The Aftermath of "Black in America"

Truth is a funny thing. It will either cause you to run toward it or run away from it. In any case, you find yourself either embracing it to overcome it or denying it as it overcomes you. I watched the CNN documentary narrated by Soledad O’Brien last week with great interest. Not because I don’t know what it means to be Black in America but because I know there are many who don’t. I considered the special’s concept intriguing, even if it was conveniently timed (with Barack Obama’s historic run for the white house). More than the show itself, I was interested in how viewers would respond. White or Black.

So I’ve taken some time to review some of the comments on various blogs and the internet and I’ve gathered that many African American’s were either indifferent or unhappy about the broadcast. Many believed that the show perpetuated stereotypes, lacked a solutions-based theme, or focused too strongly on the extremes of our culture.

I’m not quite sure that I’m buying that analysis.

You see, much of what was represented on the show was truth. A hard truth. A scary truth. But truth, nonetheless.

One journalist I read said that the program “perpetuated the notion that marriage will solve our problems.” Ugh, hello!! While not a singular solution, strong marriages and families are extremely important to the foundation of our communities. When that foundation is broken, identity is lost. You have children who don’t know where they come from, cannot celebrate a heritage because of missing father, mother etc. and therefore lack the capacity to place value on another’s life because they do not understand the value of their own. The program did show extremes in our community but I think what it unknowingly revealed is that both sides of these extremes (poverty and wealth) are rooted in something terribly wrong. Instead of identity, spirituality, and legacy being the driving force towards our success, we have taken on a collective, consumerist personality.

We say to our young people that education is the key. Great. However, we also simultaneously say that if you are educated you can get money. We use education to perpetuate a consumerist and capitalist mentality all the while not realizing that the mentality we’re creating has an end that can be achieved in multiple ways –not just by education.

Have we really forgotten how to learn for learning sake? Have we really forgotten our ancestors who, as slaves, risked limb and life to learn to read with absolutely no guarantee or likelihood of monetary success?

I hear people saying, “Stop talking about the problems, what are the solutions?” and that’s fine… but I think what we fail to realize is without identifying what the real problems are, we cannot begin to come up with a solution. Think of it like this. If we haven’t been able to find a solution yet…out of all of those people that are pontificating and philosophizing on it…Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t really understood the problem. Maybe the roots of these issues are spiritual or psychological challenges that we refuse to evaluate out of fear of making too many people (them and us) mad.

Maybe we’ve only acquired a surface understanding of the problem and therefore can only come up with surface solutions. That’s why I think the program was important and significant. It forced us to look at the magnitude of the problem instead of shoving it under the rug and, for some of us, saying “That’s not my experience.”

Economics, the actual numbers, says that a minimum wage and government assistance should be able to sustain a single mother with one child. What it doesn’t account for is social issues like the impact of the mother not spending time in the home. Welfare addresses monetary issues in the short term but doesn’t deal with the impact of not being able to have a father in the home because of the requirements of welfare.

These are issues that were brought up in the documentary that I’ve rarely seen addressed.

Poverty, broken families, women remaining single past 35, men in jails, the fact that a college educated black man with no record has less than a chance than a white man with a record in getting
A job, Drug addiction, The rampant HIV epidemic. THESE ARE THE CURRENT TRUTHS!!! Let’s not debate about whether we should air our dirty laundry and get real about
facing this head on. Acceptance is the first step towards change.

Anything else, unfortunately, is not the majority. My friend said to me the other day that one of the reasons that she disliked the program was because it didn’t
show the average, middle class, every day working black man that she knew existed and loved dearly.

Well, the sad fact is, that man is the minority.

And yes, that should really scare us. It should scare us, not because CNN decided to air it to the world, but because there are even greater forces that are behind the black community’s current situation. I could get all spiritual and talk about Satan’s attack and God’s wrath but I’ll keep in the natural for now.

Please understand that if a marginalized person is helped, ultimately big business loses money.

Big Business runs our media (Yes, I know, even CNN).
Big business fuels the decisions of our government.
Big business perpetuates consumerism and keeps most people who live below the poverty line seeking ways to get rich versus ways to accumulate wealth.

and at the end of the day, we all become victims of this societal ill. So I applaud CNN. Not because the program was perfect…but because it #1 forces us to face the truth of our collective circumstances and #2 fuels the discussions that will hopefully expose those entities that are responsible for the things in which we are not.

The answer? Well, this is my opinion. A Return to the God of the Bible. A blend of collective and individual responsibility. A change in the way we think about ourselves. A change in the way we view money.


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