Why Do Black Awards Shows Always Get Written Off as "Ghetto?"

Comedian-actor Cedric the Entertainer at the 2012 Soul Train Awards at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Last week, the Soul Train Awards aired on BET/Centric, and like clockwork, my Twitter timeline was fueled by tweets and retweets about how “bootleg” another “EBT” production appeared. It’s a bit of revisionist history to say the least. Now, I used to love the Soul Train Awards back in the 1990s, too, but don’t let the lack of HD at the time fool you: Whitney Houston and Ronald Isley were not cooing and swaying over a gold plated stage.

In other words, this year’s awards, which were held in Las Vegas, actually looked like they received a boost in production value when compared to past versions of the show.

For the record, I did say on Twitter while watching the show, “I feel like I'm watching a high priced cook out.” But you see, I didn’t say the show looked “cheap” or “ghetto.” I called it an expensive cookout because when I see Charlie Wilson singing Gap Band songs with a freshly painted hairstyle like a 'cat daddy' on the prowl, I can’t help but think of BBQ and fried fish. The same can be said for my play uncle in my head, 2 Chainz.

Even so, that just makes me country, though I’ll surely take that tag quicker than I’ll be condescending towards my own.

I will agree with the sentiment that the Soul Train Awards aren’t what they used to be in terms of substance. Still, the blame for that falls more so on a shift in culture – say, R&B continues to recover from the drive-by dance music pulled on it – the reality that far more awards shows are open to having Black acts now than they used to be.

And even though the Soul Train brand is trying to rebuild its relevance, the BET Awards has been the top rated awards show on cable for some time now. Yet, each and every year you see a bunch of Negroes pan the show as if it were being filmed outside of a yet-to-be renovated Section 8 building.

When I see complains about how “ghetto” the show seems to some, I can’t help but think that says more about the commenter than the content. It perpetuates some sort of larger inferiority complex some Blacks seem to have, only in this instance in terms of pop culture. I know more times than not it’s merely “jokes,” but the punch line and what it perpetuates says all too much about those playing along. 

All and all, it’s annoying. Not every event Blacks put on is some “bootleg” version of something else from white people. And if we’re talking shows that aren’t looking as pretty and expensive as they used to, the MTV VMAs have been on a steep decline for some time. But no, that’d never be called ghetto.

The for us/by us awards show are done for the year, but please, Negroes in the guilty party, do me a favor: Leave that 'Black= automatically subpar' rationale with Mitt Romney in the trash pile of 2012. Feel free to keep clowning when clowning is due, but try to exercise caution if it’s ultimately going to come at the expense of your own.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick