Commentary: One can see straight through BET

Taraji P. Henson

Commentary: One can see straight through BET
June 30
05:05 2016

Bill Turner

Guest Columnist

“I think they’re all going to hell in a hand basket,” snapped my grandmother, then 70 years old in June 1966, when I asked her what she thought of my generation I was 20 as we thumbed through the pictures and briefs in Jet Magazine.  That week’s cover story: James Meredith shot on his March through Mississippi. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others took up Meredith’s March, with Stokely Carmichael creating worldwide commotion by raising the term “Black Power.” Percy Sledge popularized the romantically passionate tune “When A Man Loves a Woman.”

Last week, I found myself having the same reaction to the younger generation as my Grandma did a half century ago while I watched – blushing at times – the BET Awards Show, along with my 15 year-old granddaughter.

Music, acting, sports and fields of entertainment are the current plots and storylines for black millennials.  Whereas Jet carried the scenes, sights and sounds of social change and what black people had on their minds a half century ago, BET now focuses the spotlight on what black celebrities don’t have on either their minds nor their bodies.

Beyonce opened the show bouncing about briskly in fewer threads than Eve in the Garden while co-emcee Tracee Ellis Ross – who changed into fewer clothes between each segment – slinked about once in a skintight snakeskin. Taraji Henson wanted first to “Thank God” after she sashayed onto the stage in a see-through skirt exaggerated in silver to accept the Best Actress Award for her role as “Cookie” on the hit show Empire.

“You know I was going to wear that outfit,” said co-host Anthony Anderson, the star of Blackish – as he pirouetted dramatically to show his bare butt cheeks, framed in white pants – to Janelle Monae, who paid tribute to Prince while showing off her unadorned rear-end at the same time. Transgender star of “Orange is the New Black,” Laverne Cox, wore a plunging, very, very skimpy jumpsuit accessorized with some killer body chains all below an auburn mermaid hairstyle.  Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech for the BET Humanitarian Award seemed almost out of place.

At least I could discuss the anatomy of Williams’ speech with my granddaughter.

“How long have you been saying young black people would go to hell in a hand basket?,” I asked my Grandmother. “For at least 50 years,” she replied.  I wonder what Grandmother would say about the new pictures presented on BET: where things and people are going.

Dr. Bill Turner is a noted educator, writer and thinker who called Winston-Salem home for many years. Reach him at

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