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Must-See TV for White People

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CNN's "Black in America" is for whites in America. Because of all the racial stereotyping that still goes on in the world, white people need to know that our story includes sizable circles of affluence.

Black in America 2

Kimberly Seals Allers: I'm a CNN junkie. My son can often be heard saying, "Mommy, CNN AGAIN!!" as it plays all day in the house. And I love Soledad O'Brien. As a journalist and a mom, I love what she stands for, and I was honored to interview her as one of the celebrity moms in my first book, The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy. Understandably, then, I was glued to my television last night for the premiere of "Black in America 2." To be honest, "Black in America 1" was not well-received by some Black folks. It featured too many prison shots, baby daddys, teenage mothers, and certainly wasn't considered by many to be a truly balanced view of the state of Black people in this country.

So I was happy to see this installment take a brighter, balanced, hopeful, and more upbeat tone about who we really are and what are our issues. But truthfully, there wasn't any new information in there for Black people. There was no "Aha!" moment. Black people know there are committed principals like Steve Perry of Hartford, Connecticut's Capital Prep Magnet School, or Harvard alum Ivan Hageman at the East Harlem School in New York City, who are teaching our children and leading them to success where our public schools fail them. It is not us who have given up on the power and promise of Black youth. I blogged about Malaak Compton Rock's phenomenal Journey for Change program in May. We know about the Tuxedo Ball, The Links, Jack and Jill, or any of the other high society, invite-only groups for affluent Black people. We know and love the story of Tyler Perry. And several years ago, when I was an editor at Essence, we wrote about Dr. Funmi Olopade, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who was at the forefront of identifying the high trend of triple negative breast cancer among African-American women and received the prestigious MacArthur "genius" grant in 2005 for her work in this area.

This is not to say that the program isn't well done, nicely produced, and extremely informative. But it's important information that white people need to know. CNN's "Black in America" is for whites in America. Because of all the racial stereotyping that still goes on in the world (just ask renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who was recently arrested for "breaking in" to his own home), white people need to know that our story includes sizable circles of affluence. They need to know our story includes -- gasp! -- Black people saving ourselves from inadequate school systems and getting into college. After all, Hollywood movies ("Dangerous Minds," "Hardball," "Wildcats," "The Ron Clark Story," "Finding Forrester," "Take the Lead," "Freedom Writers," and a litany of other releases) would have you believe this is a white (usually a woman's) job, to sweep into the ghetto and save our children. White people need to know that our community has the intellectual prowess to study our deadly health epidemics and provide meaningful research that benefits the rest of the world.

I'll be watching Part 2 tonight to see Soledad's work. But more importantly, I hope all of the whites in America are tuning in.

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. July 23, 2009, 4:07 PM

Pardon me, but not all whites in America need to watch this program. As non-whites are insulted by the stereotypes placed on them, so are white people such as myself.
Skin color is not the reason people go to prison. Skin color is not the reason some males refuse to act like men & take care of their children & it is not the reason some teen girls are not responsible enough to prevent pregnancies.
When talking to my next door neighbors on my left (he’s a firefighter, she’s a nurse), they are “D.” & “M”, not “that black family next door”. I don’t think of the neighbors to my other side (professor & work-at-home-mom) as that man from Belgium & his wife from Thailand. Doctor “M” across the street just happens to be Japanese because his parents are Japanese.
I was raised to NEVER look down on or judge ANYONE. My grandparents & great-grandparents were sharecroppers. They were too busy being happy when they could afford a chicken for Sunday dinner once a month to judge someone else.
While chatting with a neighbor years ago when my younger daughter was 3, I mentioned another neighbor having plumbing problems. First neighbor asked if I was talking about “that black dude in the blue house.” My 3 year old informed him that “him’s not black, him’s brown. He had to get visited by a ploomah!”
Criminal activity,meanness, stupidity & outright craziness doesn’t primarily affect any particular race.

Deena Nelson July 23, 2009, 6:43 PM

I don’t need to be told to watch a show for white people. White people have had it just as tough. My grandparents went through depression just like every one else. Lost what they had barely got by. My other set of grandparents lived in a house you could see through the walls. Had an out house still when I was a kid. My grand dad was given to the neighbors, when he was a baby, his mother died and their were to many kids for his father to raise. No there are no records of it, he was just handed over. And now Iam currently working by butt off so my son can go to college. You see he is a middle class white male. So that means no scholarships for him for his color, culture or any thing else. since I work my butt off, he does not qualify for low income. So, I say the past is the past. Everyone needs to get along, quit falling back on things that today no one could control. I feel who ever you are if you want something bad enough you will work for it. Iam sick to death of hearing how unfair everything is. I’m for doing away with alot of these government programs and maybe families will stick together and neighbors will help each other out. Instead of worrying about what was!!! Move on!!

Sara July 23, 2009, 6:56 PM

I was going to say much more but “ame i.” said what I was going to say perfectly. In addition to what she said, if people expect racism to go away then black people need to quit making such a big deal out of color all the time! Just look at the pregnancy book that was mentioned. A pregnancy book for BLACK people (um, is pregnancy really different for back woman??? Give me a break!!!)! What if someone wrote a pregnancy book specifically for white people? There would be a huge uproar! What if white people had their own white TV Channel such as black people do? Can you imagine the hell that would break loose over that? What if there was a tv special on about white people and an article was written that it is for black people to watch such as this article is doing, only this article is the other way around? But no, white people aren’t doing these things. Imagine the chaos it would cause if they did. White people would be considered incredibly racist if they did anything like these things but yet black people do it all the time and then call others racist!!!! Black people are singling THEMSELVES out!!!

Anonymous July 23, 2009, 7:41 PM

what most people fail to realize is all of these “black” enterprises(such as tv station, magazines, books written to a focus group)were started for reasons beyond your comprehension. I see comments such as Sara’s on so many different forums and it still is absurd to me that ppl who feel that way dont get it. 400 years is a he— of a long time to “get over” and yes while segregation was abolished in what feels like a long time ago to OUR GENERATIONS, it really was not that long ago in comparison. And RACISM is very much still alive in even the most forward thinking cities of our nation today only you wouldnt really know it unless it personally affects you.
While I agree with ame i. in that not ALL WHITES need to watch this show.. its preposterous to think because you were raised with decency and humanity that the majority of your counterparts dont still harbor prejudices.

STACEY July 23, 2009, 8:12 PM

anonymous well said!!!…and obviously sara does not live in the skin of an african american and witnesses racism in the acutual so she really doesnt have a clue!!..but its not her fault!! i said WELL SAID!!

Ashley July 23, 2009, 9:43 PM

I love being African American! I am so glad to see programs such as Black in America 2 that display who we are in so many positive ways. In all of my 25 years on earth all aspects of the media that are good, normal, healthy and socially acceptable are mainly pure White Americans. Many people of all races fear what they don’t understand. Education, truth and having an open mind; break down these barriers of fear. Black in America 2 is just one tools for educating yourselves and having an open mind. Black in American is a learning opportunity for all races.

If... July 24, 2009, 12:38 AM

If professor Gates had just shown his ID to the officer there wouldn’t have been a problem. Instead he got all “don’t you know who I am”? They would have carded a white guy seen smashing through a door too. Get your facts straight.

Allie in Boston

Monica July 24, 2009, 3:15 AM

amie i.

While it is nice to see a white person who does not see color you cannot speak as a representative of all whites. So don’t throw in a blanket disclaimer. There are too many who still do see color no matter what example you might set in your neighborhood. There may even be some among your own friends who might secretly harbor these feeling but know that its not politically correct to say it.

That reminds me of a Nightline investigation where they had set up an experiment of different races committing crimes in stores and in model homes. And oddly enough while the people claim that they weren’t racist they made more than enough racist comments when they thought that the black suspects committed the crime. But once they were caught they were ashamed because they got caught revealing deep seated racism and stereotypes.

In the end, I don’t think that just whites or blacks need to watch. I think everyone of every race should watch. These stereotypes aren’t just something “whites only” believe. Other races of people have the same feelings.

dean July 24, 2009, 11:47 AM

Way to single out white people. Racist.

mollysmom July 24, 2009, 12:55 PM

seriously? the cops did exactly what they would do to anyone who was not following orders after repeatedly being asked to show id. gates was being belligerent and should have been arrested. on another note about race i notice all the time on the news when reporters give descriptions of suspects i never hear them say a african american man, it’s “6’ brown hair brown eyes wearing such and such”. when it’s a white man that’s the first thing you hear. why is that??

leia July 26, 2009, 3:41 PM

“ame i” needs a reality check. although part of what she said is true, color is NO excuse someone goes to jail or gets pregnant.and to deena nelson it is not the past racism still goes on!im 14yrs old and i go to an all white school, you should hear some of the things people say thinking it’s a joke. not all whites need to watch this show but to be honest most do.i was inspired by last nights show it makes me want to make a difference.THANK YOU “BLACK IN AMERICA”

B July 28, 2009, 11:36 PM

As usual, you’ve shared a perspective that often goes ignored. There are plenty of affluent black people in America who don’t want to be assumed to be disadvantaged, ignorant, or as I like to say “on the come up.” Many of us do just fine and don’t want to be treated as though we are some kind of anomaly. Thanks for this post!

Hilary August 16, 2009, 11:56 PM

I come from a conservative family. It never ceases to amaze me the way they just assume that other people’s lives are so easy. My grandmother makes the same argument as Deena: That white people have had it just as bad as black people, that white people lived through the Depression. Well, if you didn’t live through the Depression as a black person, I don’t see how you can sit around saying you had it just as bad. You have no basis for comparison. The reality is that judges, politicians, CEOs, high-ranking military officers and high-ranking police officials are, by and large, white. Decision-making authority rests with whites and probably that will remain the case long after we’ve officially become a minority group. (Look at South Africa’s military. Decision-making authority largely remains with their white officer corps.) Anyway, paranoid white people (that I know and am related to) love to talk about how hard they’ve had it vis-a-vis black people. They are completely ignorant of history and uneducated and committed to not changing one iota no matter how wrong they are. This is what we’re dealing with. Good luck to all rational and just Americans.

Anonymous January 8, 2010, 7:07 AM

We are not “white” We’re European Americans. Get it straight.

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