Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Turn It Off
Anyone who spends a lot of time online, as I do, will probably have read about the controversy that has arisen over ongoing protests of BET programming. For anyone who missed it, Enough is Enough, a group convened by Rev. Delman Coates,Ph.D. has been picketing the home of BET Executive Debra Lee for the past several weeks to call attention to the degrading and demeaning representations of black people in the media. Not everyone is cheering. Michael Eric Dyson wrote an Op-Ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution sympathizing with the message but objecting to the methods of the group in targeting Lee's home.
Let me say from the outset, that I am generally in support of Coates's aims. The Black community has consistently suffered because of the negative images portrayed in the dominant culture and because of the propensity of some in our community to live down to those images. While I could never understand the desire to become a caricature, some Black people, young and old, work very hard at it. Thus, the question of which came first, the image or the pathology, is a lot harder to answer than either side admits.
But I want to approach this issue from a different vantage point and declare that we watch too much television in the first place. African Americans generally and African American children particularly are known for being television's largest and most faithful audience. Forty percent of African American children reported watching more than 4 hours of television per day. Although the adage that TV watching burns fewer calories than sleeping has been debunked, it is certainly true that TV watching correlates to childhood obesity. And when we are looking for reasons that our children are underperforming in school, then we have to look at TV as a contributing factor.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am no right-wing "personal responsibility" guru. But the crisis in the Black community in education, poverty, and crime is so significant that we are forced to look in every direction for solutions - inward and outward. If we want our children to be successful (and if we as adults want our brains not to turn to mush), then we are going to have to turn the television off. Read a book, do your homework, go for a walk, talk to your family, clean your house, go to bed. Whatever. Just do it without the television for a change. And that means video games too.