Alexia Holloway, Contributing Writer
Black Entertainment Television, or BET, started off as a black-owned entertainment company founded by Robert L. Johnson in 1979. The television network offered a black alternative to white-dominated media outlets, like MTV. It was bought out in 2000 by the white-owned company Viacom, founded by Sumner Redstone. Since the buyout, BET has had a slow, long decline in the content it shows to its predominantly black audience. It has pushed an agenda that seems to be anti-black, while claiming that the network itself is for black people and the culture.
Recently, BET caught some heat for elevating non-black women at the expense of black women. The first incident came the night of Cardi B’s historic Grammy win. Nicki Minaj — who has been regarded as Cardi B’s rival — has not won any Grammys yet, but has received many nominations. Instead of praising Cardi B for her accomplishment, BET posted an article about this with a caption that read, “Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj is being dragged by her lace front.”
Another incident of disrespect came in the form of a BET tweet. A picture was posted with a side by side comparison of Ariana Grande and Dawn Richard wearing a similar hairstyle — a puffball ponytail using kinky, kanekalon hair. The tweet itself insinuated that Richard, a black woman, got the hairstyle from Grande, despite the style being popular across the African diaspora. Richard slammed BET in a series of tweets.
While these two examples are irritating and frustrating, they are not out of the ordinary considering BET’s brand. BET is the same network that aired the infamous “Tip Drill” video, which showcased black women as over sexualized bodies. It is the same network that made tasteless jokes about Blue Ivy’s hair — she’s only a child. It is the same network that refuses to show healthy black relationships. Instead, it shows black “struggle love” stories, such as “Baby Boy,” further perpetuating the image that black people cannot be in fulfilling and sustaining relationships.
BET has the platform and market to promote positive portrayals of black women, and black people in general. It has an award show for recognizing black women, Black Girls Rock, and a second channel for black women, BET Her. These two avenues do not and cannot combat the negative stereotypes that BET perpetuates on its main channels, however. A halfway attempt does not beat purposeful disrespect.
Nowadays, BET tries to portray itself as the face of black culture. It is very difficult for me, or anyone really, to look at BET’s online and on-air publications and feel as though BET really cares about the plight of black folks — especially black women.
In many ways, BET is like Complex, a media platform that reports on hip-hop and black culture. Both of these white-owned companies rely on platforms with a large amount of black traffic, like Twitter and Instagram, to help them make stories and drive in more traffic.
BET doesn’t care about black culture, or its advancement, as much as one would like to think. Respect for black culture includes basic respect for black women as a starting point. One cannot exist without the other. BET’s latest antics only further show how the company really feel about the culture it claims to cater to. BET only cares about the money its black viewership can drive in.