I'm probably going to piss a lot of people off with this one, but hey it is what it is.
Recently, I watched the CNN documentary Black In America 2 (BIA 2). Now, having been vastly disappointed last year by the first incarnation of this series, I will admit that my expectations weren't high. Honestly, I didn't have any expectations. I will start by saying that the past two night shows haven't changed my mind on the series at all. Although, I can agree with most that it presented a more positive aspect this time around, I still have a few nagging questions that linger on my mind.
The first of many questions I had to ask myself why watching this show was: Who is this show's intended audience? I mean every since I heard mention of a documentary called Black In America the only place I've seen advertisements are on media that heavily targets black. Now, this leads me to ponder why do black people need to be educated on what it means to be Black In America? We get a first hand account of being black in this country everyday. I seriously don't think we need to be educated on our own current plight. Now, had the show focused on the history of being Black In America, now that would have been something totally different (I expound upon this a little later). Now, if the intended audience was mainstream America then I don't get it. You see you can tell a lot about who a network expects their audience to be by the commercials they air. Most of the commercials aired during the BIA 2 special were all targeted to blacks. So now that leads me to my next questions.
What is the purpose of this show? I for the life of me cannot figure out the purpose of a show about Black people only targeted to black people. If you are trying to teach the masses about black people shouldn't the masses had been targeted? Shouldn't there been advertisements placed on sites that are frequented by mainstream America. Maybe I'm being nit picky, but this is some of the stuff that has been bothering me about the whole idea of a show about being Black In America. I mean was the idea of the show to black people as some sort of case study. I just don't get the purpose of this show.
Now, let's talk about the show itself. First let me state that I thought the second night was better than the first, but I digress. Let's start with the first segment of the show: Malaak Compton-Rock taking the children of Bushwick to South Africa. Now, in concept I agree with what Mrs. Compton-Rock is trying to do. Children need to know that the world is bigger than their neighborhood and their borough. I agree that our children need to learn what a gift a life of service can be. But, there were also some things I disagreed with. One of those things was the fact that she had to take the children to South Africa to show them a Shanty Town when we have Shanty Towns here. Go to certain parts of Mississippi and Louisiana and tell me they don't look like a Shanty Town. There was also a very heartbreaking moment for me during this segment. It came when Soledad O'Brien asked a young boy by the name of Jeremy what he took out of his experience in South Africa and his response was: "That I don't have a right to complain." Boy, that was like placing a dagger in my heart. I was praying that those kids took the exact opposite from their trip to South Africa. I wanted him to say that despite all the obstacles that are placed in front of me I can overcome anything. If these children who are orphans can still manage to go to school and strive for better than I can do the same. Jeremy needs to realize that he has every right to complain when he sees overcrowdiness in his classroom. He has every right to complain when there aren't enough textbooks or computers in his school. These children have every right to complain about the unfair treatment towards inner city schools as opposed to suburban schools. That young man has a right to complain because he is worthy of more and better. The problem with a lot of our people is the fact that we think we don't have a right to complain because it can be so much worse. But, I'm here to tell you you have every right to complain because your children are worth it. I know a lot of people are angry about the fact that Jeremy's mother didn't show up to the evaluation, but if you don't think you have a right to complain how can you honestly say your child deserves and should have better.
Another moment on the show that really struck a cord with me was when the lady from the Tuxedo Ball took Soledad on a tour of the wall in her home that housed her family history. Man, this segment blew me away because of the sheer magnitude of the history that was on that wall. Her entire wall was cover with the faces of black people that dated back to pre-Civil War where everyone had an advance degree. I'm talking about back during the times when we were considered 3/5th human these black people were getting their educations and doing big things. Despite of the fact that their own humanity wasn't recognized, these beautiful black people somehow managed to overcome all the obstacles and still procure advanced degrees. Can you imagine how many children's lives she could change if she was willing to share that wall with inner city kids or just black children in general? That wall doesn't just represent her history it represents our history as a whole. You see our children are not taught about Black Wall Street in school. Alot of our children don't realize our history didn't start with slavery. It is up to us to be modern day griots. Maybe if the documentary was about the history of being Black in America we wouldn't have people like Pat Buchanan walking around talking about America was built by white men, when in fact history says other wise. You see I believe strongly that we as a people will never know where we are going until we first realize where we come from. We have a rich history in this country, but yet a lot of us are ignorant to that fact. Despite all the odds and handicaps that were placed against us some how we managed to survive and still stand. You know it's not easy to keep standing once you keep getting getting knocked down, but somehow we as a people manage to keep standing. That is what it means to be Black in America.
Being Black in America is Black Wall Street. It's Benjamin Banneker. It's Harriett Tubman. It's the Tuskegee Experiment. It's the Middle Passage. It's Shaniqua on the corner and Tamika in the boardroom. Being Black in America is Omar in prison and Barack in the White House. It's a Harvard Professor being arrested in his house and Philly children being denied access to a pool. Being Black in America is having to teach your sons the proper things to do when they are pulled over by the police: Don't make any sudden movements and keep your hands where they can be seen. Being Black in America is being a debutant and attending Jack and Jill Balls all of which I did. Being Black In America is attending an HBCU or an Ivy League. Being Black In America is Oprah Winfrey and Wendy Williams. It's Michael Jackson and Joe Jackson. It's Angela Davis and Karrine Steffans. It's Toni Morrison and Zane. It's Whoopi Goldberg and Halle Berry. It's Lauryn Hill and Beyonce. It's Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. It's Common and Jay-Z. It's Outkast and the GS Boyz. It's Gil Scott Heron and Soulja Boy. Being Black in America is the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. It's Randal Pinkett and Flavor Flav. It's Myron Rolle and Adam "Pac-man" Jones. Being Black in America encompasses being a part of the lower class, the middle class , and the upper class of society. It's Louis Farrakhan and Td Jakes. It's Tavis Smiley and Ward Connors. It's Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. It's Geoffrey Canada and Bishop Magic Don Juan. It's Tom Joyner and Steve Harvey. Being Black In America is Uncle Tom and Sambo. It's not just one experience. It's all our experiences as a collective whole. That's My Black In America.