, vomit.

I wonder if that had been a WHITE boy who had beat Rhianna so badly that her mouth filled up with blood and she nearly passed out, would so many Black folks be giving that WHITE boy so many chances.  Would we be saying—as one woman said on Facebook about Chris Brown—that that WHITE boy was a “poor thing”?

I’m all for second chances, but only after someone has paid the debt. I’ve said this before. And what debt has Chris Brown paid? Public humiliation? I got that in grade, junior high, and high school. Big fat whoa.

Community Service? I did that, too—along with my parents—in grade school, and on my own in graduate school. Community service should not be a punishment but a joy to participate in.

Chris Brown brutally assaulted someone. That is a crime. It is not a mistake. Forgetting to put on deodorant in the morning and not realizing it until you are at work and starting to get funky—that’s a mistake.

Chris Brown intentionally beat Rihanna brutally, and then denied accountability until he was facing jail. Which, by the way, he should have gone to.  Because if Chris Brown had beat a stranger down like that instead of someone he was having sex with on a regular basis, he would have gone to jail.

But because he was having sex with Rihanna, a young Black woman, and she couldn’t keep her mouth shut while they were arguing—the cardinal sin for any Black woman, don’t you know—he got a slap on the wrist. He did not get punched repeatedly in his face until his mouth filled up with blood, by the way.

He also received a featured place at the African American Break Fool Awards, because, once again, this Black community has thrown yet another Black woman under the bus, so we can save a Black man.

Further, we have shown that it is not possible to love Chris Brown and love Rihanna at the same time. Only Chris gets the love. And if we love Chris Brown, what we must do is love him with no conditions and total acceptance of his brutal behavior, as we have loved other Black men in the same way.

Here we have Chris Brown, a cute, cheeky Black man-in-the-making. Someone who, unless he goes into some intensive psychological therapy and starts to change who he hangs around and what kind of music he sings, will be beating down another young lady.

And before you start howling in protest, let me remind you that I am a trained battered woman’s counselor–that was part of my community service– and so I know that the recidivism rate for batterers is eighty percent.

What is recidivism, you ask? Well,  “recidivist” is the man who says he will never beat a woman again but who goes on to beat a woman again and again and again. Many recidivists end up killing women. And some of them are super-cute, too.

So, if the recidivism rate is eighty percent, that means, eight out of every ten men who say they won’t beat ever again, really will.

And why shouldn’t they do it again? It’s not like we have any sort of change in the scripts we give our young men—particularly in the Black community.

We still think that a brother can be hard, hang out with other hard young men, sing hard or morally bankrupt music—if he happens to be a singer—and never be held accountable for his actions. Yet somehow, we are convinced that our prayers that he be a better person will transform him.

It’s like when I was in high school and my mother suspected I might start messing around. I didn’t have a boyfriend, but she was just making sure. She pulled me aside one day.

“Honorée,” she said. “I’m through with raising children. Do you understand what I’m talking about? Do not come up in here pregnant.”

“Mama, I’m not even doing anything,” I said. I wondered if she could read my mind, though, because I was hoping to be doing something real soon, if I could just find somebody to do that something with.

“Well, when you think you might be doing something”—I tell you, my mother was a mind reader—“you let me know so we can make some plans for precautions. Because remember, prayer is not an effective form of birth control.”

Mama knew that we Black folks place a lot of silly worth in prayer alone, without any actual work to back it up, but she also knew that the Good Book tells us that “faith without works is dead.”

I have been trying to put my anger toward Chris Brown aside because he’s still essentially a child, after all, but I’m waiting to see what his works are.  In the meantime, I’m still mad. I admit it. And it’s going to take a long time for me to trust that he won’t do something abusive and brutal again, because I’ve seen women put their trust in men’s words (and not works) and seen those women end up dead.

And I wish the majority of the Black community would wait and see with Chris Brown, too, instead of congratulating him for his tears. Crying is not work. It is an automatic function of the tear ducts, ok?

As y’all know, I was podcasting on Sunday evening to celebrate Lucille Clifton’s birthday while the BET awards were on. I’ve talked about it too much this week, maybe. But I think that podcast is still with me because it was just a glorious artistic as well as spiritual moment that I shared with those women.

When I conduct a podcast, I never expect anyone to be listening, so I don’t get annoyed when I check the stats and see only a few—or even only one or two—people tuned in.

However, when I found out that a bunch of people—Black writers, to be exact—were looking at the BET awards instead of listening to me and several fabulous Black women talk about Lucille Clifton, I was just completely flabbergasted.

Look, I know my little podcast ain’t no national thing. And I know I will never be Michelle Norris on NPR.

But when I think about what Miss Lucille stood for—morally, artistically, and spiritually—it makes me sad that Black folks always say they want a better model to follow, they want change in this community, but they never put their money, time, or prayer where they should be.

Instead, Black folks are watching the BET awards. They’re complaining, sucking their teeth, and shaking their heads. Still, they’re watching.

15 thoughts on “ETRT: Embarrassing The Race Television

  1. i hear you, honore. i believe your stats on recidivism but isn’t it possible -with therapy- that this very young man could be one of the two out of 10 who rids himself of his demons and get his life(and work) back on track?
    and re: the BET awards, ugh!

  2. BET is terrible, yet, many laud Bob Johnson and Debra Lee for its success. Class aspirations of folks are very very transparent. Black America is experiencing another nadir period.

    I don’t buy Chris Brown’s act. Time and practice will determine whether or not, he’s changed. Abusers don’t change without serious work. Meanwhile, domestic violence is alive and well in America.

    • BET was not a success. Bet made money, that’s it. The creator of BET, a black man, had the opportunity to educate young black children. Instead he fed them garbage. All the money he was making and he didn’t have the decency to put shows on,in the morning, that would benefit black children. Instead he showed violence, sexuality, maschismo foolishness. .

      Johnson was probally the best black person ,in America ,who was in a postion to change the lives of black children specifically and the world in general. But instead he lined his poskets. What a wasted opportunity. What was he thinking, $$$$.

      If the kkk owned BET instead of Johnson what would you say of BET. Bet your bottom dollar the KKK is saying, “dam we should have bought BET. ” What better way to miseducate and destroy the lives of black people and spread ignorance.

  3. Thank your for speaking for so many. The recidivism statistics are particularly important. I can only hope that someone helps Chris Breezy get real help before he batters someone else’s daughter.

  4. As a son, a brother to six sisters and a father of a 17 yr old daughter, I agree with what you say. I don’t follow Chris Brown, his music or other endeavors, so I am not well versed in his life and actions besides the Rihanna abuse incident. But I feel you are not fully blaming the right parties and that would be black folks for letting him get a get out of jail free card and society at large for telling young girls and the boys and God forbid the men they date- its all right to batter women- go head and hit, nothing will happen to you. For me to be constantly mad at Chris is foolish. He needs counseling yes, but he was a kid and needed the family- us black folk to keep him honest. We let R. Kelly walk and embraced him and threw darts of hate and bitterness at the young girls he used and abused, we are doing the same with Chris. We create these monsters telling them to go forth and make a joyful noise; we give them immunity to all hurts they cause, so now I cant be mad at them for being so ugly.

  5. I loved this article and it’s about time someone dared to speak the truth about this issue. What I don’t understand about this whole Chris Brown appreciation/forgiveness campaign enacted by BET (well, let’s just be honest and say Viacom as a whole), is that if you take away the celebrity status of both Chris Brown and Rhianna, you simply have 2 young Black people. 2 young Black people could be anyone. It could be you and your significant other, your daughter, your niece, granddaughter, neighbor, the nice young lady at your favorite store who always gives you an employee discount. So let’s just say, that this situation happened with your niece and her boyfriend. Would the world still blame her? Would he still get off scott free? Would community service and a public apology be enough? (remember now, he didn’t apologize for his actions, he simply apologized for how these actions impacted his career, his image among his fans). I don’t think anyone would let a person who physically hurt someone who they loved off by simply singing, dancing and shedding a few tears.

    People seem to forget the domestic violence is real and is happening all around us. Should we simply offer Chris Brown a tap on the wrist and “trust that he’s a changed man”? What example are we setting for the millions of young people who are watching this situation like a hawk? We are simply telling them that every once in a while, it is perfectly fine to hit your significant other. Because if you do it, it’s fairly easy to get away with it and everyone will understand because “it was her fault too”.


  6. Morally bankrupt is my new slogan for the foolishness that we are hearing on the radio. Thank you for sharing your voice and speaking the truth! Love your words and keep doing what you’re doing!

  7. I just read your article on Chris brown, and boy am I glad. I needed to see things from a more clear perspective and you really provided it. I along with a lot of the black community have been excusing his actions in the heated fight he had with Rhianna because of his youth and immaturity, but you are right he did commit a crime punishable by the law and not a mistake. Perhaps he really does need strong psychiatric help, and maybe he should have had to serve a prison sentence of some kind instead of just community service, which is really just a slap on the wrist for what he did. Although it this action did affect his record sales and radio play, you are right he was never really punished for his crime so how can he learn from it. If he was a white man doing this to a stranger, he would have been in jail. I think it is because his victim was a woman that he was not sent to jail, this society still does not attach the value it needs to the lives of women even when they are threatened with violence or death esp at the hands of their partners. We blame the victim for having a part in their own abuse by not leaving. we are not paid the same as men even the same professions often with either the same or even more training, there’s always a separate scale or a line of demarcation between us esp in terms of treatment in certain situations and rewards received through work or prestige. this crime he committed was made less than because it was against a woman and not just any one a black woman. all women of color seem to be devalued in today’s society, we are either over sexualized or objectified in videos(often on BET), cast as empty minded gold digger’s or painted as impossible overly aggressive career women with a superwoman complex just because in most things we would like to have equal opportunities and rights as men in most situations! I guess we will have a long time to wait for this kind of change to occur, as things have not really improved as much as we’d like to believe even in this day and age.

  8. Thank the Goddess for your article. I work with young girls anywhere from 13 to 16 years old who are “working the streets “for their “boyfriend.” These young girls have such low self esteem and cannot see the beauty that they possess. Until the Black community puts the same value on little girls lives as they do on little boys we are dooming ourselves and finishing the job the white supremacist started.

  9. what you said. i was just at the salon the other day, and my stylist said exactly those lines about everyone deserving a second chance and he’s clearly learned his lesson and etc., etc. maybe. but only time will tell — and meanwhile, i wouldn’t let my nieces (if they were his age) within shouting range of that dude. and meanwhile, some other brother is looking at this example — the whole picture — and thinking “i can do whatever i want to do to a woman.”

    thanks for posting.

  10. I can’t say that I will support Chris Brown’s career more or less. All I have ever done is buy the movie This Christmas. I do think it may not be prudent for him to try to re-claim stardom. But if he does– peace and blessings to him. What comes to mind to me is 1. If he and Rhiana weren’t stars we wouldn’t be talking so much about them or even “… See Moretaking sides”. I only hope all this extra attention actually raises consciousness or positively impacts the millions of people affected that we never hear about. 2. It is all very sad and disturbing. And it shows both sides of family abuse. Both of them grew up in familes of abusers. One became a victim and the other a victimizer. 3. It seems that Chris is being written off as a sociopathic abuser with no hope of re-habilitation. I don’t ascribe to that. Cylces can be broken. (My parents proved that).
    I guess the responsibility has to become multi-layered and multi-faceted. Certainly taking individual responsibility to address violence is necessary, but also communally and culturally. It seems that people of African descent are also suffer from battered/ batterer syndrome. I believe it is the same ethnic dysfunction that drives… See More misogyny and homo-phobia among us. We have much work to do.
    As a mother of a “second-third-fourth-and fifth chance- needing” son 🙂 (he’s not an abuser of womyn, buthe has sold drugs– community abuse in my opinon), I actually felt connected– for lack of a better term, to what BET was trying to do for him. I felt like at least his “family” could try to see his repentance. Mind you, I believe all the Chris’s and M’s (my son) have to do the work– therapeutic and spiritual. And like I said before, it may not be a good idea to try to re-claim stardom. It’s hard to re-gain trustt when you seem to be benefitting from your penance.

  11. Preach! When are we going to stop privileging “fragile” black manhood over the lives and self-esteem of young black girls and black women? Enough! Thanks, as always, Honoree, for your clarity.

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