SOCIAL ANGST is more than just a blog, it is an invitation to aid in the building of wealth through the shared task of information distribution and discussion. It is a call to engage – engage in society, engage with your peers, engage in your political system, engage in spreading the wealth that is information, and engage in multiplying that wealth through discussion – so that collectively we may become more socially aware, more socially responsible, more socially vocal and ultimately more socially valuable.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Social Angst Cosigns CNN's Black In America Special

The title is brilliant: CNN Present’s (insert brief dramatic pause) Black In America; it sounds nothing short of epic. The subject matter, both compelling and controversial, is often times not discussed openly nor honestly in mixed company. In fact, discussions investigating what it means to be Black in America are noticeably vacant in mainstream media; unless, of course, it is commentary made in response to some grandiose racial faux pas (a la Imus, Michael Richards, or the Sean Bell officers). On the strength of that alone, Soledad O’Brien and CNN should be highly commended for depicting and analyzing the “Black experience” for seemingly no reason other than its own merit. Kudos (#1).

CNN billed the special as an in depth look at Black America and all that it encompasses. The documentary was divided into two segments, Black in America: Black Women & Families and Black in America: The Black Man. When asked during an interview the show was split up in such a manner, O’Brien downplayed its relevance, providing and easier to accept answer that because of the large amount of information being covered, the special had to be broken up and logically this division made most sense. (See the interview here: Smart answer; although I would bet there is more to it. After viewing the two specials in their entirety, it was clear that the Black family, in the most traditional sense of the term, is slowly becoming extinct. In fact, both specials covered the lack of Black men in Black society. During the “Black Women & Families” special, we were introduced to a number of successful professional Black women (Karema Powers and Kriss Turner ) who are having issues finding eligible Black males and in “The Black Man” special we are introduced to a young man who remains absent from his daughters life. Each special discusses reasons for the absentee behavior including the disproportionate amount of Black men who are incarcerated, the cycle of fatherless sons who are without the tools to take on the responsibility of raising the children that they have (irresponsibly) fathered, and the unbalanced ratio of college educated Black women to college educated Black men. For truth and an ability to discuss the issue without bias, Black In America earns kudos (#2).

Bias is something that Black Americans think of critically; specifically the biased representation Black images in mainstream media. Blacks are routinely subject to fallacy in advertisement and the Black In America special seemed to take that into consideration with every story it presented. While generally the media makes it easy for America as a whole to believe that Black men are, by design, ill-equipped to be responsible parents, the Black In America specials are careful to highlight the often unseen but prevalent population of Black men who are committed to taking care of their families. The stories of Anthony and Lavon Smith, Roland Fryer, and D. L. Hughley show caring fathers who are dedicated to seeing their children succeed. Black In America are also include other positive, ambitious, and socially responsible black men in the documentary – giving both face and voice to the typical Black male (though often viewed as the token exception). For reaffirming that positive Black males live and breathe in our communities every day, Black In America earns kudos (#3).

The Black community needs to be saved – unfortunately, whether you would like to admit it or not, statistics do not lie. Large populations of Black people are failing in marriage, education, and employment. The question is no longer whether we need to be saved, but instead, who will save us and how? CNN does a good job of outlining how Black Americans are taking steps to save themselves. Throughout the special we are given access to several non profit organizations who are truly trying to make a difference in their communities. With initiatives like Marry Your Baby Daddy Day a project founded by Maryann Reid aimed at encouraging unwed Black parents to get married – socially conscious and creative people are finding solutions that work. For discussing how Black Americans are helping their people, kudos (#4) are awarded.

Overall, I was impressed with Soledad O’Brien and CNN for offering a great first look at a very complex issue. The specials explored the myriad of relevant issues that face Black Americans on a daily, sometimes momentary basis. The discussion was honest and the explanations (not excuses, in my opinion) were thoughtful and valid. The problems highlighted – failing education, failing health, misrepresentation in media, disproportionate incarceration rates, and the extinction of marriage and traditional family values - are definitely the five top issues facing Black America. The special discussed each issue sufficiently enough to warrant further discussion and brief enough to keep young viewers (the ones who benefit most from the documentary) interested. I also enjoyed the fact that special was reported in a way that invited critical thinking – even from people who are not Black. Anyone who watches this program will find that they are better equipped socially than those who have not. The show allows anyone - the young, the old, the Black, the White, the liberal, the conservative - to broaden their thoughts on not only to what problems exists, but why such problems exist and how begin to rectify these problems. For seeing the complete picture, including how non-Blacks benefit from the forward mobilization of Black people, kudos (#5) is awarded.

5 Kudos. That seems about accurate. I wouldn't go so far as epic, but it is definitely worthwhile.

Peace and Blessings…

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl