So much so that Watkins has noticed how VH1’s “endless stream of reality TV shows tend to focus on taking otherwise irrelevant black people and making them as recognizable as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
To hammer his point home, Watkins listed seven ways VH1 is destroying the black community. The following are a few highlights from the list:
1) Promoting sloppy and tragic decision-making: A teacher recently told me about a little girl in her first grade class who was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said, “I want to be a basketball wife” (as if this were a real profession). Stories like this remind us that our kids are always watching and that the entertainment they absorb is (as Dr. Christopher Emdin at Columbia University so eloquently explains) a form of education. Not only are they learning about possible career choices, they are also learning about life choices: Sleeping with the wrong person, having a baby at the wrong time, spending their money in the wrong way and valuing the wrong things. Then, when that little girl is 31 years old with no education and four baby’s daddies, and also can’t figure out why she’s so depressed that she’s unable to get out of bed in the morning, we wonder how she ended up in such a hopeless predicament.
2) You’re now helping people to sell sexx tapes? It’s one thing that the 44-year old single mother Mimi Faust is celebrating her inner freak by promoting a dirty tape, that’s her right. But it’s another thing that VH1 is helping to promote the tape in order to improve ratings for her show. Maybe this is where the FCC should step in and say, “Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t have a show on the public airwaves that mass promotes the idea of making a dirty tape in order to pay the bills.” Maybe someone needs to stand in front of their building with picket signs. Maybe a group of psychologists should come forward and share the findings of research showing that marketing messages actually do impact the thinking of young children. Should we do something about this, or should we just act like none of this makes a difference in our society?
3) Do black people REALLY need more violence right now? Most of the Reality TV shows feature some kind of drama and the celebration of violence as a way to promote themselves to the public. Porsha Stewart hitting Kendra Moore upside the head had people talking. Evelyn Lozada got famous for climbing up on tables and chasing people around the room like a horny zoo animal. Rappers get famous by talking about how they got shot. Effectively, we’ve turned the most tragic parts of the black experience into a comfortable and profitable norm, and big, white corporations are able to profit from it. If I were a white man running one of these companies, I’d probably spend my time thinking, “What in the hell is wrong with these people? Don’t they realize that we’re making fun of them?”
Get the rest of Boyce Watkins’ list at Financial Juneteenth.