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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I recently received a message from one of my most respected colleagues, NBA free agent Etan Thomas. Etan is one of the most important black men in America, largely because he has worked tirelessly to encourage black male athletes to embrace their intelligence and collective socioeconomic power. In that regard, he is not only one of the most important black men in America, he is also one of the most dangerous.
With that being said, Etan sent this message to me about the new BET show, “Don’t Sleep!” With TJ Holmes:
This wknd I heard from two reliable sources from BET that they are strongly considering not bringing back Don’t Sleep with TJ Holmes. They said that the network has to hear from people if they want it to remain on the air, otherwise it will be cancelled because the ratings were not that good. Smh so please spread the word and if you want this show to remain on as it is the ONLY positive show on BET, please flood this e mail address requesting this show stay on the air Sf.moore@BET.net.
I am glad to see that Etan is taking a stand for TJ. I spoke with TJ for a while and found him to be intelligent, respectable and conscientious. He was not (in the words of former ESPN contributor Rob Parker) a “cornball brother.” Yes, I do agree that cornball brothers exist, and most of us know what they might look and sound like. Parker’s mistake was that it’s difficult to make these subtle references in the presence of a group of white folks who are paying your bills, which reminds us of why black people need to control more of our own media.
At any rate, I agreed with Thomas’ push to get BET to continue the show. I mentioned a few weeks ago that TJ’s show is good for the BET audience, which has grown accustomed to being fed content that looks like it was created by Shawty Lo and his 10 babies’ mamas. But the truth is that BET has created an audience that isn’t interested in education and has instead become addicted to psychological degradation. Even the new BET slogan “We got you” speaks to the demographic to which it has chosen to appeal, and this is an audience that would rather see Kevin Hart than TJ Holmes any day of the week.
So, here’s my thought: Maybe it’s time to stop expecting BET to be all things to all black people. Not every white man watches Comedy Central or Spike TV, and not every black person is going to watch BET. TV One, Inspire, Bounce and even the Internet provide options that are a far better fit for black folks who appreciate two-syllable thinking, and BET might be the place that is best fit for those who enjoy being intellectual zombies.
So, again, I hope that BET keeps TJ on the air. The way they treat him is a telling reflection of the network’s world-view. But as a Finance Professor, I can tell you that I don’t see many purely capitalist incentives for making the investments necessary to build the audience that TJ needs in order for his show to be successful. The deep financial commitment needed to develop TJ’s show would require BET to actually care about the black community more than it cares about money, which would lead to a lashing from their overseers at Viacom.
TJ Holmes hosting a show on BET is like Barack Obama marrying Kim Kardashian. This might have been an ill-conceived relationship from the beginning.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Commercialized Hip-Hop: The Gospel of Self Destruction.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.