Hot Ghetto Mess: social critique or classist mockery?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

There’s a web site called Hot Ghetto Mess (contains some NSFW pics). I’m not sure how to describe the site – it’s basically a collection of photos of ridiculous-looking (almost all black) people. People with bad hairdos, questionable fashion, etc.

It’s just a web site – harmless enough, right? Well, it turns out that BET is planning to turn the site into a TV show and is currently soliciting videos from consumers.

I recently received an email from a woman who is circulating a petition to stop the production of this show. From her email:

Due to recent knowledge that a website that exist called “Hot Ghetto Mess” is being turned into a television production a group of us decided that we wanted to stop this show from ever hitting the air waves. The website shows negative images of people in the black communities. The creator of the site intends to shame and humiliate people to inspire them to “Do Better” but offers no solution. Many of us were appalled at the blatant exploitation of unsuspecting people who are merely living their lives the best way they know how. We do not agree with the creator of this sites approach to evoke positive change. We feel that this will do more harm than good.

The creator of Hot Ghetto Mess, Jam Donaldson, on the other hand, maintains that the site exists as a form of social critique:

My mission with this site is to usher in a new era of self-examination. And because I am proud member of the black community, they are my priority. However, those of other races take note and if the shoe fits wear it. I think it is time that the black community or (insert your race here) needs to take a good look at itself in the mirror and each of us ask ourselves why are our communities are going to hell.

This site does not proclaim to know the answer to that question, for the answer is different for each of us. I want each and every person that reads these words to look at your life and ask how you can make yourself better, your community better or your kids better.

I am just holding up a mirror to my community so don’t blame me if you don’t like your reflection.

So what do you think of Hot Ghetto Mess? Is it just exploitation and mockery? Or is it social critique?