The debate has been raging about the debasing treatment meted out to our artists at the BET Awards every year after this year’s awards came around and nothing had changed.
However, more disappointing than BET’s treatment of our supposed top artists is the implicit acceptance of the treatment, both from our artists and some of us back home. Whilst you would hardly expect a corporate entity like BET to be concerned about the (so far) minuscule complaints of a few Africans, the fact that some of us are willing to condone, or even quietly accept this treatment, is a far bigger problem than the discrimination itself.
Whilst people like GhanaCelebrities.Com editor Chris-Vincent and Fuse ODG have been fighting for recognition for our artists, the opposition hasn’t come from anywhere but within us. It smacks of being willing to put up with bullsh*t from authority, because you hope one day they would realise your everlasting meekness and decide to reward you.
Yet history has shown us that is a futile exercise, as there is no real change without affirmative action. Throughout history, all the big changes have come about because people realised the problems and took concrete steps to deal with them. So long as you are willing to ride with the status quo, it is not going to change.
As brilliant a piece as any I’ve seen on the subject is ‘Why Are So Many African Artistes Willing Participants In Their Own Degradation’, by a blogger known as Malaka. I‘ll be rehashing just a few of the points in her piece, which I think should be required reading for all Africans who are rationalising this dehumanising treatment from BET.
The first step to solving any problem is realising one exists in the first step. I find it incredible that people are still contending that the Best International Act (Africa) award is given off the main stage, before a crowd of less than 30 that possibly includes cleaners. Similarly, our artistes are forced to perform before such a disillusioning audience.
Those who do not contend it rationalise that we should be grateful BET is giving our artists the award and the platform. But what is the use of either when you have to undergo such treatment to receive it? Nobody in America cares about a pre-taped award or performance, and the African artists who have been receiving this award in years past have received no benefit from it.
So when Africa’s A-list artists are treated like lepers, it beholds on Africans to raise that alarm. I’m sure we all know what BET stands for, and unless there are different shades of black I’m yet to be told of, it is a disgrace for this kind of treatment to go on.
BET can decide to scrap the Best International Act-Africa award, to which there is pretty much little we can do about it. However if going forward they decide to keep it, we have to get them to do the right thing.
Starting with a mass boycott by ALL African artists. Like I mentioned earlier, no change comes about without real action, and just talking aloud won’t change anything. Our artists need to make BET understand that they would not stand for such actions, when they’re blacker than some award recipients who get to be on the main stage. It is a matter of staying true to what you profess to stand for.
Segregation is not a good thing, and no matter how you look at it that is what BET is engaging in. The ironic thing is African Americans and other racial minorities are still dealing with institutionalised racism in America, as all those police shootings attest to; and this is the best treatment they can give to the people they share ancestry with.
Especially when you consider it’s not just ancestry, but a good portion of whatever culture they’ve built now can be traced back to us. Rap music, fashion, many relevant parts of current black culture is arguably traceable to African culture. There are many aspects of life where African Americans like to make capital out of connecting to their ancestral roots; they cannot do that and turn around to treat us like second class citizens when it suits them.
BET owes African artists nothing, but if they’re going to be part of the program, they really need to be part of the program. I don’t give a fig what they say; three to five extra minutes would not be the end of the world. Their show is broadcast on a network they own, for Christ’s sake.
If they are not willing to do that, we have to show them the way. I have never known Fuse ODG to take a stupid action in his career, and he showed his smarts once again in calling BET out on their bullsh*t.
It’s time for Sarkodie and Stonebwoy and all those other award hungry African artists to join the wagon of affirmative action. If they do not have any dignity, the rest of us do, and we have enough problems to deal with here without having to see our best treated like crap by a community supposed to be our brothers.
For further reading go to Mind of Malaka.