White Entertainment Television (WET) is the television station that is always watched but never seen. It is the white counterpart to Black Entertainment Television (BET), an American television channel aimed at blacks.
White Americans say stuff like:
How come there’s a BET but not a White Entertainment Television? How is that fair?
You have BET. If we had WET, we’d be racists.
This is called being blind to white privilege. Or maybe just being blind.
It is called being so used to how society favours whites that you do not even notice it and think of it as “normal” and “fair”.
So fair that any change from it, like BET, Black History Month or affirmative action, is seen as unfair and reverse racist.
Peggy McIntosh, in her famous essay on white privilege, listed the WET thing as #6:
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
On American television:
- Blacks have BET, TV One and few others.
- Whites have ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Lifetime, HBO, Showtime, TNT, TBS, National Geographic, The History Channel, TV Land, Hallmark, Disney, Food Network, SOAPnet, Playboy, Nickelodeon, Sprout, MTV, VH1, Syfy, GAC, Spike, FX, USA, CMT, Bravo, NFL, TMC, E!, Cartoon Network, Cinemax and on and on and on.
American television is whiter than America. If it were a matter of “simple demographics”, as many claim, then out of a hundred stations (most people get way more), 12 would be black, more or less, 16 Latino, 5 Asian and 1 Native. It is nowhere near that.
BET is, in effect, a crappy UHF station for blacks, for those old enough to remember UHF (channels above 13 in the days before cable, which mainly showed reruns and old movies). Crappy because it does not currently even have news shows or children shows, much less cooking shows, game shows, travel shows and so on. There is no black CNN (news), black PBS (education and culture) or black HBO (serious drama).
BET is even white-owned!
White American television is white in three ways:
- It is by and for white people. Blacks are, at best, an afterthought. That is why black characters tend to be few, have short life expectancies and lack love lives. They are not the “target demographic”.
- It stereotypes blacks and other people of colour. Worse than lack of representation is misrepresentation. American television pictures blacks as
- violent and
We know that by asking people in the Taiwanese countryside, where knowledge of Black Americans comes mainly from American television shows. Even BET has been guilty of stereotyping blacks.
- It is so white that issues of race rarely come up. As if White Americans live in Sweden or the European Middle Ages or something.
The first one is pretty much innocent, but the other two push racism: internalized racism in blacks and externalized racism in everyone else, even people in Taiwan.