“The Breakfast Club” radio show has become a pillar of black entertainment since its 2010 launch. With guests ranging from Cardi B to Louis Farrakhan, almost any and every notable black person has appeared on the radio show. From being the home of viral catchphrases like Birdman’s “put some respeck on my name” to questionable uses of airtime with conservative pundit Tomi Lahren, “The World’s Most Dangerous Morning Show” is as respected as it is controversial.
Its reputation for being contentious proved to be true once again last Friday when comedian Roland “Lil Duval” Powell appeared on the show. Hosts Charlamagne tha God, Angela Yee and DJ Envy were not exempt from the swift backlash when a clip of Duval’s ignorance went viral on Twitter. After being asked about his feelings on the trans military ban, Duval said he had to feign concern and empathy about the ban to his gay sister. Charlamagne asked Duval if he’d ever sleep with a transgender woman — as that was the only appropriate follow-up question in his mind. Duval said if he ever found out a had sex with a trans woman she would “die.” As in he’d kill her.
Following Duval’s transphobic commentary, some have called for a boycott of “The Breakfast Club” for entertaining such insensitive dialogue and inciting violence against the trans community. Activists, feminists, listeners and trans women who were appalled by Duval’s bigotry used #TransFolksAreNotJokes and #BreakfastClubBoycott in an attempt to hold the show accountable.
While Duval is very much his own person, Charlamagne was partly responsible for propelling Duval’s antagonistic commentary. The comedian already demonstrated he didn’t empathize with the plight of the trans community. So Charlamagne had to have been mildly aware of the response he’d receive when he posed the hypothetical of Duval sleeping with a trans woman. DJ Envy holding up New York Times Bestselling author Janet Mock’s book while Duval spewed his ignorant bigotry, merely days after she visited the show to politely educate them on Trans 101 specifics, was equally harmful. Charlamagne and Yee (barely) tried to correct Duval in noting that killing trans women is a hate crime. But the damage had already been done. The better alternative would have been to redirect the conversation entirely.
But this isn’t the only time “The Breakfast Club” has either initiated and/or perpetuated rhetoric that is either misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic or all three at the same damn time.
In September 2016, rapper Lil Mama paid a visit to the show and within the first few minutes Charlamagne attacked her looks. Charlamagne has a lot of nerve judging woman on physical appearance. No tea, no shade. He referred to the rapper as “the voice of the young struggle face.” He added more insult to injury by telling the 27-year-old she looked old and that she and Lebron James share the same gene.When Lil Mama retorted with: “People tell me I look 12, they think I look young and I’m sexy,” Charlamagne said he’s never heard anyone say that. He continued to deride the young woman’s success. Lil Mama was brought to tears and her moment of vulnerability was instantly turned in to an Internet meme that’ll live forever.
This interview was far from the first or last occasion that Charlamagne felt entirely too comfortable commenting on the appearance and sexuality of female guests.
During an interview with Masika Kalysha of Love and Hip-Hop: Los Angeles, Charlamagne remarked that he just wanted the conversation to come to an end so he could watch her leave. Charlamagne told Nia Long that he regards her and her Best Man co-star Sanaa Lathan as “vintage vagina.” When “OOOUUU” rapper Young M.A., one of the few openly gay female rappers, visited the show last August, DJ Envy seemed fascinated by the concept of a “masculine” lesbian. Not only did Envy ask Young M.A what on earth could inspire a young girl to want to rap since they typically only want to play with Barbies, listeners were subjected to Charlamagne prodding about why she gains pleasure from oral sex with a dildo. While she shut him down with a cool “that’s none of your business,” nonetheless, Envy went on inquire as to whether Young M.A is the kind of lesbian who doesn’t like to be touched. Young M.A. could teach a master class in curving questions that should not have been asked.
In a 2013 show, Charlamagne labeled Hot 97’s DJ Mister Cee “Donkey of the Day” for being caught with a male sex worker. Mister Cee himself wasn’t on the show, but Charlamagne implored the DJ to out himself. He even went so far as to ask when the DJ was tested for HIV/AIDS. The implications of that comment are self-explanatory.
The hosts of “The Breakfast Club,” particularly Charlamagne and Envy, have a tendency of using their microphones as a voice-box for the small-minded. As a result they’ve normalized ignorance. They shamelessly occupy the airtime of artists like Young M.A by regurgitating tired tropes. Yee occasionally comes to the defense of political correctness, but she’s often silent when Charlamagne’s casual sexism changes the course of interviews and perturbs guests who are trying to mask their discomfort with laughter.
With such a massive platform”The Breakfast Club” holds a significant level of power. Whether they’re aware or not, the show’s hosts play a pivotal role in the formation of young minds today. Their guests and general banter appeal to more youthful audiences. To some they are role models. But such idolization is dangerous when handled improperly.
Charlamagne especially needs to be more conscious of his influence on young black men that have few other black male influences. When young people hear misogyny and homophobia and transphobia echoed on the radio without being condemned it influences them. Duval purposefully misgendering Mock sends the dangerous message that trans women are not women, thus leading credence to the narrative that trans women are “tricking” cis heterosexual men. This type of language incites violence to an already vulnerable community. This year alone 16 trans women have been murdered, and those are only the ones reported.
The majority of media outlets live and breathe by ratings. But while “The Breakfast Club” hosts draw large audiences with their unfiltered and prying questions, Charlamagne and Envy’s struggle to see their guests outside of sexual contexts rightfully frustrates those whose politics are more progressive and informed. Is a temporary boycott of the dangerous morning show necessary? Yes. Their weak attempts to, at times, be politically correct, won’t cut it. They need to learn to do better by their audiences and their communities. All questions aren’t good questions. And all dialogue shouldn’t be respected.