Saturday, July 26, 2008

CNN's Black in America - Black Man

(CNN Student News) -- Forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., CNN launches a sweeping on-air and digital initiative, CNN Presents: Black in America. These documentaries, "The Black Woman and Family" and "The Black Man," focus on fresh analysis from new voices about the real lives behind the stereotypes, statistics and identity politics that frequently frame the national dialogue about Black America.

Black in America: The Black Man
Aired: Thursday, July 24, 9 p.m. ET.
Program overview: Soledad O'Brien evaluates the state of black men in America and explores the controversial topics of black men and fatherhood; disparities between blacks and whites in educational, career and financial achievement; and factors leading to the dramatic rates of black male incarceration. The documentary also examines the achievements of black men and the importance of the positive influences of black fathers.
Resources associated with CNN Presents: Black in America.

plez sez: i'm still not feeling the spoken word poet who introduces each segment... been skipping it!

okay, i have to admit, "Black Man" was considerably better than "Black Woman & Family," but both leave a lot to be desired. In "Black Man," soledad did a much better job in providing the context and setting the table for the racial strife that gripped little rock, arkansas in the wake of the de-segregation order and the death of martin luther king, jr. but if you weren't listening closely, it almost appeared that the two gentlemen who were profiled were part of the Little Rock Nine!

but the message associated with the assistant superintendent's family was not lost on me: the two "successful" sons (the lawyer and musically-inclined college student) found their happiness with white women (not saying there's anything wrong with it, but...), while the ne'er-do-well son had a child out of wedlock and was sitting in jail on a weapons charge. and the son who is a DA couldn't even find any Black friends with which to socialize with outside of work (look at the gathering at his house).

and of course, ms. o'brien didn't have to look far to find a deadbeat dad who was too sorry to show up on time for his daughter's birthday party. alittle later in the show, the reason for his being tardy is evident... his baby momma is carrying the twins of some other dude! so if she is soooo damn upset with having to raise Deadbeat Dad #1's daughter, how the HELL is she gonna feel raising Deadbeat Dad #1's daughter and Deadbeat Dad #2's twins!!! what the HECK was she thinking?!? i guess she was like ole girl from "Black Woman & Family" who had FOUR kids by some guy (and adopted another one) who had no intention of marrying her.

i guess my main complaint is the same that i lodged after the first episode: this was not groundbreaking stuff! the statistics have been published and rehashed (it was kind of discouraging to hear about an educated Black man being no more desirable an employee than a white felon!). but nothing new and shocking. nothing tying the current situation to slavery (at least, a modest attempt was done on night one). there are no gay people in the Black community? are rap and hip hop artists the only expression of Black culture (what about Blues & Jazz, and pop, and rock, and R&B - all music forms that were invented by Black people, yeah, even pop!). there are Black men in real colleges, we all didn't get our degrees while incarcerated (there are more Black college-aged men in college than in jail).

she made a veiled reference to the light skin vs. dark skin "thing" that afflicts the Black community, while profiling high-yellow fast-talking Princeton educated Georgetown professor Rev. Dr. Michael Dyson (CNN profile here) and his younger darker skinned brother who is serving a life sentence for murder. unfortunately, this phenomenon and scourge of the Black community was not fleshed out... and if you are not Black, you probably had NO IDEA what they were talking about! that could've been a two-hour show all on it's own... actually, every topic that was glossed over could've been its own two-hour show.

i know time was short (only two hours), but was it that short that the only successful Black family that she could profile was living in a white neighborhood, getting pulled over by the cops outside their house, yet braggadocios about the bermuda grass upkeep in that same neighborhood (notice, he was never on tape around any of his neighbors), and sending his kid to a white private school? she could've rolled through DeKalb County, Georgia and found successful Black families living in Black communities, sending their kids to predominantly Black schools, and bragging about the bermuda grass on their lawns! both nights played up a number of stereotypes, and then took the extra step of validating them.

i applaud soledad o'brien's efforts (even though, over the two nights, she said absolutely NOTHING about being Black - or mixed race - herself during the documentary), but her efforts completely missed the mark. before embarking on such an endeavor again, i suggest she talk with me, first!


Original Black Buddha said...

Excellent post. Great critique. I'll just through in that I'm a black Buddhist. Guess that means I'm invisible, or not.
Check it:

Lori said...

I share most of your sentiments about the show, even though I've only been able to catch bits and pieces.

You're totally on the money about the light-skinned, dark-skinned issue in our community. A lot of us seem hellbent on keeping our heads in the sand about it.

Keep calling 'em like you see 'em.
We need voices like yours.

The Kingdom of Illusion said...

I have been complaining to CNN for the past week to no avail. There have been a multitude of new reports that reflect a negative light on African-Americans and I once commented that they were trying to play down the effect Obama was having on changing the image of African-Americans for the better. I don't know who is behind this but people must realize that the media has the power to be subversively Hitler and not many people even pick up on this. Something has to be done to stop CNN from planting these negative images in the heads of people who don't have the ability to think for themselves. Their show "black in america" has been a complete failure and has caused much damage to the moral of many successful blacks in the US as well as those who have been trying for a long time to leave from under the limiting racial canopy of "black". Obama opened a door for them and now CNN is trying to shut it! Please pass this along.

Anita said...

I am a black woman in TEXAS and I find that Black In America was very informative. I am a 54 year old black teacher with a second Masters Degree, I find when I want to change professions because of my education once an interviewer find out that I am black, they seem to say you have to much education or that you are a good teacher why change professions? I don't think they realized that I'm always reinventing myself for the future and would love to be Network Administrator. I was created to do more and want to do more but have I been given a chance. NO! I have a masters in Network Admintration Management, and Technology Instructor. A Bachelor In Computer Science Education grades K-12th but find that TEXAS has never out grown prejudicness for woman or for blacks.


Anita said...

Black in America is informative and I hope we cast this as a weekly followup for all to view.

The Kingdom of Illusion said...

I apologize for not being more clear. I am a new generation of human; millennial. When I read someone's statement "I am a black teacher" it confuses me. What is a "black" teacher, or a "black" human. The term black has no gravity with me and many in this new generation (of which you will not hear about until we are in the high positions of the media company) It sounds bizarre, like some fantasy story or video game. "White" person sounds equally as nonsensical. So, to us, a program titled Black in America comes across like, are they trying to be abstract? Do they mean black magic or depressed or bad?

To us, it clearly sounds like CNN is perpetuating older beliefs that hinder many humans who are simply doing what is expected of a human. It is nonsense to say such things as successful "black". Why can't you simply be a successful human. And then CNN goes and tries to define something it should not define and project this image into millions of living rooms. The media should take responsibility for its power or at least acknowledge it. To use the term black to define people and then give a picture of it on TV is downright wrong and should be spoken against. What about random "black" girl X who doesn't watch CNN but walks into room X with CNN viewers who is suddenly judged and thrown under the canopy of "Black in America." It is not fair and unjust however innocent the intentions of the network was. Bad idea. I can't wait for the next generation of thinking humans to take over from this mess.

tvanel said...

I think the point of the program was to start a conversation, but I do agree, it did not really cover the entire spectrum of black in America, especially sucessful black families.

The underlying theme for the black women segment? Black men are f'ing dont worry if u have to marry a white man...and look!--here we have a sucessful mixed couple!

Yes the black man episode was better, u say, couldn't they find a more traditional black family? They went to Arkansas? Ar freeking SAW!!

I wanted to write about it, but I decided to bury disappointed