I’ve been mulling this one over. The new show on BET (Black Entertainment Television) called Hot Ghetto Mess has been in the news lately with its debut of July 25, 2007 quickly approaching. I’ve been sent links about the show and implored by AskThisBlackWoman readers to write something about it… but I had to think about it for a while.
A few months ago I was walking down the street in NYC with my girlfriend and we came upon this Black woman, who appeared to be a homeless, mentally ill drug-addict. She was dressed scantily in what I would call a ripped up prostitute’s costume. She was begging for money and when she opened her mouth to speak, it looked as if she had a maximum of 5 teeth. I turned to my girlfriend and said, “She’s a hot mess”. Hilariously, my girlfriend thought I was saying that I found the woman attractive and was calling her “hot”, as we Americans often call people we think are sexy. I quickly corrected my girlfriend and began a historical lesson in African-American colloquialisms and explained that the term, “hot mess” meant that something was awful, embarrassing, really bad, etc. The term for me conjures up images of a hot, heaping, messy, pile of shit…hence the term “hot mess”.
Back to the show, Hot Ghetto Mess created by Jam Donaldson, a black lawyer from Washington, D.C., who’s also an executive producer on the BET program. On the show’s website, the tag line, “We’ve Got To Do Better” explains a bit about one of the motivations of the creators. Donaldson calls for a “new era of self-examination.”
The website and the show will chronicle the hot, heaping, messy pile of shit that is contemporary African-American culture. The pimps, the hoes, the embarrassing and revealing outfits, the hyper-sexuality, the hypo-employment, etc. in what the creator, Jam Donaldson, claims will be an opportunity at self-reflection and community-wide introspection. Hot Ghetto Mess will be an opportunity for African-Americans to stare into the mirror of our lives, be ashamed and then do something about it. Is this Ms. Donaldson’s attempt at revolution?
She’s right; we’ve got to do better. But this smells like one more slap in the face to the already beaten down African-American community. Yes, we have our pimps and hoes; we have our drug addicts, irresponsible baby daddies, etc. But do we really need to further stigmatize and stereotype a community struggling with image management issues?
Ms. Donaldson and BET are making lots of money pimping our people, their people, out for some laughs. Don’t fool yourself into believing this is about community empowerment. This is about lampooning Black folks and getting rich off of it. And it’s shameful.
The outrage about Hot Ghetto Mess has been minimal, I guess folks are waiting for the first episode, but I think that will be too late. The damage will have been done and millions of people will not only witness the cannibalistic way in which elite Blacks profit of off their own less fortunate community members, but caricatures and stereotypes of Black people will be reinforced in our minds.
On a positive note, some sponsors have pulled out of the show. State Farm Insurance and Home Depot were brave enough to disassociate themselves from this hot mess, and I think we Black people and our allies should do the same.