The BET Fallacy is my name for the false idea that blacks in America are somehow in control of their image – on television, in Hollywood, in the news, in the history books and all the rest.
Whites, with a straight face, will quote Chris Rock or point to a music video by some rapper to prove something about black people. Even Mark Twain thought minstrel shows, the BET of his day, were true-to-life.
The fallacy achieves its clearest, most laughable form when BET (a “black” television channel in America) is used to prove something about black people. As if black people owned BET, as if BET were a 24-hour-a-day National Geographic documentary on Black America.
Meet the owners:
A white man, Sumner Redstone, owns most of BET:
As of 2011 six companies produce 90% of what Americans read, watch and listen to:
- CBS Corporation
- News Corp
- Time Warner
- General Electric
Rupert Murdoch, Jeffrey Bewkes, Jeffrey Immelt and Bob Iger, in that order – white men all.
Meet the demographic:
Without a white audience it is hard to make it big:
- Hip hop music did not make it big till it crossed over to white audiences. And when it did the image of blacks became far more stereotyped and degrading.
- Alice Walker did not make it big till she was championed by white feminist professors. No accident that she says little about white people or racism in “The Color Purple”.
- Rented Negroes: Most black talking heads you see on television are well to the right of ordinary black people.
What about blogs? Because of the low barriers to entry, they can present a truer picture of blacks: blacks can write for themselves and say almost anything they want. But their audiences are small and even they can present only part of the picture: to blog you need a computer, Internet service and, most precious of all, the time to write regularly. That means most bloggers are middle-class.
So most of what Americans read, watch or listen to is either:
- Produced by white men (that is why most heroes in films are white men even though only a third of America is white and male) or it
- Appeals to white people.
That means the image of black people becomes heavily stereotyped. Those stereotypes are not informed by the latest sociological studies but rather the needs of white people to feel good about themselves. Some of those stereotypes go way back to slave times.
And it gets worse:
For over 200 years White Americans have paid money to see blacks degraded. They find it entertaining for some reason. It started with blackface and the minstrel shows and continues down to this day.
For example: Some blacks say they want to reclaim the n-word, yet most black entertainers who use that word are mainly saying it to a white audience whose motives are very different.