Producer/filmmaker Reginald Hudlin left his perch as BET's president of entertainment this week and I felt nothing.
Hudlin, and his older brother Warrington, were born and raised in the Metro East in Centreville, Ill. near East St. Louis, so I've always tried to keep an eye on their careers. In Hudlin's three years with BET I can't really have a response because there is simply no response for a network that devoid of substance. Hudlin brought a few things to the table, but at the end of the day, this is America and BET is owned by Viacom.
Bring on the reality shows that are clones from other Viacom reality shows on MTV from five years ago!
"From the moment he joined the BET family, Reggie infused our program development with incredible creativity, energy and passion," BET chairman/CEO Debra Lee said in announcing Hudlin's departure.
Under Hudlin, BET launched 17 of the top 20 highest-rated shows in the network's 28-year history, including "Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown," "American Gangster," "Baldwin Hills," "Sunday Best," BET's first scripted series "Somebodies" and the network's highest-rated series ever, "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is." (The Hollywood Reporter)
I realize that the crappiness of BET is not entirely Hudlin's fault. The BET Sux Movement existed before they got rid of Donnie Simpson and "Video Soul." And the BET Sux Movement will not stop just because Hudlin left. This is just another battle of class and commerce in the black community.
Bougie black people complain that BET is degrading and part of the problem. BET says it's just putting on what people want to watch. BET is owned by Viacom which wants to make money, so BET throws on stuff to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to rack in the most viewers. Voila! Crap on television for bougie, churchy and all variety of black people who don't like the term "video ho" to complain about.
Probably the most un-PC thing my mother says is something she heard often as a kid growing up -- If you don't want a black person to know something, put it in a book.
It's harsh and not funny, but reflects the huge problem we have with anti-intellectualism in our community. It's the same anti-intellectualism that runs through all of American culture, but feels like a pandemic in the black community. Throughout my life I've met people who are out-right hostile to the notion of "having an open mind" or "reading for pleasure." And until Barack Obama started running for president, I didn't know a lot of people who followed politics with any degree of seriousness.
Or voted with any degree of seriousness, for that matter.
Now, I don't know how you make being smart sexy to people because even white people struggle with that. But they have an advantage in the fact that there's simply more of them. All of the smart, quirky ones can just buy a Mini Cooper, move to a loft apartment in any American city and go hang out at the nearest, locally-owned coffeehouse with a copy of "The Kite Runner" and The New York Times and nerd mack for days over some chai tea and the latest Norah Jones, Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews Band CD.
They can just pretend the NASCAR, Toby Keith, hockey moms with monster trucks rallies, troglodyte-cum-philistine crowd doesn't exist. They can stick their fingers in their ears and go "la-la-la" when someone tries to tell them the earth is only 6,000 years old.
Us black people, we're a minority -- we need each other. To get folks voted into office. To get all sorts of things done. There's not as many of us in general, so there are even less nerdy, buppie, boho, bougie, snobby people running around. And heaven forbid anyone having a different opinion. Sacre bleu!
Even if you know some other college educated, chai tea sipping Negroes to kick it with, chances are if you are interested in worshiping Jesus or going to any event featuring some kind of athletics, barbecue, dancing, soul or hip hop music you are going to have to deal with some folks who may think you're a pompous, know-it-all who doesn't know a damn thing about what's hot in the streets.
The only way to (almost) completely circumvent this unpleasantness is to immerse yourself fully in the alabaster diaspora of White Liberal Guilt Land, aka "Trendy-Part-of-the-City, USA," being the "token" black guy/gal at the sushi bar or yoga studio or coffeehouse.
And this is why educated black people hate BET so much. Because we have this fantasy that if BET were either A) cleaned up or B) taken off the air, maybe we could get the entire race "off the pole." It seems silly that if most black people are middle class why is there still a need to push this fetishization of urban crime and poverty onto our kids?
Oh yeah. That fetish makes money. Lots of money. Especially when sold to the non-black people who can't get enough of it. The market has decided which part of blackness it wanted and it wanted to see less Wynton Marsalis. More Soulja Boy.
That said, Hudlin plans to return to his roots as a film producer. All I ask is that he be more responsible with that power than Tracey Edmonds.