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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sorry, I won't be Watching CNN's Black in America"

For about four months, Cable News Network has been marketing “Black in America” about as hard as Warner Brothers did “The Dark Knight” and Nike is doing the same with the U.S. men’s basketball squad.

As the days abated towards tonight’s premiere (the second part of a three part series beginning with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assaination), the commercials became more omnipresent than political campaign ads, social activists group TV time, and those really annoying Head-ON, Active-ON spots. Driven into your mental whenever you received a break from the robotic ways of Wolf Blitzer or the “Blame everyone but offer no solution diatribes” of Lou Dobbs was the amount of time and effort put into this network event and its buildup.

You heard or saw the following describing the year long investigation that Soledad O’Brien did, even through she did specifically an 18 month investigation:

“A Landmark Mark Multimedia Event.”

“A Groundbreaking CNN Investigation.”

“You think You Know, you have no idea.”

“A story of success and struggle, pain or pride.”

“All of America will get a good perception of what it is to be black in America,” said the award winning reporter.

If you believe any or all of those statements and figure that “Black in America” is going to be something that you never saw before in television history, you are either one of two things, no matter what color you are: a person who badly needs to get the dirt, sleep crust, fairly dust, and any other pieces of debris out of their eyes, or someone who needs to explore the world (and their minds) immediately as soon as possible.

Because quite honestly, despite Facebook groups, E-mails sent, and pre-show interviews making O’Brien the informative interviewee, there is nothing distinctly different that is being said or shown in this two-night documentary that hasn’t been executed or discovered before by human beings.

Particularly (and let’s be frank here) black people who either had a good idea of the important events in American history, those located in the impoverished or economically low communities, or those so aware that everyone is not the same, are unlikely to gain a new ideology from this latest documentary from the network.

In short, there’s no need for me to watch “Black in America.” None of it at all really.

Note (because this always needs to be stated so the backlash from those who think I’m slamming this diligent work by O’Brien and CNN can see it from a reasonable standpoint), as a disclaimer, I surly don’t, won’t and never will speak for all black people. This sentiment is expressed though just me. It may be felt by others, but you get the picture already.

CNN paints this television event as something that is for everyone to watch. It doesn’t seclude anyone from it, and O’Brien intelligently says that “It’s not just a black American story, it’s an American story.”


And this is where I defer instead to watch a New York Yankees rewind, add to my anthology with a slam poetry or music piece, read my Bible, or do some running/weight training when 9 PM hits tonight.

The problem I have with Black in America is that it is portraying itself really for someone who is so na├»ve and ignorant about what a black person is in America. Seriously, it is a series of programs cantered to those “Who may not have met a black person in their life, have a black friend in their life, or have any idea on whether all black people act the same or not.”

It is a cantering to an audience not astute enough in the least bit to realize how many different outlets in the world show there is no 100% congruency to one person to another in this world, no matter if both their skins colors are blacker than Snoopy or Brian Griffin’s nose. And unless you’re a little boy or girl, it really is kind of embarrassing if you had to discover at least some of the following facts by watching “Black in America”:

- Not all black people end up being married or in relationship with black people.
- Not all black people speak in just jargon and show an inability for eloquence
- Black males are incarcerated in alarming rates that other races can’t even match.
- Single parent homes in the black community have grown exponentially in the last 40 years

Now, there will be some facts in the documentary where I won’t know the specific percentages of “such and such” troubling epidemics facing the black community in this country. And some of the interviews from the regular folk (though any interview with Spike Lee, Russell Simmons, Whoopi Goldberg, and D.L. Hughley won’t put you to sleep) in O’Brien’s journey will mostly be a joy to watch if I decided to tune in.

But the basics would be understood by those who have at least the slightest understanding of these events that has transpired in the 238 year epoch of the United States in regards to African-Americans, no matter what color they are.

Really, though there are special people apart of this with their own special lives, there is nothing really special about “Black in America.” Sorry, there just isn’t in my mind.

As one website points out clearly, this documentary is “A micro look at individual African-Americans that contributes sparingly to the macro picture.”

You don’t have to be an economics major to know that this program that CNN has hyped endlessly just doesn’t get fully into the barrels of the problems in the black community, as well as the chain effects on the rest of the nation’s citizens from this select group of people.

Even more alarming is the thought that this program is lumping itself with Barack Obama’s ascendency to a possible presidency when it originally wasn’t focusing on him. At first glance, me criticizing them for choosing to do this looks absolutely stupid. But when you have questions such as “Does an Obama presidency hurt blacks?” stem from their website, stating that a number of whites are only voting for him because of the “guilt of racism” instead of the desperation for a grassroots Democrat figure after eight years of arguably the worst White House tenure in history, the ridiculousness of it all takes away any sort of top notch credibility for what “Black in America” wants to accomplish in my view.

Once again, I’m not saying you, no matter if you are Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, or Indian, won’t get anything out of watching this tonight and tomorrow night. In fact, if it changes you for the better, than bravado, “Black in America” did its job. There will be no need to not fully support O’Brien for her year and a half assiduous grind.

I’m just saying to avoid believing that this is a revolutionary television event that everyone will hail as a turning point in the way most Americans already view each other, especially if they are filled with candor and are rational. From Frederick Douglass to PBS, the plight and study of the black human being in the United States of America has been looked at before, and will be looked at again.

And unless there is something that goes more in depth into the problems instead of bring them up again and treating them like they haven’t been discussed before, CNN’s “Black in America” won’t be as historic as the late Heaths Ledger's acting was or how Kobe, LeBron and the rest of team USA want to be.

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