Erin Harper: The 2011 Black Exploitation Television (BET) Awards; My Play by Play Analysis

If you missed the Black Exploitation Television (BET) Awards last night, you are probably amongst the 20% of Americans with better things to do. With that said, I almost watched the entire thing. I had no idea that the show was airing until a sorority sister texted me to ask my thoughts. I immediately put my PC in standby mode and turned to BET. Next, I logged on to my “twitterbook” account and began to fire. Over the next few hours, I received several requests to start a blog and/or throw my dissertation in the trash and open for Mo’Nique (Lord knows she needs a non-yeller to balance her out).

Unfortunately, those of you who know me know that my medical history of ADHD makes it difficult to maintain the few blogs that I’ve started over the past 5 years (not to mention to maintain tidy living quarters and consistent relationships) and even more difficult to complete a dissertation. However, I decided to extract a few of my tweets and package them in the form of an essay that examines how BET addressed critical issues in Black America in the context of a few of the entertainers who were present.

As you read, I encourage you to play your favorite song by one of the pseudo “hip-hop” nominees last night and set your media player to repeat. When you get to the end of this essay, press pause; then, ask yourself, “Does the most recent line of this song make ANY sense?” Chances are your answer will be a resounding NO.

Drug Abuse and Obesity: Bobbi Brown and Ricky Rozay

It must be really hard “being Bobby Brown”; or, at least it looks hard, judging by his appearance last night. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather see BB with a little extra meat on his bones than looking like he’s been dabbling in that devil dust again, but his face had that extra puffy and greasy look like he’s been eating pork cracklings dipped in cream cheese at least three times daily and licking on Rick Ross’s honey-baked abdominal region for dessert. I won’t be cruel Bobby, but let’s drink a little more water to balance out that sodium intake. According to the Mayo Clinic, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re older than age 51, black, or suffer from a chronic disease. We all know it’s your prerogative to do (chew) what you want to do (chew) Bobby, but let’s not give First Lady Obama reasons to extend her child obesity campaign to adults.

Spirituality: I am Diddy God

We all know when Danity Kane (I can’t think of Diddy’s current group’s name so let’s just call them Danity Kane) won the award and Diddy began his acceptance speech by “giving glory to God” that what he meant to say was, “I want to give all the glory to God…N’ermind. I’m trippin’, I’m trippin’, I am God! I want to give all the Glory to myself.” Instead, Diddy took the humble road. I am terribly disappointed in Mr. Diddy’s modesty. In fact, I don’t even think that guy was the real Diddy. WHERE IS DIDDY?! All jokes aside, I actually think it’s cool that Diddy acknowledged a higher power. I just might pour out a little of my coconut Ciroc in commemoration of the moment when I go on vacation.

Religion: “Busta Rhymes + Nia Long = 3(P)”

I know you are thinking “WHAT THE ____?” Well, let me help you with this equation. It is very simple. Everybody knows Busta Rhymes is fluent in Glossalalia, which is commonly referred to as “speaking in tongues”. However, as my Baptist scholar-father, Dr. Charles Harper taught me (yes, Baptists can be scholars too), speaking in tongues is useless if no one is there to interpret for the speaker. Therefore, it is logical that Nia Long was wearing her napkinesque Pentecostal gown to interpret Busta’s rhymes during such a sacred occasion. Thus 3(P) = The Perfect Pentecostal Pair. Make sense now? Cool. OK, enough of that, let’s get down to some serious business.

Technology (with a Splash of Community Violence): BET Producers

Dear BET, if you are going to allow unnecessarily raunchy language during your awards ceremony, please hire certified technicians who can censor the correct words. Do NOT hire technicians who bleep out words like “toupee” instead of the F bomb. In addition, don’t hire pre-pubescent producers who think it is comical to play practical jokes on innocent people. Mixing up Chris Brown and Rihanna’s name during the award announcement was unacceptable. I would have enjoyed counting the number of laughs as Chris Brown pulled out his sawed-off shot gun and sprayed everyone in the building. We all know C-Breezy is unstable. Any grown black man who repeatedly invests in blonde hair dye and rompers is NOT to be messed with. Speaking of violent behavior, let us examine how we glamorize physical and relational aggression (e.g., the “housewives/househusbands shows”). Wait, no examination needed. Let’s just stop doing it! Oh, and I’d like to take this opportunity to give a random shout out to Shaunie O’neal for single-handedly sodomizing images of black women in the media! Go Shaunie, Go! Now sit down.

African American History: The UN-Emancipation Black America

Although Black America is far from emancipated from the slavery, last night’s un-emancipation party did as much as it possibly could to take us back to the unsolicited cruise we took across the Atlantic a few centuries ago. No need to dissect the lyrics of each song that was performed, but Drake’s lyrics summarize what we are teaching our children and adolescents to value:

“All I care about is money and the city that I’m from.”

Really? That’s it huh? Woooow, that’s going to get us sooooooo faaaaar Drake (and the entire Young Money crew). I can’t wait to see how far a generation of passionless, unskilled, city-reppers gets us. I absolutely cannot wait! Can we please find some more things to care about, and rap about? I am begging. Wait, never mind, countless lyrics also promote early sex, and sometimes unprotected sex. So now we have passionless, unskilled, hypersexualized city-reppers who produce more passionless, unskilled, hypersexualized and potentially parentless city-reppers! Ow! It keeps getting better and better.

Women’s Issues: Team Barbie and A Destiny Deferred

Ok, so since we’ve set Black people back a few hundred years, we might as well set women back too. I hope we enjoyed stripping adolescent girls everywhere of their self-esteem as Nicki Minaj paraded on stage with her “Team Barbie”, which is named after a doll whose proportions could never exist in a real woman. Maybe that will “motivate” young girls to become the next Nicki Minaj. Well, maybe motivation to be the next Nicki Minaj is better than motivation to be the next Amber Rose…I think. Every cloud has a silver lining. Speaking of silver, if we put a hat on Amber Rose, sprayed her and her body suit silver, and stood her next to Pastor Shirley Caesar (dressed as Glenda the Good Witch), Kelly Rowland (dressed as the wicked witch of Houston), Cee-Lo (dressed as the wicked witch of the ATL), Gladys Knight (styled as the scarecrow), and Beyonce (dressed as Dorothy in a glittery leotard) on the other side of the rainbow (i.e., London), then we would have had an almost perfect cast of The Wiz…Khalifa. No disrespect, I love Beyonce’s improved technical dance skills, Cee-Lo’s creativity, The Mississippi Mass Choir, and The Midnight Train to Georgia as much as everyone else (notice that I left out any respect for Amber Rose), but our destiny will continue to be deferred if we don’t pay closer attention to the messages we are sending our young people.

Allow me to insert a random soapbox moment here. Speaking of “motivation” (scroll up…it’s a stretch, I know), I was so excited about this new song called “Motivation” that I could potentially use to motivate the adolescents with whom I work. Then I listened to the song and realized that it was nothing more than a compilation of Kelly Rowland’s over-moisturized moans and groans, which have absolutely nothing to do with motivation in the sense of academic achievement or social/emotional wellness. If true hip hop and R&B are not dead, it was very hard to tell last night. Folks, I promise we have other things to talk about. You know, a few small problems like UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, and AIDS!!!

Final Word

It is easy to point fingers at entertainers and others in the entertainment industry who do not study these issues for a living. However, those of us who possess the knowledge and resources to help others examine critical issues in our culture cannot remain inactive. It is easy to watch awards shows, send a few tweets, and move on. But that is not enough. We must educate young people and their parents about issues relevant to our culture, listen to their voices as we develop programs for them, help youth realize and build upon their strengths, and teach them how to critically analyze potentially harmful societal messages. Many of us who think we have “arrived” are not doing enough to protect our youth and promote their healthy development. So, the next time we are reading and writing online status updates during an awards show or watching one of the “_______ Wives” shows, also think about what you can do for children, adolescents, and young adults to help us move forward as a people.


Erin Harper is a graduate of Spelman College and a Doctoral Candidate at Georgia State University in School Psychology and Educational Policy Studies. Her research focuses on school-based primary prevention with low-income African American girls, with a special focus on the prevention of commercial sexual exploitation. She is also a freelance comedic writer and has worked as a school psychologist and prevention program coordinator for six years in elementary, middle, and high schools with some of the highest community disadvantage index rates in the country.

  • Hotdog090

    This article has many strong arguments against these massive corporations are essentially indoctrinating our youth as well as adults (and dare I say our elders the tribute to Aretha) and distorting the truth of our condition. Please check out my article, if it is posted called India & Globalization, one can see the correlation amongst people of color, the tools of control, and, global imprisonment in order to keep us oppressed.  In the name of Yeshua Son of YWHY be blessed.

  • Yup

    Didn’t watch it and from what I just read,I’m happy I didn’t.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely wonderful article. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Your ‘The Wiz’ illustration was hilarious and well put. I would definitely like to pick your brain for your thoughts on other social issues as well.

    Pure excellence

  • Brook

    This is a great article! 

  • Brook

    This is a great article! 

  • Tajee

    Well said sista, well said.

  • MsToyaTiffany

    Fantastic!!!! The wrong bleep’s were driving me crazy, I can’t believe how utterly off they were!!! And Yes, I feel so bad for those Dirty Money…the Diddy girls you might as well all them. They thought they were going to be a group with just the two of them, but NOPE!! Diddy Dirty Money it is, now they are just back dancers…wow!!!

  • sinister_blessed


  • Bahati Sobukwe

    Hear! Hear!

  • Patrick Adams

    It is so refreshing to my 61 year old heart to see an intelligent young lady whose eyes are wide open and heart is so inclined to save young people.

  • Brian Daye

    Awesome observations. Truly on point. Thank you, Ms. Harper

  • John T. Wills

    Powerful and well stated. I am impressed!!!