Megan Ain Malachi/Johnson C. Smith University
While scanning channels trying to find something to watch on televison, I am always amazed at the amount of substandard slapstick comedies that are geared towards Black viewers. Ironically, BET(Black Entertainment Television), is one of the worst offenders. In the past five years BET has transformed itself from a diverse entertainment medium to a modern minstrel show. Previously, I looked to BET for their educational programs like BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley, and in my high school years Teen Summit. Both shows have been canceled. Viewers have been left with programs like the Parkers, Uncut, and newcomer College Hill. All of these shows perpetuate negative stereotypes of Black life and offer no educational value.
I found College Hill a reality based show that documents the lives of eight students at Southern University very disturbing. This show is supposed to be a representation of Black College life. I found their portrayal, extremely pathetic and offensive. The female cast members are Kinda, Veronica, Nina and Sholandrea. Kinda is cast as the “wild child” who believes that her irresponsible sexual behaviot translates as feminism. Veronica is the “rich girl” whose main concerns are proving that she is not mean or stuck up. Then there’s Nina the smiling cheerleader and beauty queen and lastly the pregnant Sholandrea. The male cast members consist of Kevin the jock, who portrays the wannabe pimp role that is pervasive on college campuses. Then there’s Gabriel the band kid, who is experiencing popularity for the first time. Then we have Delano the aspiring rap artist who has a touching personal story of triumph despite difficult circumstances that is played down by editors of the show. Finally there is Jabari, the geeky loc wearing free spirit, whom I suspect will be marginalized and made the butt of jokes during the entire season. As a student at a HBCU I know that this is not all our institutions have to offer. BET took the easy way out and cast people who would perform for the cameras and boost ratings with their ridiculous shenanigans. At a time when so many of our institutions are being threatened, we need shows that will uplift HBCU’s not bring them down.
As the only network geared towards Black viewers, BET has a responsibility to offer diverse, original, creative and quality programming. A show like College Hill would be easier to accept if BET made an effort to offer more, intellectually stimulating programs to balance out the buffoonery. The major networks are not interested in creating shows that depict Black folks humanity. As viewers we have to demand that BET offers us more than the typical de-humanizing comedies that it now provides.