BET TV Playing a PSA Telling Kids to ‘Read a Mo F’n Book’?


By: Warner Todd Huston

Black Entertainment Television has been playing what is being called a Public Service Announcement created by a rapper named Bomani “D’mite” Armah. It is in cartoon form and made in the Rapper music video style. However, it contains some very offensive language even as the underlying message is one encouraging children to read by telling them to read a “mother****ing book, N***er.” It’s a mixed message, indeed. Do we need to encourage kids to read by cursing at them every other word in a song aired to them on a black centric television station? Is this the proper type of work that should be seen on BET?

The thing begins in a school auditorium with bored kids looking on. The cartoon rapper starts by playing Beethoven’s Fifth on a piano (the whole song is set to the Fifth Symphony). “D’Mite” starts off by telling the kids, “See, I used to do songs with hooks and concepts and sh*t, right? Well, f*ck that, I’m trying to go platinum!” It then goes into the first verse which is made up entirely of “Read a book, read a book, read a mah fuc*in book,” repeated over and over again.

It’s over-the-top and offensive to be sure. But is it the “right message” despite that and to be congratulated? BET sure thinks it should.

I won’t embed this video here because it is filled with offensive language, but here is the YouTube link so that you may decide if you wish to watch it or not: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN2VqFPNS8w.

OK, we all know that urging kids to read, especially minority kids, is the correct prescription to raise them up out of poverty. “Reading is power” is not just a hackneyed axiom. It is God’s honest truth! But, does such an encouragement have to be so darn crude? Is reading and education compatible with low behavior and foul language? Wouldn’t wide reading raise a kid OUT of using such gutter language?

Writer and critic John McWhorter has written much about the sad state of the African American community. He blames the welfare state, of course, but he also blames the black community itself. “Too many blacks stopped keeping their eyes on the prize,” he said, “but it certainly wasn’t because whites became more racist. The idea that we can only achieve under perfect conditions is a disabling fiction.” So, encouraging kids to read is, indeed, a great idea especially in a culture that holds that education does not fit in with their “identity,” that it makes them less black and “acting like whites.”

But, culture and education is meant to raise people’s minds to a higher degree and “read a mah fuc*in book” does NOT raise people up, but allows them to wallow in the gutter.

It seems that this video, then, should be roundly condemned. Right? Not to everyone. Some claim to accept it’s positive message and find it’s gutter method does not concern them, that it in fact is a proper way to attract the attention of the youth of today.

For instance, as far as reviewer Eugene Williams, Jr. is concerned, the song should be wildly praised. On CDBaby, a site that caters to independent musicians, he posted a review of the song.

Innovative, groundbreaking, this record needed to be made

Mr. Armah has cleverly given black American youth the positive message they need without sounding corny or preachy. He is telling our young people what they need to hear. Quiet as its kept, Mr. Armah is simply telling us to do all the things that Bill Cosby is trying to tell us to do, only in a different more “hood-palatable” format. If our church and community leaders can get past the explicit language and take time to listen to the timely and ironically positive message, this song will do for the black community what rap was originally intended to do!!!!

Is Mr. Williams correct? Did this “need to be made”?

Hold on, though. Maybe this rap song is more subversive than you might think?

Some, on the other hand, are claiming that this video is actually satire. That the rapper is criticizing the low state of American black culture in general and rap music in particular. The say “D’mite” is mixing the low brow language of rap music with the high brow concepts of reading, buying land, drinking water because your body needs it, and personal hygiene in a way to criticize the slovenly state of his people’s culture and the failure of rap music to assist the community in raising itself upward.

It is a plausible explanation. But I am skeptical.

In any case, you decide where it fits in the scheme of things. Is it a cunning satire on how bad the African American community has gotten or is it just another excuse to wallow in the gutter disguised as a public service?

Here are the lyrics… such as they are…. of this thing:

Read a book, read a book, read a motherfuckin’ book (pronounced mah fuckin’ book in street fashion)

r-e-a-d-a-b-o–o-k

Not a sports page, not a magazine, but a book nigger, a fuckin’ book nigger

Read a book, read a book, read a motherfuckin’ book

r-e-a-d-a-b-o-o-k

Raise yo kids, raise yo kids, raise yo goddamn kids

Yo body needs water, so drink that shit

Buy some land, buy some land, what, fuck spinning rims

Brush yo teeth, brush yo teeth, brush yo goddamn teeth

Wear deodorant nigger, wear deodorant nigger

It’s called Speedstick, it’s not expensive

Read a book, read a book, read a motherfuckin’ book

r-e-a-d-a-b-o–o-k

Well, what do you all think?

Fitting and smart satire, or garbage?

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