Award shows: Confusion, delusion, exclusion
Searching through a dictionary of obscure words, I came across the word, “Babeldom,” which means “a confused sound of voices.” Babel, of course reminded me of the Tower of Babel in the Bible, Book of Genesis, Chapter 11. Next, I thought about the BET Awards and, of course, economic empowerment. What? C’mon, Jim, that’s a stretch. Yeah, maybe, but go with me on this one and let’s see.
I did not watch the awards show, but I did see a news clip of Nicki Minaj’s acceptance speech as well as many of the various comments about the show on Facebook and Twitter. Despite Ms. Minaj’s esoteric words, I picked up on her reference to BET being Black-owned. It’s not. I wondered how many in the audience thought the same — or even cared.
Having seen some of these shows in previous years, when I saw the word, “Babeldom,” I made three connections to the collective economic condition of Black folks. The first one centered on language and the “confused” state of many of our people; the second dealt with arrogance, ignorance, and acceptance of mediocrity; and the third was responsibility.
The builders of the Tower of Babel were arrogant, not only because they thought they could build a tower up to heaven, but also because they wanted to “make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” They were also ignorant of God’s power over their lives because even though they considered God their deity, they chose to “do their own thing” despite God’s instructions to their forebears in Chapter 9. They thought they were “all that,” but God stopped them in their tracks.
A few years ago I did a sermon titled, “Babbling or Building,” in which I compared talking “in a confused state” (Babeldom) and actually building something according to what we say we believe and spiritually hold dear. This op-ed is not a sermon, but I hope someone in the ranks of hip hop will see it and respond appropriately to this message.
The quandary for many of our people is we are walking contradictions to much of what we say; our actions belie our words and in some cases make a mockery of them. For example, virtually every awardee on these shows begins by saying, “I want to thank God…” Their actions, however, reflect the exact opposite of one of God’s most important principles: Being a good steward of their financial blessings.
There is probably a few billion dollars in the bank accounts of the BET awardees and attendees, more than enough to do great things for Black people. Question is: How are those dollars being managed? There was a lot of babbling in the room that night; I wonder how much building was taking place, notwithstanding Minaj thinking BET was Black-owned.
What is the end game for many of our talented young rappers? Is it receiving an award? Is it being able to buy all the expensive vodka and brandy they want? Is it blowing $100,000 at a strip club? Is it having 10 cars, five homes, and a $100,000 wardrobe?
I don’t know, but much of what we see does not speak to good stewardship of their blessings, especially in light of their consistent and obligatory need to say “I want to thank God.”
I know there are a few conscious hip hop builders, but the babblers get the most recognition, which is by design. Here’s a thought: A “Black Consciousness Award” for next year’s show, based on the redeeming value of the artist’s actions not just his or her rhetoric.
Hip hop artists, please refrain from the “Babeldom,” and offer words of wisdom to the nation when you speak. You are wasting your influence and squandering your precious resources. Use your tremendous leverage to get Viacom/BET to do more than give you awards. Build and leave an economic legacy from your work; we hardly need to see an award show every month or so anyway.
Don’t be arrogant or ignorant, and do not accept or allow your name to be associated with mediocrity and buffoonery. Use your wealth to build something positive, not just for yourselves individually but collectively for your people as well. You have the ability and resources to do that. Do you have the consciousness to do it?
I am sorry this message could not be communicated in 140 characters, but some things are just too important for such brevity. I leave you with a few more words, directly from God, about those who tried to build the Tower of Babel. He said, “If, as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”