Some thoughts on "Black in America"

While I was in Chicago for Unity, I had a chance to view the highly-publicized CNN documentary series, Black in America.

I have heard all the praises and complaints from both blacks and whites over the last week. While many African Americans complimented the cable news network for taking on such a task as to describe their lives, others said that it didn't really say anything new. I have also heard the many complaints that 'ABC' topic or 'XYZ' issue wasn't included in the program.

Being that I work in the media world, one has to understand that this was only a four-hour series, and there are only so many topics that can be touched on in that amount of time. Clearly, many of the topics could have been discussed for a whole hour, like health disparities or inner-city education. Also, it was clear that the targeted audience were non-black people who might not have much or any interaction with African Americans in their regular lives. So, it was probably better that it gave short descriptions about issues rather than focus on one or two issues for long periods.

But, it did seem, however, like the program was pandering to whites, specifically with the very first segment about the Rand family and the 'long-lost' white cousin. Also, I thought it was "strategic" on the part of CNN during the segment on interracial relationship that the program featured a black woman/white man couple. Personally I think this was done because that combination is "easier to swallow" than a black man/white woman couple - you know, too much history.

While I was at Unity, I actually talked with "Black in America" host Soledad O'Brien about her series. My colleagues and I also noticed some overarching topics missing from the program, such as being black and gay in America and the growing number of African and Caribbean immigrants changing the fabric in black America. O'Brien said that there was actually a segment on African immigrants, but it didn't make the final cut of the program.

But there were things in the program I really didn't like:

Money for Education?

Harvard Professor Roland Fryer, who is described in a New York Times article as "black America's and Harvard's rising star," (apparently, no one told me this...) proposed giving money to children as an incentive for getting an education. I realize that there is a history of financially incentive-ing education in poor and rural communities, but what about teaching the VALUE of education. I think Fryer is actually side-stepping the real problem of the breakdown of the black family and the lack of good role models in our communities for our children to motivate their educational pursuits. Furthermore, monetizing education forces crude, capitalistic beliefs on youth, rather than teaching them that an education opens their eyes to learning about themselves and others around them, in addition to improving their social mobility.

Single black women

I found this segment to be quite possibly the most offensive part of the program. O'Brien interviews "Something New" screenwriter Kriss Turner of Something New fame as an example of a successful black woman who just can't find a decent black man. The program shows her going on some dating website and finding the perfect man, only to soon learn that the prospective date has a spelling problem and thus indicating his low intelligence. I have spoken about my woes on the dating seen, but it seems like Turner's problem is that she simply a b%$@&. I'm just thinking aloud...even I've have my spelling bouts, and I'm a professional writer!




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