Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Black in America (I’m Blacker Than You, Parts 1 & 2)

When I first got wind of CNN's 2 part documentary chronicling the black experience in America, I was a bit concerned. Secrets inherent to African Americans were soon to be exposed for all the world to see and nothing could be done to intervene. Furthermore, it was being presented in double album format and we all know how unsatisfying those can be (sans Life after Death). I feared Soledad O’Brien (host @ large) would unravel ancient quagmires such as; 1) what made black men capable of dunking a basketball, 2) our affinity for all chicken’s fried, and most importantly, C) why black women have great derrières. Once the rest of America was privy to this information, what little advantages we yielded would surely be mitigated (seems my Caucasian sisters have already discovered the lost scrolls for bigger backsides and I whole heartedly applaud their application). Much to my relief, the subject matter didn’t deal with those issues at all. After watching the entire series however, I almost wished it would have.

The CNN exposé delved into current and long standing afflictions commonly associated with African Americans. You may or may not have heard by now but all black men are in prison, none of our bastard children can read, and all our women have HIV. We are also systematically oppressed by racism and classism, and also under represented in all professional arenas except maybe sports and entertainment (not ownership of course, merely participation). In all fairness, Soledad (may I call you Soledad?) certainly referenced positive progressions made, although extremely far and few between. What was hilarious to me was how she made mention of the few positive images of Af-Ams on television as she delineated all the negatives. I guess a documentary focused on successful African Americans with everyday troubles would not have generated desired Nielsen ratings. Forecasting black Armageddon however always proves itself more lucrative. The Cosby show eternally fulfilled mainstream media’s positive influence quotient so it’s back to crack babies and Colin Ferguson for the lot of you!

Soledad’s mild hitting narrative left me with a feeling that successes of African Americans pale in comparison to our insurmountable racial, societal, medical, marital, economical, ethical, and sexual woes (we also have incurable athlete’s foot). According to CNN and the rest of the mainstream, Blacks seem to be the Washington Generals of society. We just can’t seem to get it together, unlike the rest of perfect America. Had I taken these harbingers of doom to heart, and gas prices were lower, I certainly would have attempted suicide visa vie carbon monoxide ingestion. Impending extinction has been steadily predicted for years now and has grown almost comical given the failure of fruition. I narrowly made it through “you will be shot dead before 21” and the "extinction of the black man" but I guess I shoud be awaiting second hand, illiterate, bacon induced, coronary arterial heart failure (sexually transmitted of course). There truly is no hope.

Sorry to say but the documentary was not atypical in the least. With the exception of the assumed co host, who is apparently the lost member of Digable Planet (what’s the deal with the guy in the paper boy hat and his spoken word segways before commercial breaks), everything else was rather trite. As always, our esteemed talking heads bestowed their offerings on the issues at hand, and rightfully so. What self respecting documentary would be complete without the foremost authoritarians to enlighten us on why shit is so fucked up? Reverend Dr. Michael Eric “8 Syllable” Dyson amongst others, made valid and numerable contributions as they have in forums past when called upon to diagnose social ailments.

“Comprehension is not requisite for cooperation.” (Dr. Cornell West was most profound in the Matrix). Councilor West’s statement absolutely holds true but if I remain loyal to my conspiratorial roots, I can’t very well adhere to messages presented without inquiry now can I? Something just didn’t make sense here. Could it be that CNN was pandering to the Negro constituent base at a time when race is such a hot button topic? Nooses, black presidential candidates and mulatto news anchors aside, there has never been a better time to address black America. CNN spent 4 prime time hours discussing tertiary effects while the root cause of all our quandaries was sparsely addressed; IT’S SLAVERY STUPID! They should have just shown Alex Hailey’s Roots instead of wasting my time. Slavery was barely referenced and for that not to be the centralized focus is akin to rescinding the Atom Bomb’s effects on Hiroshima. When someone can identify an issue unique to blacks that doesn’t stem directly from slavery and the ramifications thereof, please shoot me an email.

Now this is not a knock on Soledad or CNN (of course it is) but I also don’t believe the black experience, if there is such a thing, can be reduced to a 4 hour miniseries. There are too many varying components that coexist, rendering the “Black in America” experience indefinable. First generation immigrants and their assimilation to American culture, lack of challenging and relatable curriculums in public education, and 2 part documentaries that circumvent the issues would have to be addressed in order to encapsulate my personal experience, as an example. In addition, African Americans remain 12-14 % of the populous so while disproportionately affected, we are not exclusive to these problems. “America in Blacks” would have been a more apt title.

I firmly believe Black issues will taper off at some point in the future (or at least be replaced by more interesting Spanish or Asian problems). We are what, the third or fourth generation allowed to attend schools without armed escorts and to actually amass wealth? As Nas stated, we are “America’s teenagers”. We also have active laws that prosecute solely on racial bias so we still have a ways to go (see Rockefeller, drug laws / bullshit). 45 years ago, we were being hosed down and forced to drink from “colored only” water fountains. Now we have rights somewhat but should know better than to drink from any public fountains for they all have streptococcal cultures lurking below the spigot. Now that’s progress! America was not the nation it is now 45 years after gaining independence and “Black” America will be no different. Patience young Padawan. I do think we will progress faster once we start viewing all issues as American, void of racially divisive codifications.


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