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.


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