Thursday, July 24, 2008

Black In America: The Verdict

I had hopes for CNN's "Black in America" series--not high hopes, just...hopes. Frankly, I am always skeptical when the mainstream attempts to define and describe black folks. Somehow it never turns out quite right. But I had hoped this show, led by a self-identified black woman might "get" us better. After watching the first episode of the "Black in America" series, I believe this effort is no different from past ones. The study wasn't awful...wasn't evil...but it wasn't quite right.

While I am happy to see the stories of black Americans being told on primetime television, my gripe is that our stories always seem to be framed in the same way. We are always defined by our challenges, not our our weakest, not our strongest members. I was glad to hear one participant in the show state that most of black America is not poor. Neither have most of us been arrested. Most black Americans are strong, but so far, with a few notable exceptions, CNN has framed us mostly as struggling in education...struggling with our health...struggling with interpersonal relationships...just struggling. It is true that many African Americans are struggling, but there is more to us than that. I was touched by the Kennedy family, and wonderful young, Eric, who I hope to God does not fall through the cracks. People need to know about boys like Eric. But don't they also need to know about women like me?

Last night's episode of "Black in America" was titled "Black Women and the Family," but I had a hard time recognizing my story in the two-hour special. I am middle class. I am educated. I am a black man. My parents are married and I have a wonderful father. Am I that rare? I guess there wasn't enough time to talk about women like me, because the episode, though supposedly about women, barely talked about them at all. Since when does talking about education, children, health, poverty, single fathers and Barack Obama equal a discussion about black women? Once again, black women are invisible, even when it's supposed to be about us, it's not.

I don't know what I expected. You can't sum up 35 million+ African Americans in a few hours. I'll DVR the rest of the series and watch it eventually. But my hope for "Black in America" is gone.

Did you watch? What is your verdict?

Professor Tracey offers her critique without the sugar-coating at Aunt Jemima's Revenge.


Anonymous said...

It was a pretty bad show. I too had high hopes, but hey, wasn't the subject about black women! Could have fooled me!

Anonymous said...

A disappointing and annoying show! The guy who did the intro irritated the hell out of me; I had to mute his face! Why weren't women introducing a show about women? In fact, there were whole sections of the show that had nothing to do with women, what gives there?

No talk of black lesbians either. We don't all want to marry men geez! That would solve the "lack of good black men" "problem."

Lack of men is a problem?

Anonymous said...

Bored to death with the Rand family within the first 10 minutes of the show. It was downhill from there!!

Symphony said...

I'll eventually finish my thoughts on it and post. But I honestly think many Black folks, given the opportunity, would have produced the same drivel whether they set out to or not.

american mad said...

We cannot take our own experiences and up-play them while down-playing the experiences of the masses. Yes, you are rare to have a blackman as a husband and an upbringing of a nuclear family with middle-class status. I would like to assume that your upbringing influenced your current situation; thus, the connection where those that don't have such a background have a hard time building the life like yours. Over 70% of our babies are born to single mothers. That's a lot of kids with no blueprint for fundamental decisions.

mrshadow33 said...

Another disappointment. I was like you Tami and really hoping for something better. That was piece of drivel has erased my hopes more than BET ever could. The documenatary did not reflect the strong Black women like my mother,aunts,cousins,sisters,etc. Soledad needes to go back to journalism school for that lackluster effort.

Anonymous I am with you on that guy who did the intros, annoying. Was he trying to do sign language?

wbmt said...

On point review. The question I ask is from the 2 hours did you see on positive story of triumph, success and uplift. Outside of the Rands 5 children graduating college/hs, it was mostly the same ole negative spin. And I contributed to this series. If you want to see an alternative to the MSM, rent or buy my film.


Tami said...

See, American Mad, I don't think I am as rare as some would have you believe. I am not denying the problems within the black community. But, as the woman in the episode stated (What it Juliana Malveaux?): Most black folks are not poor. There are plenty of us who are working and middle class. Yes, the number of poor black people is disproportionate, but poverty does not define most black people. Just less than half of black women are married, but more than half are.

I am not suggesting that we ignore the challenges we face, but why does everyone focus on the minority of black people to the exclusion of the majority?

Lovepoetically said...

yes, i agree with you tami, the cnn "black in america," was by far a disappointing, stereotypical and non-dimensional depiction of did not present any new issues that we, as african-americans are not already aware of, nor did it offer any solutions.

my main concern, was that there was no serious analysis or deconstruction of the issues that it presented. the oh so serious/devastating statistics in white font against a black background, as a fear tactic, was utterly disappointing, as if white america doesn't already look at us with fear and remorse. they were mere statistics without analysis, again. most importantly, cnn glossed over institutional and/or societal racism that contributes to many issues that we face. cnn did not explore the complexities and reasons for the presented problems, just the surface.

yes, i too kept asking my friend while the show was on, where is the focus on "black women and the family," which began at 10:00 pm, as opposed to 9:00 pm, when the show came on?! in addition, the commentators on the show were mostly men, td jakes, michael byson, the harvard professor, the rand family minister, with the bennett college president and the segment on successful black women. for the most part black men, dominated the opinions and focus.

i was even more mad that this special is some people's sole source, within this country, of information on our community.

another inaccurate depiction of black america.

i will not waste my precious eyesight on tonight's "the black man."

Regina said...

I've read plenty of blogs over the past few days and the over whelming vote seem to be that CNN missed the mark, are full , of crap, are spreading propaganda, etc.
I think I may be the only black person in all of the blogosphere that actually found value in the broadcast and I actually enjoyed most of it.
I was not looking for any in-depth education on being black in America because I already live that life! I wasn't looking for answers to all the plights of the black people because I know that no one human being can do that. I was not looking to CNN to solve the problems of incarceration, homelessness, failing educational system, HIV, or Racism in America in there segments. I was simply looking for the TV broadcast to highlight segments good and bad of black issues, and I think that is what they did!
I found value in the broadcast because children and teens are very visual so I watched the broadcasts with my 14 year old and we had various in-depth discussions on the segments. It was great hearing the views on the different segments from the mind of a 14 year old christian teen in today's hellish world.
The discussions of the brothers, one in prison and one a well known social advocate & the discussions of educational incentives were the best and most valuable.
It was quite easy for me as a parent and a black mother to take from the broadcast what I could use and discard the rest!
In my humble opinion, I think if black America wasn't looking for answers or a quick fix to all of our issues they may have found more value in the broadcast...

But hey, that's just my opinion!!

Somebodies Friend said...

I know all about growing up black in America Tami. I am a proud black man who has been through a lot in the short life I have lived so far. Growing up in a disfunctional family, in poverty, doesn't have to mean staying in that place and not doing anything but complain about the hand that you've been dealt,

I know this from experience. That is how I was for many years, making all the wrong decisions and blaming everyone else for my problems.

Well , I'm here to tell ya.... You won't get very far doing things that way, blaming others for your misfortunes.

One day I just seemed to wake up and say to myself, I'm not doing it anymore, feeling threatened, kicked around, humiliated by people that I percieved as better than me.

Well, guess what, those people are the ones with the problems, not me. I can now walk around anyone and feel proud, strong, brave, and I can just be...... ME!

The boy Eric, he has been through a lot in his short life, I can just tell he will achieve all of his hopes and dreams, Ya know how sometimes you can just tell, well that is how it is for me with the boy Eric, I just know the boy will excel at everything he sets out to do.

And Tami, How could any self-respecting black man take credit for his accomplishments without giving credit were credit is do. To their wife. You have a very lucky husband Tami, to have such an active, intellegent, and ambitious wife. How could any man discount a fine woman like you.

God Bless you for all the fine work that you do here Tami.

I will comment again soon

heartsnadflowers said...

Don't bother watching the rest. It sucked! No representation of really anyone that I know. How about covering all the intelligent and various voices of poc who blog and share bits of our lives? So-le-dad may identify as Black but she's got a major inferiority complex then. Her background or someone like hers would have been worthy of coverage so she REALLY did a disservice.

heartsandflowers said...

By the way American Mad that stat you're quoting is not accurate or thorough. I'd be very careful in believing what other people tell you about yourself without looking into their agenda. That CNN special was yet another exercise in breeding the "black people are inferior" meme that is being threatened with the rise of the Obamas. Politics aside we have 2 people who've worked hard, strived for success, are happily married and excellent parents to 2 articulate and confident young women. They look like they're in love. They have excellent credit. And all the things Black people are not supposed to be. They are serving as formidable symbols of inspiration. No everyone isn't like then. But neither are white people.

Anonymous said...

I would have loved to see a CNN special that comments on the phenomenon of the renaissance of black women in America today.

At no time in recent history have I see so much greatness coming from black women--leadership, courage, financial expertise, poetry and great corporate and political success too.

That is the real story in America today, and would have been the most powerful to interview all these great women and focus on what they did to become this.

Or is it too much trouble to concentrate TWO whole hours of a show purely on black women? Guess that's too much for them, and too threatening. Because then you have to say what is holding the brothers back, and I'd say a culprite is their infatuation with male supremacy. Cling to that, and you really will lose the game, but the guys maybe are starting to figure this out. Who knows?

I followed the links and wrote to Soledad O'Brien. She should be reading this blog Tami! They should have interviewed Tami!!


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