BET changes name, but doesn’t pull plug on “Hot Ghetto Mess”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The new BET show based on the web site HotGhettoMess.com (we first told you about it back in February) makes its premiere tonight. But because of the firestorm of criticism, BET has decided to change the title to “We Got to Do Better,” which is the web site’s tagline.

In this interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jam Donaldson (pictured), the web site’s founder, still maintains that the show will be a positive force because it offers social commentary. I love activist Gina McCauley’s response to that:

Ms. McCauley said she is certainly all for social commentary on the state of the African-American community and examining some of its troubling aspects.

“However, if that food for thought is served on a maggot-covered trash can lid, we can’t digest it,” she said.

Ouch!

BET has refused to let anyone watch the show, so we are all making our assumptions based on the rather noxious web site. But here were some of my thoughts that I shared with the reporter:

Carmen Van Kerckhove, founder and president of anti-racism training company New Demographic and the blog Racialicious, said that the aforementioned reality shows may get more slack from the public because the “stars” of those programs “pretty much know what they get into.”

For that reason, people watch those shows with a healthy bit of skepticism, she said. But, Ms. Van Kerckhove added, there seems to be a “freak show quality” to the HGM Web site, on which the BET show is based. The Web site seems to mock people’s choices in hair and makeup, she said. “I don’t see what grooming habits have to do with social dysfunction.”

Ms. Van Kerckhove also raised the issue of classism. “It seems the Web site exists to make people feel good,” she said, “because we’re not like those people.”