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Black In America Is Not About The Black Community

It should come as no surprise that I didn’t expect much out of Soledad O’Brien’s earth shattering documentary Black in America being featured on CNN.  Ms. O’Brien has never given me the impression that she recognizes or understands or sympathizes with the issues that plague the black community.  In fact, none of the reporting on the CNN network has given me the impression that these people are aware that the black community even exist.

I remember watching CNN when Tony Harris was reporting breaking news on the incident that became known as the Jena Six more than a year after the incidents were initiated.  While CNN was busy reporting on such perils as the dangers of people having fat pets or Roland Martin reporting on What Would Jesus Do to talk about the commercialization of Christmas or some other nonsense from Jenny Moost, six young black men were being railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor for second degree murder for a school fight with a young white man.  The network could have given a rat’s ass about this first class example of racial prejudice and racial discrimination.  And instead of the network reporting the facts of the case, the article simply reported the opinion of people living in Jena, Louisiana.  We were given a chance to hear what the white people of Jena think and then we were given a chance to hear what the black people of Jena think.  Then we were allowed to formulate our own opinion about what actually happened.

So when CNN started promoting its Black in America series with the tag line, everyone will learn what it means to be black in America, I honestly didn’t expect much.  But I could have been wrong and waited with everyone else to see what CNN thinks being black in America means.

I’ve seen four of the segments.  There was the one that started with the report from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee talking about Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior and his dream for the black community.  There was the report from the town hall where some notables from the black community got together to discuss issues of education in the black community.  Wednesday was a report about individual experiences of a handful of black people in America.  And Thursday night’s broadcast focused on a few stories about how some black men can make the American dream and make it very successfully while some black men will suffer the American nightmare of incarceration, drugs, alcohol, and poverty.  I watched these shows and I’ve come away scratching my head and wondering what exactly is the common connection all these people have that makes their experience exclusive to the black community.

I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with poverty and poor education.  I really don’t think the black community has an exclusive on this experience.  I know that there are white people in America who have to deal with losing their homes and being evicted for not being able to pay the mortgage or paying the rent.  I know there are white women who are raising their white children alone because the white father is absent.  I know there are white people who are looking at dating outside their race.  I know there are white people who are doing well while their siblings are doing poorly.  I know for a fact that there are white people who suffer with issues of drugs and alcohol.  Believe it or not, I know there are white people who get thrown in jail.  Are we to believe that these white people are now experiencing what it is like to be black in America?

These shows do little to show me what it means to be black in America.  Ms. O’Brien has simply taken the experience of a handful of black people and pasted their stories into a documentary.  If somebody did the same thing with people from the white community, who would come away with the impression that they now know what it is like to be white in America?  While some people might find the program entertaining not every white person would relate to these examples.  There really is no reason to think these stories define what it means to be black in this country.

I was hoping to see something that would help to explain what people in the black community are going through as a collective.  Black people have to deal with higher rates of school dropouts.  Why?  Black people have to deal with higher rates of unemployment.  Why?  Black people have to deal with higher rates of incarceration.  Black people have to deal with higher rates of home foreclosures.  Why?  I was hoping to learn what the main components were of the complex social issues that all of these black stories share in common.

The purpose of the program was never to show the issues facing the black community.  The program was designed to show instances of how black people choose not to respond responsibly to their environment for whatever reason.  I came away thinking that we are depicted as simply surviving instead of assessing our situation and planning to act accordingly.  Many of us simply refuse to pick ourselves up by our boot strap and instead simply adapt to our circumstances.  The majority of people in the black community continue to do what we do and simply hope for the best outcome or we simply fail to better ourselves for our future and the future of our families.  And all of this of course happens in a vacuum without any external influences from outside the black community.  As far as being an eye opening documentary on life for black people in America, this piece of work falls terribly short. 

But in at least one respect, Ms. O’Brien really does hit the nail on the head on what it means to be black in America.  To be black in America is to be depicted in the most simplest of terms.  Negative experiences of most black people are the result of a stereotypical lack of planning and black people’s refusal to take responsibility for developing their own solutions.  Some black people made it.  Black people who study hard will get the good job and the nice house and drive the nice car and will become examples of how it can be done for others in the black community.  Because we all know that if everyone in the black community gets a doctorate today come tomorrow unemployment will drop to zero.  Black people who make the choice to stop acting like typical black people will stop being typical black people in America.

Friday, July 25, 2008 - Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black in America, Black Men, Black People, Black Women, CNN, Jena 6, Justice, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Soledad O'Brien, Thoughts


  1. This is exactly how I am feeling about this program. It has done more to perpetuate stereotypes rather than break them down and show a “real” picture of black America and what it is like for us.

    I feel that a lot of the black people in the show that made it were so very stereotypical of the blacks that they love to show as making it in spite of race. These people never seem to have goals or morals in common with “black” people. They always show themselves as having to rid themselves of the black community in order to make it in America.

    This just isn’t true. There are a lot of black people who are connected to the black community and are successful at the same time. But of course those aren’t the type of black successful people we need to see. It is always the “I was teased for being smart” or the I just don’t fit into black America because of my successful drive. These are just more instances of propaganda that CNN feels that blacks need to see.

    And I feel that we as blacks need to stop feeding from the poison trough that these propaganda pushers serve up. So many of us are so willing to accept all the BS that we are told. I wish for our own sake that instead of just accepting the flawed information we will go and do some research and learn what is real then work to fix the real problems.

    Thanks for the post as I am so disgusted I am sure anything I write at this time will be a total rant. I just can’t believe that all these stories are being made out to be “black” stories and not society at larges problems.

    Comment by theblacksentinel | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback theblacksentinel,

    The show, like everything else CNN airs that has anything to do with black people, does a disservice to the black community. I was really hoping to see something different. I was actually held out hope that I would be pleasantly and seriously surprised. But alas, it was typical CNN fodder.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  3. Great Post!

    I thought it was good to see a show attempt to show the realities of some black people. Particularly the young brothers that are doing what they must to provide for their families and didn’t choose to sell drugs, yet choose to struggle and try to be right like most of my friends.
    I think it missed the point.
    I watched last night, it had this one segment where this lady from some university did research that said that a black man with a college degree is as employable as a white man with with a conviction. I thought that said a lot. I can understand them not wanting to focus on that but that is exactly what the show should have been about, i think. I thought that was the most informative (of course, not to me).
    It pissed me off when the woman said that employers are weary of hiring blacks because of our attire and work ethic. These are the stereotypes that persist that they use in order to continue the subjugation.

    Comment by damien | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the feedback damien,

    I have to confess that I stopped watching this racist babble before that part came up. I’m sorry I missed it. That sounds like the kind of shtick that is indicative of the problems the black community instead of all this black people need to do better in the personal responsibility ethic. What about the brother who tries to get a job, has skills, wears a suit, has no criminal conviction and still can’t get employed? Nobody wants to spend too much time on that topic.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  5. Damien,

    I agree that the crap missed the point all right. Also, you are right they should definitely be concentrating on the facts shown by the university study. I think that they looked at a lot of symptoms but never looked at the causes of these problems.

    They also showed a ton of discrepancies. By showing how hard it is for a black man to obtain employment then turn right around and say that all black men have to do is get a job and they will be fine.


    Comment by theblacksentinel | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  6. You might find this interesting: an extremist (Steve Salier) from Pat Buchanans’s magazine “The American Conservative” is behind this series:


    Comment by blueollie | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thanks for the feedback blueollie,

    Why am I not surprised! That’s the kind of thing that people need to know! We need to know who exactly is putting this racist, stereotypically black propaganda together. Black in America? Only from a prejudiced non-black person’s point of view!


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  8. brotherman,

    Would you rather CNN highlight the radical racial-genocide theories held by a large swath of the well-to-do blacks? Or, how about CNN highlight the very traditional stance against homosexuality held by a large swath of all blacks?

    What should CNN have shown that which would undermine your idea of blacks being perpetually oppressed? Isn’t this stereotypical portrayal just the right ideological route taken by CNN for the advantage of all blacks?

    Isn’t the only thing we are to learn about blacks is that they suffer equally to their slave ancestors and CNN must make us white folks aware of the dire consequences?

    Comment by thordaddy | Saturday, July 26, 2008 | Reply

  9. Thanks for the feedback thorpappy,

    What makes you think that well to do black people have radical racial genocide theories? Most high profile black people have adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of white privilege and black subjugation. So I really don’t know what you’re referring to. And how many black people have the very traditional stance against homosexuality? Is it comparable to the percentage of white people who have the same stance? What makes this a unique phenomenon to the black community?

    And what makes you think CNN can show anything to conceal the fact that black people are subjugated? I see the reality of black subjugation when I go home and at every corporate employer I’ve ever worked in or visited. The disparity between the black community and the white community is so stark nothing anybody can show me can disguise these facts.

    If you believe that blacks suffer equally to our slave ancestors, who were incessantly being oppressed by white people simply because they were black, then you must believe that there exist a culture of black oppression today by people who want to assure black people continue to be oppressed.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, July 26, 2008 | Reply

  10. brother,

    I don’t think blacks suffer like their slave ancestors. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Blacks today have no claim on the suffering of past blacks, but that doesn’t keep them from trying in order to gain the system.

    What should CNN have portrayed…? The good, the bad or the ugly? Either way, your angle on it would have been a negative one.

    And lastly, Dopamine Hegemony, Global System of White Supremacy and the Old Boy network are just a few euphemisms for the racial-genocide programs being proffered by well-to-do blacks via the internet. Certainly, you are not oblivious to this too? It seems to be a pattern amongst the black “intellectuals” to be totally oblivious to the words the speak.

    Comment by thordaddy | Saturday, July 26, 2008 | Reply

  11. thorpappy,

    No one is claiming the suffering of the past. However, some people do believe the black community is owed for the back wages of our ancestors who were never properly compensated for their labor. The least this country could do is take active steps to promote racial equality to help alleviate the discrimination that people such as yourself believe to be acceptable.

    I don’t know many high profile black people who use the internet to talk about the racial genocide you speak of. It would be helpful if you could enlighten us with the name of some of these sites. But judging from your ability to provide samples to support your claims on blog sites like theblacksentinel’s, I doubt very seriously if you can. If anything you will provide samples that refute your position. If anyone is an example of oblivious behavior you would win the gold.

    I learned a long time ago that some people are incapable of appreciating the opportunity I provide on this blog for their opinion. It seems that you fit into this category as well.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, July 26, 2008 | Reply

  12. brother,

    If what you say is true, then let’s talk about the end game. What’s the price tag on top of the trillions already transferred? Do you have a timeline for the handouts to end?

    Michael Fisher, on your blog roll, pushes GSWS (global system of white supremacy). He battles it out with Craig Nulan who pushes Dopamine Hegemony. Then there is Obama’s main man, Rev. Wright, with his little racial-genocide theory.

    You act like you’re tough on discrimination, yet you support AA. AA is anti-white male discrimination by any other name regardless of whether it effects any white male to a substantial degree.

    Comment by thordaddy | Sunday, July 27, 2008 | Reply

  13. thor,

    What trillions? What do you have to support your claim that trillions of dollars have been transferred? You act like you have an argument but don’t have anything to support your claims that anyone who argues for equality for the black community wants to promote concepts of discrimination. In typical white male fashion, you claim that anytime white men are encouraged to treat others fairly white men are being discriminated against. If an organization is encouraged to reserve ten percent of its opportunities for minorities, it’s too much because white males need it all. Your theory is that discrimination is okay as long as it is for white people. White being allowed to hire only white people is the white privileged status quo of America.

    Also, do not come here thinking you can make rants against other bloggers. You don’t know anything about theblacksentinel, Michael Fisher, or Reverend Wright and you certainly don’t know anything about me. You come here to make accusations and allegations against bloggers whose only crime is that they refute your baseless arguments. You have a choice, keep your comments civil and on topic or submit your rants and watch me edit them.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, July 27, 2008 | Reply

  14. I enjoyed the series. It’s too complex a problem to satisfy the whims and desires of so many people as to how CNN should have portrayed Blacks in America. It is also very easy to critize. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. I was inspired to try to help. Do something positive instead of critizing. So you didn’t like CNN’s portray what are you doing to tell America about the problems of Black American? There are some statistics from the series that can’t be overlooked!

    Comment by EdithTaylor | Monday, July 28, 2008 | Reply

  15. Thanks for the feedback Edith Taylor,

    I have to agree with you that the problems of the black community are much more complex than the tripe shown on this “groundbreaking” documentary. This documentary was designed to portray black people in stereotypical situations where problems are self-inflicted from poor choices. There are many problems in the black community that are not simply the product of black people making bad choices. Too many times, black people are in their predicament because of conditions far beyond our control.

    I agree with you that it is very easy to criticize. For example, you imply that I am not doing anything positive for the black community other than criticize. When in fact, I invest a lot of time on my blog on a daily basis doing my best to educate people on the conditions of the black community. Unfortunately, I don’t have a television network to promote my work as groundbreaking and earth shattering or whatever marketing terms CNN can apply to this stereotypically negative portrayal of the black community.

    I am glad that you now feel inspired to help the black community. But are you truly interested in helping black people or are you interested in helping to promote the propaganda that black people are all things negative? I was inspired to help the black community a long time ago. That is why I do my blog to refute these simple minded myths.

    The black community is much more than just statistics and a series of numbers. Why is the black community in the condition it is in? If it is just a matter of numbers then why don’t you find out what the real numbers are instead of just relying on rates being spoon fed to you by Ms. O’Brien? The black community needs every black person to help undo the damage that documentaries like this one help promote. I truly hope you are inspired to do the right thing and not just become another black person who criticizes people in the black community and promotes black stereotypes.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, July 28, 2008 | Reply

  16. Cool. It took almost a day to find this info. Thanks, great job. 🙂

    Comment by Janet28 | Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Reply

  17. Thanks for the feedback Janet28,


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Reply

  18. This CNN special was done from a perspective that should be expected. The station is a corporate entity run by Aryan males. It has served its purpose and that was to “highlight” what it felt was safe, neccesity and would get ratings. CNN will never produce nor can it ever produce a program that would highlight, Revolutionary Consciousness, Afrikan Studies, and organizations in our history that worked to uplift, The lost-Found Nation of Islam, the UNIA, and The Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

    Comment by Majadi Baruti | Monday, August 11, 2008 | Reply

  19. Thanks for the feedback Majadi Baruti,

    It’s good to know that somebody else knows about the corporate agenda of CNN and its owners.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, August 11, 2008 | Reply

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