Your Turn

What Did You Think Of CNN's 'Black In America'?

CNN's Black in America was a ratings success. And now that it's over, the reviews are rolling in ...

Here's a sampling:

* "The documentary's failing is that it provided little historical context for what it showed."

* "Man, I miss Ed Bradley. Now HE would have put together a heck of a series on Black people and not just rehashed and reheated the panels from Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Folk's Union, presented by Exxon Mobil, McDonald's and Rudy Ray's Rib Shack and Waffles."

* Overall, the series does a bang-up job of demonstrating so much that is troubling about the "state of blacks in America." But it does little to provide underlying context.

Farai spoke with CNN's Soledad O'Brien on Monday. She explains the motivation behind the docu-series and how it came together.

Flashback: CNN Airs 'Black in America'; Will You Watch?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

In all honesty, I wasn't that impressed. I don't think they, CNN, shed light on anything new. Of course, that could have been their point or I wasn't the target demographic. They could have been trying to shed light on some of the depressing parts of the Black community for those that don't know.

All in all, I wish they would have spotlighted some of the good that is being done. Yes, the did some, but was it enough? No.

Basically, it was a fluff piece. I though the part done in April about King was much better than the 2 that aired this week.

Sent by ernise | 12:58 PM | 7-25-2008

I was a little disappointed. I expected more on the real problems facing our people. I don't feel enoungh time was spend on that. Another problem was the fact t6hat no areas in the deep south was presented. There are problems here in the deep south that have not even begun to be addressed. From where I live Black people have not connected with each other. The school system is a joke and the one's that oversee this operation. The kids are disappointed and sad because these kids no that no one really cares. From my perspective all the elected officials here are looking for their paycheck, no to try and better anyone else's live. It's just pitiful down here.

Sent by Corrine Hamilton | 2:18 PM | 7-25-2008

It really disturbed me that there was not enough coverage of Black Men that are doing good.According to last nights show all black men are doing bad. And that is not true. I do agree if you are going to tell a story tell it all. But we only saw the bad. And there are plenty of Black men that are doing great. And are not like the men that were portrayed last night.

Sent by Donna | 2:32 PM | 7-25-2008

I do think that this series target audience was not black, but white, so it would seem like things that were obvious or repetitive to us black folks, but it would be something that many white people might not know.

How can anyone say that there were no black men who were doing good portrayed on the second night? One, there was the school superintendant. Two, there was his son, who was a DA. Three, there was the guy who worked for the record company. Four, there was the guy who was looking for a job, and at first could only get a part-time job, but then got a full-time job, then started working a second job to provide for his family. He struggled, but it was a positive struggle. I am sorry but it is true that in comparison to white America, black America is worse off, that is a fact and it does not need to be glossed over. We are talking about the proportion of each group that lives in poverty, has out of wedlock births, live in single parent homes, drop out of high school, etc. I know that it is hard to see our people represented as having all these problems, but it needs to be at the top of the list for society to work on this stuff. Overall, I was not impressed with the amount of personal knowledge I gained, but I know that other people probably got a lot out of the series.

Sent by Andrea Odom | 3:51 PM | 7-25-2008

It was an interesting piece. However , it was not well- balanced. It did not show any of the positive things & progress that has been made in Black America.

Sent by Renee | 4:10 PM | 7-25-2008

What should be brought out is how
White people are doing more than the
law allow and it's never reported and
they are given more probation than
Blacks ever thought off. Just because
more Blacks are in jail it does not
mean others races shouldn't be beside
them, and they are not sentenced. They
have all doors open to them. Why haven't
they done more with their lives? Talk
about how we have had doors closed, in
our faces and still we rise.

Sent by Kiddie | 4:19 PM | 7-25-2008

We have to keep in mind that this series was not created by us or for us. The white mainstream media (MSM) created this for white, middle to upper class America. Black people of all socioeconomic strata know what being black in America is all about. I would add that poor whites have a pretty good grasp on the subject because they live their own version of it.

Sent by Hank Nasty | 4:28 PM | 7-25-2008

I was disappointed in the lack of conversation about self inflicted poverty. Things like having multiple children with partners who will not contribute financial or emotional support. The unwise decision of not finishing high school. Those that go to college spending more time partying instead of pursuing and completing their education. There are things in our lives that we can control and we must not always blame outer forces for our poor decision making.

Sent by Freema | 5:36 PM | 7-25-2008

Freema--Most of the poverty that blacks face is not due to poor decision making; perhaps this is the reason this false stereotype was not emphasized. It would have been another deflection of the real causes for poverty and a reason to blame blacks for the systemic racial injustices that perpetuate the severe and disproportionate rate of poverty that exists in the black community.

Sent by CeCe | 6:28 PM | 7-25-2008

There was a disturbing element of sexism in the CNN series that seemed all too familiar. The first night was supposedly dedicated to the Black Woman, but this was not reflected in the content. The only one of the segments that directly addressed an issue - HIV/AIDS - in the context of its specific impact on black women failed to delve very deeply into the questions of why and what to do. This dynamic was also present in the companion "townhall" discussion that aired last week. Each segment had a panel of 4 guests, and it seemed that the preferred formula was 1 woman (usually Julianne Malveaux) and 3 men on the panel. Basically everyone talked over Julianne and didn't give any credence to her view, especially when she questioned the idea that marriage is the answer to black women's problems. I think it was just another example of how black women time and time again are expected to ignore sexism in the black community in the name of "unity."

Sent by JJ | 6:54 PM | 7-25-2008

cnn's overview of the human experiences of usa citizens of negroid ethnicity would have been placed within the context of 'civic, economic, intellectual, mental & social' contrast between - those 'non-dysfunctional & non-non-self destructive' adult negroes -- and black of adult age who have choosen the cultural lowlife of 'black redneck' gutter trash existence over the last 20/30/40 yrs...

the gulf between those two sets - usa negroes on one - and black redneck trash on the other -- is greater than between the typical so-called negro citizen & the typical non-negro citizen of the usa

...priceless!!!

Sent by dirtyblues | 9:57 PM | 7-25-2008

We (all America, including Whites) know all about this stuff. And Blacks living those rough lives, know their own reality.

CNN, the networked that focused on & framed Katrina as looters paradise, then showed endless loops of selected images as anecdotal evidence. Now they want to bring you closer to and highlight Black pathology. Why now? Is Barack too much of a framework of Black success...little too much glee from Blacks and CNN thinks let's reel this in...get back to that comfortable frame of failure?

Why? To use social science stats to make the Grand Wizards case... to show how dysfunctional, different, outside the mainstream, unlike the rest of us they are?
For more evidence of why Blacks, having been treated badly are therefore not like the rest of us, should therefore be treated different because they are not like the rest of us. The grand wizard couldn't have provided better content.

Just WHO is this series for, it's target audience? Who benefits from these images & stories

Hmm, my guess:
bleeding heart welfare ideology liberals comfortable only with a framework of Black pathology. Run for Prez and this friends of the negro-i'll champion-your-cause-but-don't-think you're-equal crew...thinks you're snooty, uppity. It's not your time, what nerve, how arrogant. This type of show reinforces them.

The pain & healing crew of successful Blacks who (in 2008 still begging the question of their humanity) suffer from what amounts to survivors guilt who feel they're self appointed spokes people for those 'left behind' and this types of dialogue makes them feel better. Who think that all we need to do is talk about it (beat them up) or show them how bad things are, (guilt them)...they'll get it and will be miraculously transformed.
and the last guess, those with identities informed by white supremest notions who, with all this Obama success, need to be reinforced?

EEEVERYONE can rattle off stats about Black dysfunction, the % in jail vs College, Black men vs Black women, Aids, etc., etc. Can't do the same with Asians, Latinos or Whites.

Did anyone leave knowing that only 1 in 5 Blacks live in the 'ghetto'.

Sent by Jon J | 10:06 PM | 7-25-2008

Stupid......as many whites, asians, and Latinos have as many problems! However those who YELL loudest get the most attention......and there you have BLACKS!

Any questions?

Sent by Me | 2:08 AM | 7-26-2008

Buddhism is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing religions within the African-American community. I am one of the few African American Buddhist teachers.

Before the show was aired I already knew that a complex discussion about the black community was not to be had.

Crack, crack, crack, poverty, blissful interracial healing, church, old age, sickness, and death. Okay I get it.

Are we afraid to ask ourselves why the Dalai Lama is laughing as he serves his people while so many black leaders are frowning as they struggle to serve ours?

Sometimes we have to take care of business in our own way: http://rainbowdharma.com/festivalscreening/theater1.htm

Lama Rangdrol

Sent by Black Buddha | 3:40 AM | 7-26-2008

I think that documentaries like this one continue to fuel the divide between blacks and whites regardless of its content. Until we all agree to be color blind nothing will change regardless of change. It adds fuel to the fire, gives excuses to those who are looking for them and is obviously only being aired because of Obama in the news. I recently read an article saying that if Obama gets elected President it will actually hurt black Americans. It's ridiculous. Nothing seems to change. I'm voting for Obama not because he's black but because he represents Hope and I think he's extremely intelligent and will lead this country back into success.

Sent by Keith Freeman | 8:31 AM | 7-26-2008

Now that you have aired this documentary what's being offered as a resolution, or was this another way to keep racism fresh in the minds of people during this election.

Sent by J. Streeter | 8:56 AM | 7-26-2008

It was horrible. The audience CNN attempted to target was white folks. They did a complete smear job on black americans in order to appease the larger population for Obama. Yep, in order to promote a black man for president, CNN threw truth and the black race under the bus. It was a horrible documentary...and while I watched most of it hoping it will get better. I now realized I have lost 3 hours of my life on that show that I can never get back. That will teach me a lesson for watching a doc made by a white woman calling herself black!

Sent by Char, NC | 12:49 PM | 7-26-2008

I think the document was decent. It was never going to satisfy everyone. I love how everyone is complaining about it. Get real people. If there were no documentary then folks would be complaining saying the mainstream media is not paying attention. I applaud Soledad for making the effort.

Sent by T. Rogers | 2:35 PM | 7-26-2008

I did not watch. I've been black all my life I didn't think a few hours of a CNN special would shed any light. From the comments it appears I was correct. Media outlets such as Ebony, Jet, black radio stations, black newspapers, Black Enterprise, Crisis Magazine; organizations such as Urban League, NAACP, National Action Network, and so many more are where the advertisers of the CNN "documentary" should have spent their money.

Sent by Kim | 5:09 PM | 7-26-2008

I didn'yt even need to finish watching one episode to get it that it was a rehash of all the old hash: nothing that has not been said before and nothing that has not already been said by black folks who are disingenuous in their concern and understanding of other black folk and really did not even sound like they knew what real lives of every day black folks in America are about before I could just cut it off and go to HGTV. The most interesting thing was Soledad O'Brien publicly embracing "her people". I am just curious to know did she know who her people were before coming to CNN?

Sent by Gloria J. Alee | 5:53 PM | 7-26-2008

My wife and I had been watching this special for the past wo days in intervals ( Honestly, most of us are entirely too busy to devote four hours into tuning in, as much as we would like to ). My wife feels the same about it as the general consensus, that I didn't cut the surface enough. However, I feel that for the time alotted, it was pretty good overall. Lets be fair, it would take a lot more than four hours to cover all of the ills and blessings that make up the Black community. If we're talking about ' politics ', then it would be accurate to say that the targeted audience was white people. However, we dont watch to unvail the politics of why it aired, we watch for the messages and ideas presented. If you are racially and socially conscious, no matter your race, this special would of course sound redundant to you. On the other hand, if you are oblivious to certain details in relation to race and how it relates to family, economy, etc, then CNN's Black In America had a strong enough presentation to potentially awaken the unconscious. The core audience was the oblivious audience, no matter what race you are. To white people, who's experiences to black culture is limited to rap videos, Maury shows and biased news reports, it motivates them to think outside of the box. For certain black people, who's lives resemble some of the people shown on the special, it holds a mirror to themselves, and has the potential to motivate them to make lifestyle changes that may contribute to the way things are in black America. Overall, I felt it was pretty powerful, politics set aside.

Sent by Anthony Robertson | 10:22 PM | 7-27-2008

For the first time in my life, I am speechless. This is the most disappointing and depressing documentary I have ever seen. It is just going to be additional wedges between the races.

Sent by jay | 4:54 AM | 7-28-2008

I thought the documentary was too slanted toward the well-known (and stereotypical) deficits that have longed plagued the Black community--joblessness, drugs, crime and lack of fathers in the home. These backdrops are almost always the context in which Black people are represented in the media.

The series would have been groundbreaking if it had focused more on the unheralded side of Black America--the successful black men and women, the young people who've stayed out of prison and never consumed drugs, and the post-generational divide. Yes, O'Brien did intersperse some of this positivity, but mostly, her documentary was a rehashing of several caricatures of Black people-- "the black welfare queen," "the immoral black stud," and "the frightening black criminal."

As it was, O'Brien mostly focused on those aspects of the Black community that white people fear. I wish she'd focused more on the Black progress she mentioned that has occured since the Civil Rights Movement.

Sent by Elariia | 8:43 AM | 7-28-2008

I just found it painfully patronizing...

Sent by DJ Black Adam | 11:42 AM | 7-28-2008

I co-sign what Anthony Robertson wrote. I've said to some folks how many issues facing Black America can you put into four hours (not counting commercials)?

For most of the "problems" in the CNN special, I don't identify with them but I wouldn't say they don't exist. I identified with a little of the "Black Man" series featuring a MBA and Law grad who's the only "chocolate" in a sea of "milk" at most company functions and the pressure that entails to always do well (no, do extremely well).

Sent by Moji | 2:01 PM | 7-28-2008

Poor journalism. The documentary just reinforced stereotypes about blacks. The documentary also failed to show the diversity of black america or the fact that most non-African American blacks (i.e., Jamaicans, Haitians etc...) who live in this country are hard working individuals who value family. Overall, I give it a F.

Sent by Sandra | 2:31 PM | 7-28-2008

Can someone pls explain to me why that girl that just had a baby w/o the father being around much is now pregnant w/twins. How is she or her kids ever going to have a better life. Just will be same old same old for a least another generation. Unbelievable.

Sent by eric s. | 5:23 PM | 7-28-2008

I THOUGHT IT WAS TOTALLY DISGUSTING.
SOLEDAD OBYRAN THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY.

Sent by MARY | 9:26 PM | 7-28-2008

I enjoy watching Soledad on CNN for news. However she should know better than to take some of the worst examples of black people and give them my quality tv time. The only person I identified with was the young guy who was mocked because he spoke the English language with correct grammar. The woman with the deadbeat father and the twins on the way was a shameless example. The young man who had the group arrive at his doorstep to persuade him to cone back to school made me feel ashamed as well. These people are found in every culture and race of people they are what you call trash. They in no way represent me and any of the other bloggers. Sorry Soledad but you struck out with this one.

Sent by K Hodges | 11:32 PM | 7-28-2008

Why do we continue to allow someone else to tell our story. No real tough questions were asked and what most disappointing was a lot of problems were highlighted but the root of the problem and solutions to the problem was not addressed. So Black People Time to get busy. The solutions willnot come from TV it's has to come from you and me. Bottom up NOT TOP DOWN.

Sent by Lawrence F. Jackson | 8:40 AM | 7-29-2008

Black In America -- What About the Other Side??

The primary issue I have with this program is the same issue I have with many so called social programs -- they ignore the other side of black America. Yes I know that a large number of young black men are in jail. I know that AIDS is taking a heavy toll on a segment of our community. I know a lot of children are being raised in a single parent home. But, and this is BIG but, that is not all of black America.

For some unknown reason society likes to pretend that blacks fall into 3 categories: the thugs, helpless victims or the entertainers. There is no average or middle class when it comes to the media. Regardless of the fact that the middle class is established and growing, no one seems to want to acknowledge that we exist.

I work for a high tech firm that does billions of dollars every year in business. I have worked for other companies that do the same kind of work and generate the same kind of revenue. I have traveled extensively and worked in areas that have strong black communities and small black communities. Guess what? There are plenty of educated middle class black men and women working in these companies. From the mail room to the board room, we are well represented. I cannot walk down the halls of my firm without running into these invisible middle class black people.

After watching the program last night a coworker, a white coworker asked me a very interesting question: why don't the media show you guys, the regular middle class people? I could only shake me head and smile. I too want to know why the black middle class, and particularly, the black middle class male, is invisible.

Until we acknowledge the truth about black Americans (we occupy every social and economic level in society) we as a nation will not be able to truly move forward. More importantly, we as black people must demand that our images are honest and truthful. As one friend said regarding the show" for months blacks have been feeling positive due to Sen. Obama, This was the media's way of putting us back in our place.

NPR I have a challenge for you -- why don't you produce a series covering the other side of Black America?

Sent by VH VanLear | 1:33 PM | 7-29-2008

I'm a Black man and many of the African-Americans with who I spoke stated that nothing in the documentary was news to them. This response does not suprise me in that I believe the intended audience is those who don't already know our story. I believe it was news to the typical CNN viewer. However, I wonder if the typial CNN viewer was tuned in at the times it aired.

Sent by Kelton Waller | 8:50 AM | 7-31-2008

it was too blown up NPR could have done a better job!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sent by tara jones | 8:00 AM | 9-2-2008

Considering FOX NEWS, MSNBC, and others would not have attempted this project, I say hats off to CNN. Yes, there could have been improvement, but I ask each of you to imagine a documentary like this on those other stations. Think about all the money spent in advertising MONTHS and MONTHS before the airing. We are so quick to criticize. If BET has had a Black In America, they definitely didn't throw the dollars to advertise it because I've seen nothing of the sort come from a station that is supposed to represent black people

Sent by Jason | 11:04 AM | 9-5-2008

About

Support comes from: