BKChat LDN is a UK phenomenon created by Andy Amadi. The premise of the online talk show is five women and five men on opposing sides of the room debating subjects with wonderful titles like "Don't Ask Me How Many People I've Slept With", and my personal favourite "He Broke Up With Me At A Bus Stop." Since the first episode one month ago, the channel has racked up over two million views, has just shy of 60,000 subscribers and trends on Twitter every week without fail- to say they're a big deal is an understatement. The production values are stupendous, the cast are beautiful. They're gargantuan. I'm a fan.
Views on the show are polarised to say the least. While I enjoy the passionate debates, others find it draining. And that's fine, this show is not for everyone, my problem is when the argument becomes "this aint the US. We can't have something like BKchat on British TV" or people start advocating for new cast members. **deep sigh** The calls for people of colour and in this case, black people specifically, to be included in the TV landscape is not exclusive to representations of as perfect, unrealistic model citizens who say the right thing all the time and speak "perfectly". The idea that something like BKChat "can't" be on British TV speaks to respectability politics, whether that was the intention or not.
What is respectability politics? In this article on The Root Damon Young describes respectability politics as "what happens when minority and/or marginalised groups are told (or teach themselves) that in order to receive better treatment from the group in power, they must behave better." In this instance, respectability politics calls for the cast members to behave in a manner that's more palatable to appease the sensibilities of those prefer popular images of black people to be sanitised and acceptable to others watching. The idea behind respectability politics, Young explains, "is if we walk a little straighter and write a little neater and speak a little clearer, then white people will treat us better." The respectability politics here might not even be for the benefit of white people, maybe some people want to pretend these voices don't exist within our own communities but they do. The production values are high, the cast are beautiful, the viewing figures are astronomical, so what's the beef? Like all shows cultivated online and brought to television BKChat would have to go through a period of development before it's released on our screens, so of course it's not ready right now, but if the fear is white people treating black people badly cos they saw an episode of BKChat don't worry, with or without the show, racists will be racisting forever.
Do the men on the show at times articulate some of the most virulent, dangerous strains of sexism and misogyny around? Without a shadow of a doubt. I was horrified when in the "If I Pay On The First Date" episode Bizkit let it be known if he paid on the first date, whether she likes it or not, they will be having sex. The assertion from his statement was with or without consent, he was having sex because he paid for her food and was therefore entitled to her body. I further despised his apology - nothing was taken out context - you said that, fam. D'yunderstand?
Lucas? I could write a dissertation on Lucas alone. After six episodes it's clear Lucas is a misogynist. From continuously calling the women on the panel "females" (see all episodes) to not allowing them to speak (see episode five) to calling sexually liberated women "junge" and "sket" etc (see episode six) let's me know this man does not respect women. Even Gogo, as articulate as he is, in this latest episode he offers support to Lucas in the form of "some men get irate at the idea that women can go make a decision without men's consultation." L to the O to the L.
The asinine diatribe spilling from some of these people's mouths every week is astounding. I imagine those campaigning for new cast members are tired of Lucas, Biskit, Esther and Co saying problematic shit and not having their arguments countered with knowledge about why what they say perpetuates rape culture or violence against women or works against the autonomy of women's fundamental human rights. To that I question if the solution is to banish these cast members from the show never again to be heard from and allow people with already developed critical thinking minds to take their place? Is that even our call to make?
This condescending notion that someone is less than you because they do not share the same thoughts as you is gross. It is the same ideology people from the alt-right movement (or as they're more commonly known- white supremacists) use in order to disenfranchise those who they deem less than them. The voices on BKChat are not the voices of my friends but that doesn't mean their thoughts and opinions matter less. If you are offended by BKChat DO NOT WATCH IT. If you want a more intellectual, intersectional debate, watch The Grapevine. Too American for you? Watch Heels Off. If that's not for you make your own. There has to be diversity in diversity. It's not enough to see black people on our TV screens, all black people need to be able to watch TV and find at least one person who they feel they can relate to and we're not there yet. It's clear from their numbers they cater to a large swathe of people. Their representation in media is important and worthwhile.
This blog first appeared on DanielleDash.com