Acton Institute Powerblog

BET’s “Read A Book” Is Satirical Not Racist

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One of the sad legacies of the civil-rights movement is that anyone who makes a critical comment about bad dimensions of black life in America is automatically branded a racist. This is silly. The New York Times reports today on the uproar regarding a recent BET satirical cartoon called “Read A Book” which is circulation in Some are claiming that the video is racist.

In a gloss on the hip-hop videos frequently shown on BET, an animated rapper named D’Mite comes on with what looks like a public service message about the benefits of reading, but devolves into a foul-mouthed song accompanied by images of black men shooting guns loaded with books and gyrating black women with the word “book” written on the back of their low-slung pants. The uncensored cut is making the rounds on YouTube, while a cleaner version was shown on BET.

The cartoon, which represents an effort by the network to broaden its programming, was the subject of an article on Friday in The Los Angeles Times, which noted that the network has been “long criticized for showing gangsta rap videos and those with scantily clad female dancers.”

The video does have bad language but it’s meant to make a point: stupid is as stupid does. The cartoon is protesting the fact that the ghetto-mentality encourages the following:

(1) Ignorance as a goal. The cartoon encourages viewers to read. You rarely ever hear popular radio hip hop encouraging listeners to enlighten their minds. A strong emphasis on education has always been a strong pillar of black life in America until recently.

(2) Irresponsible fatherhood. The cartoon encourages men to take care of their own kids. Popular radio hip hop often celebrates parental irresponsibility.

(3) Financial irresponsibility. The video encourages viewers to buy property instead of rims for their cars. What’s odd is that Chris Rock makes the exact same comments about the stupidity of wasting money on rims for worthless vehicles but Rock is never called “racist.”

(4) Bad personal hygiene and grooming. The video encourages viewers to take better care of themselves–dental care, bathing, deodorant, etc.

The burning question remains: how is this video racist? BET does not need to apologize for showing the satire. I hope more cartoons like this emerge to expose just how the self-sabotaging dimensions of the ghetto-mentality are destroying a segment of American culture.

What we really need is a conversation on what constitutes real racism. Pointing out ignorance, regardless of the racial expression, moves us closer to the truth and to confuse this with racism will keep many blacks from making any progress. In fact, to point out ignorance and conclude that such comment is the same as mocking blacks in general is the most racist position of them all. “Black” and “ghetto ignorance” are not synonyms.”

What is most helpful is if black cultural elites would put the black-community-as-sacred-cow to death. It’s not helping any of us.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.