Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CNN and the Anti Climax

So, I’ve finally managed to get out of my world and put together my thoughts on the CNN I Am: Black in America feature. Kudos to CNN for putting together and airing the special however, I was disappointed. After the big build up it was very anticlimactic. I was not the only one who felt this way, this was the sentiment I heard from about 90% of the Black people I came in contact with. I have also waited to see if anyone has posted anything on their blogs about it, but not really…most people speak about it in private and have the attitude of “whatever, it was an attempt, it’s over…moving on.” Me, not so much. I would like to discuss the issue a little further so here I go, being as brief as I can and trust me, I am cutting it as much as I can. Why was I so disappointed?

Supposedly, per CNN’s reason for creating I Am: Black in America was to present a collection of people who may surprise you. They wanted to show people who not only defied their labels, but they’ve done it in very public and dramatic ways. From what I saw during the two days it was just more of the same ‘ole same ‘ole…translation: stereotypes and negativity brought forth. One of my friends asked me if I felt this way because I was a little embarrassed and honestly the answer is yes. I was embarrassed that this was all people would see AGAIN and on CNN. More of the Baby Daddy saga, welfare struggles, jail scenarios and black kids not going to school. Yes, they did show family bonding in between but (IMHO) the negative out weighed the positive. I watched the show wondering did they consult with any Blacks in America when they thought this whole thing out, when they produced these segments? I would venture to say probably not. It was simply more a regurgitation of the negative stuff  some Black Americans live daily and it perpetuated many of the stereotypes even when they were trying to be positive.

For instance, it was great that they showed the “professional” family. The father was a superintendent, the mother was a professional and all children were in school, college graduates or planning to attend college. However they showed that even with the good this family had someone go to jail. WHAT? I’m sorry, not that it doesn’t happen on occasion, but like one of my friends (Tracey) said, was this necessary? She also commented my family has never had anyone go to jail.  She was right.  I have never had anyone go to jail either! As a matter of fact my mother was one of the first “minority” police officers Cleveland hired, my stepfather was a Deputy Sheriff and my 29 year old brother is currently on the SWAT division of the corrections department! Now that is a story for you!

I actually fell asleep on the show. It was a lot of stuff on there that we (black people) tend to laugh about (sarcastically speaking) when we hear it repeated in the media. For instance:
o Black men are pulled over more than white men
o Blacks receive inferior healthcare
o Schools in urban areas do not receive the same quality teachers or levels of funding as those in suburban areas
o Black women are marrying at lower rates
o The quality of food in urban stores is lower or healthy options not available
You don’t say? Now there is a shocker to us all! We tend to get a big kick out of it when it is FINALLY in the media because we know it and say it all the time, but no one hears us until someone like CNN or a Soledad reports it. Until that happens, like someone from the big Ethiopian board said, “It is just anecdotal.” Apparently, we have been living a life of anecdotes this woman thought. Now, there were a few good things about the show, I did appreciate some of the more specific statistics that go with those “anecdotes” I didn’t know such as:
o 45% of black women are not married, twice the number of white women, that number increases to 75% for professional black women
o 70% black women raising children on their own
o 50% of black children vs. 38% of white are raised in poverty
o 1 million more black women are working than men
o Twice as many black women are in college than men

Then there is Soledad...I like her. I think she is finding her voice and place in media and with the Black community, but for many in the black community…not so much. There has been some question as to why she was chosen to lead this series and this is the answer to why it turned out the way it did. I mean, what does she know about being BLACK? Soledad is multi-racial and that includes Black. She does not deny Black is a part of her heritage and her mother (from what I hear) is a very dark Afro Cuban. I think people are questioning because she was not so vocal and because she is married to a white man, but she is trying to bring the issues to the forefront. No, maybe she doesn’t get stopped for driving while black or followed for thinking she was shoplifting or called the “n” word but black is a part of who she is. If she weren’t doing anything and people who didn’t know she was black found out then she would be talked about for not acknowledging she was black (pretty much she is in a catch 22 situation with some people). Now, I don’t believe this was the best attempt, but it was better than no attempt…leave Soledad alone, give her a chance to find her space and voice.

Out of all of the excellent education programs that I believe actually have a chance to work for our young people WHY in the world would CNN only highlight one option (that I believe is just ridiculous). Pay kids to go to school? Give me a break! What are we teaching kids about education, and at such a young age? Now, did CNN and Soledad really think this was a viable option? If they were simply providing options why didn’t they show another program that is not just a pilot so the public can see what is working now. There ARE models that work that don’t require payment.

Sure, the Black community has its challenges BUT there is more good in the community than bad, but I finished the show only remembering the negatives. If I recall the objective was to show Black America and to defy the labels, but I finished with nothing but labels. Where was the substance? I did not see enough of it. It was too surface level and each time they approached an interesting point that could have made for a good storyline, it was cut abruptly…what a lost opportunity. 

What bothers me now is that I am reading on blogs and the Big Ethiopia Board that people think they understand Black America. YIKES!  How Horrible!  I am glad that anyone who was not Black watched in hopes of learning more about being Black In America, but I am saddened that this is the memory he or she was left with.


haze said...

Yay Tami for posting on this series. I slept through part of it too because there really was nothing interesting or new. My black experience in Canada is different, but obviously there are similarities and common issues.

I was royally P'Od when they mentioned the professional family member going to jail. And paying kids to go to school? CRAY-ZEE!! What kind of nonsense is this? It makes the black community look stupid. Parents - get your kid's butts into the classroom. Teach them to love learning, READ A BOOK with them, for the love of all things holy!

And what happened to the episode on The Black Woman & Family? I was really disappointed in the content of that one. Not what I was hoping for. At all.

p.s. the single black woman stats made me want to vomit. I'm not sure of the Canadian stats, but from personal experience, I'm guessing they are similar, if not worse 8-/

VALARIE said...

So, I wasn't in the twilight zone? I was so disappointed in this show. I talked with another ET AP about this and she said she liked that it showed a range. But, it only showed a range around the STEREOTYPES. So, old and so, tired. I didn't fall asleep but I recorded it on DVR and turned the channel. I held my breath hoping white people weren't watching because I felt it only reinforced the negative. There are so many amazing stories in our communities. Even if black unemployment is 20% doesn't that mean employment is 80% let's talk about what those brothers are working and doing. Oh well...I'm glad it wasn't just me.

DWS said...

I did not bother to watch.

As I observe the constant barrage of stereotypes in the media I think is it any wonder the world has such a negative impression of African Americans?

Thank you and Val for countering the craziness.

Barbara said...

Well, as I said earlier, I thought it was a pretty superficial treatments. Just when there was an interesting point to be made, the allotted 5 minutes for that topic was up, and they moved onto the next one. I PVR'd both episodes, but confess I have not yet watched the second (men) half due to being underwhelmed by the first segment...


I was not disappointed with the show. It was exactly what I expected. I knew that it was going to be the same ole negative stereotypes about Black people. I actually had no intention of watching the show. I watched for about 1/2 hour the first night and the second night I had no interest at all.


Tracey said...

Tami, as you and I disucssed, this series was clearly not meant for us. It was all old news and stereotypes. That whole every family has somebody in jail bit really annoyed me. Uh, no we don't!