Several weeks ago, while watching clips on YouTube to cure my boredom, I stumbled across the following video. When it was finished, I sat at my desk with my mouth agape. I was quick to label the video as racist and refused to believe the poster’s comments that Black Entertainment Television aired it on their music video countdown show “The 5ive.” Certainly BET wouldn’t air a video that urges black men to follow Sesame Street worthy directions such as brushing their teeth and drinking water?
     I did some research and found out that the song was recorded by D’Mite, a D.C.-born hip hop poet, and that the video was indeed aired on BET. Its premiere created quite a firestorm, with some viewers calling for a boycott of the network while others praised the artist’s confrontational message. Apparently D’Mite’s previous tracks elicited criticism because his lyrics were “too smart” for hip hop fans. “Read a Book” is his way of sending messages similar to his other songs, but with dumbed down, offensive lyrics (“raise your god damn kids,” “read a motherfuckin’ book,” “wear deodorant, nigga”) and an ironic twist—since most viewers seem to glorify stereotypical symbols such as guns, 40s, and sex (so prevalent in mainstream music), he gave the audience what they wanted.
     Although the story of the song’s development made me take a step back and think about how it might be considered a positive song, a sort of call to action, I still cannot come to terms with some of the imagery. While black men are encouraged to educate themselves, purchase land, and treat their bodies well, the video continues to portray black women as nothing but sexual objects. Four black women wear tight pink jogging suits with the word “BOOK” displayed across their asses, which shake with the beat of the song. According to the video, the purpose of brushing one’s teeth is to attract the attention of women. If your breath is fresh, a sexy woman will jump your bones; on the other hand, the scent of halitosis will kill said sexy woman.
     Like most people, I am so inundated with media on a daily basis that it takes an extraordinary book/song/film to linger in my memory. D’Mite’s harsh message has stuck with me for weeks—it is so “in your face” that I am having trouble forgetting about it for good. Which may be exactly what he had in mind…