I’m not a member of the Beyhive. In fact, I don’t own a single Beyonce album. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Jigga since my parents let me get my first “Parental Advisory” labeled CD.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Blue Ivy is. You know who her parents are and you might even be aware of the petitions, blog posts and social media draggings dedicated to her hair. The topic died down recently, with more attention being paid to the little girl cheering on her mom and dancing in her daddy’s lap while Bey performed at the VMAs.
But BET and the writers at questionably relevant 106 & Park couldn’t leave well enough alone. One day after the MTV Video Music Awards aired, Karrueche Tran guest hosted the music video countdown show. During a segment about six things Blue Ivy thought during the VMAs, Tran said:
“I really did wake up like this because my parents don’t comb my hair.”
She immediately followed it up with “Sorry Blue! I love you!”, as if she knew reading that joke spelled career suicide.
In the days following, Tran has received tons of social media backlash, including death threats (ya’ll gotta chill). BET President of Music Programming Stephen Hill even took to Twitter to apologize for the “stupid, unthoughtful joke” and informed everyone that BET is taking punitive measures against the writers of the script responsible, while also vouching for Karrueche’s innocence in the matter.
But Mr. Hill, the issue here isn’t Karreuche.
Although there is some culpability on her end (I mean, sometimes you should just know better), the root of the issue is BET and how a network aimed at black viewers (BET has not been black owned since Bob Johnson sold it to Viacom in 2000) speaks with a forked tongue when it comes to natural hair. The duplicitous network has no issue running commercials for Dark & Lovely Au Naturale and Creme of Nature natural hair products to collect ad revenue coins, while still utilizing multiple avenues to reinforce the notion that natural hair is unattractive and unacceptable.
Beyond the fact that making fun of a child (regardless of who their parents are) is rude and morally reprehensible, the realization that the jab at Blue Ivy was even given a green light speaks to greater issues and a lack of diversity and cultural sensitivity at the network. I’m not sure how staffing has changed at BET since the Viacom takeover 14 years ago, but I’m willing to bet that there are a lot less black staff at the Black Entertainment Television network than there was prior to Viacom’s buyout.
How else do you explain such an ill-conceived jab at natural hair coming to pass from a “black” television network?
Even if everyone was black at BET, I’d be careful not to assume that everyone liked or was even in support of natural hair. However, given that blackness does not exist as a monolith, it would be safe to say that somewhere within that (hypothetically) exclusively black group would be a segment of women and men who would have spoken up and called that joke exactly what it was: distasteful and plain wrong.
But that’s just me speculating.
Instead of BET rallying behind and supporting Blue Ivy’s gorgeous kinky coily mane, they chose to sit comfortably behind the same disparaging rhetoric that identifies phenotypical identifiers of blackness as anything but beautiful. Given the influence and platform that Blue Ivy shares with her mom, it stands to reason that the mini celebrity is one of several defacto ambassadors of the natural hair movement for kids. Her parents’ decision to let her mane flow and fro freely should be celebrated, not to be poked fun at as a trending topic for a struggle show.
In spite of how the natural hair movement has grown in recent years, the same whitewashed perceptions of beauty continue to persist in every corner of major media.
How many times have you personally been told that your natural hair looked dry, nappy, unkempt and needed to be combed? How many times do we have to have this conversation about our hair?
Prior to being sold, the veracity and integrity of BET would have never been called into question. But at the end of the day, BET and Viacom are owned by one man — Sumner Redstone. And you can bet your bottom dollar his interest in acquiring BET had absolutely nothing to do with preserving the quality and integrity of the network. As I said earlier in the year, with regard to Lisa Price no longer owning Carol’s Daughter, when you don’t own things, you have no say in what is done with them. While Johnson’s network might have been a pioneering force in black media at its inception, in 2014 BET is far from its roots.
Instead of making fun of Blue Ivy’s hair, perhaps the 106 & Park time slot could’ve been spent highlighting 6 reasons why Beyonce mailed them a pre-recorded performance for the BET Awards, but was live and in person for the VMAs. Fun fact: Viacom owns MTV, too.
Would you expect such a joke to be broadcast? How do you feel about BET’s apology?