While CNN’s special documentary on Black America left many viewers thinking the network had underutilized its many resources, it is important to recognize that, in some segments Soledad O’Brien did manage to positively highlight the institution of family, a cornerstone of the black community.
Although the documentary seemed to mainly focus on the negative aspects of the black family by gathering high divorce rates and out of wedlock birth statistics, O’Brien did show some of the positive side of the black family structure in America.
This highlight might not compare to the negative connotation of blacks in America if you are not accustomed to attending a family reunion or looking forward to seeing that crazy uncle who can never remember your name but can’t wait for you to tell him your latest achievement. But as a member of the Rand family, which was featured on the first night of “Black in America”, I can say that I do appreciate O’Brien’s brave delve into helping Americans of all backgrounds better understand what it means to value togetherness.
As for my family attending the family reunion, that occurs every other year, means much more than good food and fun. It involves learning your family history and meeting the matriarchs and patriarchs of your ancestry. Attending a family reunion and getting schooled by great uncles and aunts won’t ensure that any of us stay out of jail or not drop out of school. But what it does ensure is that when I do encounter that fork in the road or experience that shadow of a doubt I know that there is unit, a family that I can turn to for a reality check. For many black Americans like me this truth is self evident.
Now don’t get me wrong. Yes, it is discouraging to see that one of the world’s top news outlets can’t manage but to reiterate age old stereotypes. And…yes… I do consider it poor journalism to only investigate the rising cases of “baby daddy’s.” But it is necessary that, as members of a targeted community, we continue to strive to disprove the media’s statistics. And by choosing to challenge the documentary that was presented to viewers across the world we are doing just that.
It is important for us to understand that being Black in America is a relative concept and differs from person to person. To try and condense the black community into a homogenous glob will never produce an accurate portrayal of the triumphs that blacks have achieved or troubles that we encounter. As the black community loses another man to the jail system, it is important to remember that at that same time there is a black man walking across a stage and receiving a degree or saving a life in an operating room.
As we witness the nomination of America’s first Black presidential candidate we can choose to say “This is what it means to Black in America.” As we sit in the classrooms of one of the country’s most competitive universities, we can honestly say that “This is what it means to be Black in America.” As you read this article and you ponder over your own values you can say that ….”This….is what it means…to be BLACK…in America.
BCKSays:According to television network CNN,”I Am:Black In America is a new feature built on the belief that the labels we use for one another don’t really reveal who we are.We present a collection of people who may surprise you. They not only defy their labels, but they’ve done it in very public and dramatic ways.” Do you feel that CNN has done a good portrayal of “defying labels ” of Blacks?Thanks to reader Maryamb for bringing on this discussion…