June 29, 2009
Dear Debra Lee,
Sunday night’s BET Awards show was a disgrace. It’s sad and unfortunate that your network, owned by Viacom, continues to crank out mediocrity and perpetuate negative stereotypes of black men, women, and children. Although you likely received high ratings for the awards show, there is no honor in reinforcing the status quo’s opinion of black people. Your tribute to Michael Jackson and the overall show had its great moments, however, BET failed to deliver a solid, quality show. Rather than “raising the bar” and presenting African-Americans as a creative, proud, dignified people, BET lowered the bar for the entire world to see. The BET Awards drew a huge audience to watch a tribute to Michael Jackson, but left millions of viewers feeling disappointed, embarrassed, and reduced to classic stereotypes.
During the most blatantly sexist performances of the night, the executives at BET failed to act and display intelligence, courage, and leadership. Show executives watched, approved, and applauded as artists Lil’ Wayne, Drake, and Cash Money brought young, under-aged girls onto the stage to dance and serve as window dressing while they performed “Every Girl,” a song that reduces girls and women to sex objects. In a culture where one out of four girls and women are either raped or sexually assaulted – and where manipulative men routinely traffic vulnerable women into the sex industry – it is not okay that BET allowed this to happen. BET owes its entire audience – particularly girls and women around the world – an apology for its failure to intervene. BET should also take immediate steps to ensure that this kind of sexist performance does not happen again. Sunday night’s show epitomizes why so many black people worldwide are fed up with BET and feel strongly that your network inaccurately represents black men and women.
Please take my letter and criticism as one that represents millions.