Imara Jones, the founder of TransLash media, has called out the BET Awards for refusing to air her ad about the need to protect the lives of Black trans women that was set to run during the three-hour program.
“An ad I made about the need to protect the lives of Black trans women was set to run during the show,” Jones wrote in an op-ed for The Grio. “Yet by the end of the three-hour program, I sat in shock because my message had never crossed the screen. Slowly I became enraged at the realization that all fingers for how this came to be pointed to BET, a network with a track record of transphobia.”
“But this year’s BET Awards awards were supposed to be different,” Jones writes. “That’s because, with fist-pumping messages and emotional network promos, BET rolled out artists like Public Enemy and Nas throughout the program to underscore that they were a network ‘for us.’ ”
Jones notes that BET’s moves were on such display that a New York Times headline declared, “BET Put Black Lives Matter at Center of Socially Distant Show.” The Washington Post echoed the point, “the BET Awards served as an extension of the voices of Black people protesting in the streets about the inequalities Black people face daily.”
“BET’s apparent erasure of my voice underscores the hollowness of their claim during the show to be for all Black people,” Jones writes. “The bottom line is that Black Liberation without the centering of Black trans women is no liberation at all. Rather it replicates our current system where some are free and some are oppressed.”
Jones explains that after BET’s lead to “supposedly champion Black lives and Black voices, an agency of McDonald’s asked if I would be willing to tape a 30-second spot about an issue facing the Black community.”
Given the epidemic murders of Black trans women by Black cis men, Jones said she knew exactly what her message would be: “stop killing us.”
“Black trans women have a very simple message: stop killing us” – @imarajoneshttps://t.co/KLsZbLzH7i pic.twitter.com/F7IGLPlAK4
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) June 29, 2020
“After recording the ad, the agency reached out to me on Tuesday before the awards show to say that McDonald’s loved my spot and would be pushing it to air. On Wednesday, I received a note saying that the spot would undergo a higher level of scrutiny due to the fact that it would run on BET,” Jones explains. “On Thursday, I received a note saying that the spot would go through an even higher level of scrutiny because it would air during the live broadcast on BET and CBS, and I was asked to sign yet another release to that effect. And on Friday I received the broadcast schedule for the live show and the reruns during which the ad would air. But Sunday came and went, and still no ad.”
Jones goes on to note BET’s “long and disturbing” record of transphobia.
BET Awards Pose and American Horror Story actress Angelica Ross recently cited the fact that the network does not have positive trans representation at the network nor does it invite trans actors to its awards.
“Moreover, no transgender actor from Pose has ever been recognized by BET, even as they have been nominated or won awards from other organizations including BET’s sister network MTV,” Jones notes. “Of course, the network’s hostility toward trans people extends beyond just this week. In 2013 B. Scott, who is a Black, gender non-conforming television personality, was suddenly rushed from the 106th and Park Pre-Show for the BET Awards by BET staff for wearing clothes deemed to be too feminine.”
Read Jones’ full op-ed, here.