Top 10 Reasons “Black In America” was horrible (trust me, it was hard to limit it to 10)

29 07 2008

Unfortunately for me, this special aired during my trip to Memphis, so I wasn’t able to immediately repsond. By the time I had gotten back to my lovely PC, I was so flustered trying to write a flowing and cohesive critique of a program I found disgusting on so many levels, that I gave up and decided to make a “Things I Hate About You” list instead. Without further ado, let’s begin (this list is in no particular order):

10) There were no Blacks in America the past 4 decades?? I’m sure my critics will say I’m never satisfied–first I ask for the media and government to pay us some attention, then I blast them when they do. Oh well. It took a Black man to knock on the door of the White House for the press to FINALLY air a special talking about Black American issues? Sure, you weren’t our biggest fans the first 300 years or so…but I figured after the Civil Rights Movement we might get a little more love. Did everyone else just figure out we exist?? So, if I get this right, what you’re saying is “Wow, a Black man can become President of the United States, I think it’s time we make sure to remind people how bad Blacks have it.” Don’t fault me for your logic–I didn’t come up with the idea.

Yes, multiracial families are great...just not when you're going back 7 generations

9) Corny reunion moment–When I saw how Blacks in America started out with a White woman and Black woman with the same great grandfather seeking each other out online and meeting with hugs and tears, I wanted to barf. Seriously–almost all of us are distantly related to some White person. I would not cry over it once I saw them. They have absolutely nothing to do with me. But what took the cake is that the reporter said they thought the White man’s Black mistress wasn’t a slave…all her kids just happened to not be recognized, and she lived in a guest house right next to him and his wife. Riiiight.

8 ) CNN’s praise and oversaturated coverage–of itself. After the specials, Anderson Cooper was on for another hour to talk about the show they just aired. Then for the next week or so (hopefully not longer), they’ve continued to talk about how groundbreaking their own show is and how enlightening it was. But, of course, they weren’t biased in their self-assessment–in the airport I saw a host admit that all the reviews weren’t positive. They played a viewer’s complaint on video, during which he basically said, “I thought the show was good, but it didn’t go into much detail.” Ouch. SCATHING review.

7) Commercial break teasers. If you’re looking for gross generalizations and shameless stereotyping during your commercial breaks, then CNN has what you’re looking for. Every commercial break, the tease pretty much went like this: “COMING UP NEXT– Black children will score lower than every other developed nation in the world; AFTER COMMERCIAL BREAK–Black children have no fathers.” I guess we’ll continue with the media’s trend of airing ridiculous promos to get you to keep watching…even if that means you’re offending more than half of an entire race in the process. =/

6) Commercials–Sooo…leading up to every commercial break and back, there was an annoying Black guy doing spoken word about the show. Need I say more?

I've seen him before, can't fool me!

5) Roland Martin and the cast of CNN–If I’m not mistaken, when you’re doing a “groundbreaking” investigation into the lives of Black Americans, you probably shouldn’t use your channel’s own political analysts and hosts as interviewees. Maybe they figured black people don’t watch the news, so we wouldn’t notice. There weren’t ANY OTHER well spoken Black people you could find, really though CNN…

4) Black middle and upper class being completely ignored–Now, I only watched the first day, you cannot expect me to endure much longer than I did watching this programming…I did the best I could. So if something changed, I take it back. But during the first night, even when they did acknowledge those of us who aren’t poor, unhealthy, downtrodden, without fathers, without healthcare, without jobs, not on welfare, and who were products of healthy marriages, it was mentioned so offhandedly that it literally made me LOL. I remember one incident as it happened exactly. The reporter says “The Black middle class has been increasing, a fact most of America is unaware of. 32% of Black families make $50K or more a year, compared to only 17% 20 years ago. Black churches in inner city communities…” The transition was literally that quick. Did they even watch their special before it aired? They had to have been laughing as hard as I was.  Not to mention there was actually a segment on a program called “Marry Your Baby Daddy.” Yes. Now go ahead and let that marinate for a few minutes.

3) Title–Although CNN broadcast previews of the show saying it would explore the pain AND joys of being Black in America, I didn’t see much joy there. In fact, the whole show was about problems in the Black community. Although they conceded (1 sentence out of a 2 hour special) that most Black Americans weren’t facing the issues that we are disproportionately experiencing, they didn’t address anything positive about Black culture or daily way of life. It’s important to underscore problems about the absence of Black men in families, but don’t advertise a special saying it will tell us about Blacks in America and then 95% of it is listing negative things. Come on!!

This is actually a Jewish ghetto...sue me.

2) Imagery–almost every clip of random Black people was in a crowded inner city, where people looked rundown, dirty, or simply poor. I didn’t know we were only situated in Chicago, Atlanta, or New York. When they interviewed those who weren’t situated in slums, they talked to them like “Wow, how does it feel not being poor? Why do you hang out with broke Black folks when you are obviously so successful? GOOD FOR YOU, YOU DID IT DARKIE!” The sad part about this is that the host was Black.

1) White people watched this show–What I knew I would hate about the show before I saw it is still what I hate most about it after I watched it. White people watched this abomination and undoubtedly many felt their consciousness was illuminated to the plight of the Black Man. They GET IT. They’ve done their part in cultural curiosity for the decade…back to watching Friends.

I see you put your best on this case!

Last but not least, the show did nothing to address how to fix problems. It listed a bunch of problems, broadcast them nationally, offered no solutions, then everyone patted themselves on the back. It was the most superficial “investigative” reporting I’ve ever seen…even in unsolved mystery specials, the reporters give possible explanations at who was the culprit…they don’t just show you some footage and say what a mystery…the end.  Who didn’t know pretty much everything Blacks in America reported on already, OTHER THAN White people? I sure didn’t learn much.

Final verdict on Blacks in America–Lazy and embarrassing.


Black Patriots

23 07 2008
“The hypocrisy is all I can see
White cop acquitted for murder
Black cop cop a plea
That type of shit make me stop and think
We in chronic need of a second look of the law books
And the whole race dichotomy
Too many rappers, athletes, and actors
But not enough niggas in NASA
Who give you the latest dances, trends, and fashion
But when it comes to residuals, they look past us
Woven into the fabric, they can’t stand us
Even in white tee’s, blue jeans, and red bandanas
Diplomatic relations
Killed indigenous people
Built a new nation
Involuntary labor
Took a knife split a woman navel
Took her premature baby
Let her man see you rape her
If I could travel to the 1700’s
I’d push a wheelbarrow full of dynamite
Through your covenant
Love to sit in on the Senate
And tell the whole government …”

-Nas, “America”

With Barack Obama bursting through the political landscape like the 2008 Kool Aid Man, a lot has been discussed on television and news media about the level of patriotism in his camp. Most of the claims against him aren’t even worth discussion, but when Rev. Wright got blasted by the media for his “anti-American” sentiments, it provoked a spark in my mind that I haven’t been able to quell yet.

Why should Rev. Wright be patriotic? Why, in fact, should ANY black American be patriotic? This isn’t a loaded question–I expect there can be legitimate answers to that question somewhere. To be honest, I’m a fairly patriotic person by default, as a military brat and a person who is loyal to almost everything I’m associated with. But my loyalty to my race conflicts with my loyalty to the country that molded me, leaving questions lingering in my mind.

The Black American experience is in many ways a unique one because of not only the unprecedented form of slavery that our ancestors experienced, but because are completely disconnected from the land we live on. African slaves were torn from their families, lumped together with slaves from other tribes, shipped to a completely foreign country with a foreign culture, given just enough to stay alive to work harder, discouraged from building family ties, and given a religion used to control them more than enhance their spiritual lives…and when finally freed, their descendants were still prevented from living a completely free life. The entire essence of the historical Black American experience is based on oppression, domination by a White country, and forceful assimilation into White Euro culture.

It has only been in maybe the past 30 years that Blacks have even begun to halfway be treated on level footing with the rest of America, and I’m probably being generous with that estimation. No matter what the laws say, if the people enforcing them still have their prejudices or misconceptions stuck in the back of their minds, domestic “policy” means nothing. So when I heard news show anchors blasting Wright for being unpatriotic, you can imagine the bewilderment I felt in wondering WHY anyone would expect for him to love this country? The surprising thing is that so many of us do have strong feelings for this country, not the other way around.  Many Black men and women, including my parents, have worked in the military and served in wars for the country that has historically done little in return for them…given this fact, Black people have to be the most patriotic race in America despite the fact we have rarely been treated as full-blooded Americans.

Of course, the effects of slavery are now a fact of life for every Black American. It’s a rare few who will attempt to revert to the African culture they identify with, mostly because we know nothing aboutit; we wouldn’t even know what tribe our ancestors originated from. Plus, due to the current state of Africa, we’d have to sacrifice the technological and social advances made in America to mimic a people completely different from ourselves.

So why not love the country you’re bound to? To function in America and succeed, one must buy into the American system. In perspective, America is a better place to live, even during discrimination, than most other countries (at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe). …but need we be grateful for our circumstance when the fact is we’ve been denied equality in the land we’ve called home since we arrived on this piece of land?

Tuskegee Airmen

As mindsets change, younger Black Americans are getting more of an opportunity to succeed and a level playing field. However, you are lying to yourself if you think that this new, more socially conscious environment has made the country a color blind oasis of freedom and democracy. Is it now possible to be successful and Black without encountering an ominous racist wall in the way of your progress? Yes, I think it is. But Black Americans as a whole still have needs that need to be addressed, and in a democracy where 90% of those in power are White, the country has been slow in making our needs a serious issue. We lag behind every other race in most categories of well being, and it isn’t a product of genetics, nor can it only be explained by a clear cut lack of work ethic or morality. When a Black thinker like myself laments the plight of so many of my people, is it difficult to understand the lack of a profound love for this country and its history? On one hand, yes, I love America…on another hand, I hate almost everything we stand for.

I think it’s a bit arrogant for White Americans to expect patriotism from any of us.  But is our loyalty to the land we’ve been living on for generations a part of the greater good, despite what history has dealt us? But maybe most importantly, will things ever get to a point where the words Black and American never oppose each other?

Last but not least–go cop that Nas album! If you love him, you’ll love it…if you don’t, it’s better than you think =]


17 07 2008

…and goodbye to the majority of you who saw the title and kept it moving. Yeah, I know, “here we go again…” Why are people so hung up on this word?

For the sake of argument, let’s start with a brand new word, completely devoid of any racial connotations. Let’s say…”retard”. I could think of harsher words, but here at the VU, we are family friendly 🙂

Not a nigga

Now there’s a child, let’s call him “Steve.” Steve is unwanted, unloved, and taken care of by a resentful father.  Every day, without hesitation, his father calls him a retard, as well as physically and mentally abuses him. Steve grows up, a bit damaged, but overall he’s overcome the odds. Except for one minor quirk–he calls himself a “‘tard” proudly, everywhere he goes. Despite the look of shock on the face of his peers, he sees nothing wrong with calling people ‘tards in passing. When friends press him, concerned with his behavior, he defiantly says, “I am a ‘tard, it’s not the same thing as calling myself retarded. I’m taking ownership of a word that used to be an insult!”

What would you think of his new term of endearment? Will you applaud him for calling himself a ‘tard, or would you be concerned he’d bought into just a little bit of self hatred? OR, would you think his new take on the word “retarded” was just that–retarded?

Or let’s put it in another simple way–your worst enemy suddenly started claiming proudly every bad thing you ever said about him.  No matter how much he says that he isn’t really demeaning himself, you’d still laugh at him, wouldn’t you? And the best part about it is that you stopped having to work for it.


Seriously though, let’s address the claim that the word “nigga” is now empowering. Really? No matter how you want to flip history, Blacks did not start using ‘nigga’ to switch it up on the White man…Blacks began calling themselves niggers [niggAS was just a quirk of pronunciation] because they had been universally pegged that for so long, the insult stuck with them like it was just a fact of life. Years ago, if an ambitious Black kid tried to beat the odds in a racist country, he would inevitably get told by one of his own people, “You ain’t nothin but another nigga, stop trying to be something you’re not.” Now fast forward that circumstance into 2008. What kind of people call themselves “niggas” on the regular–successful Black businesspeople or…NIGGAS? The men loitering outside on the corner, or the men in suits on Wall Street? If it’s so harmless, why do so many of us cringe when we hear others use it in the presence of White people?  How empowering can a word be when in any place of power, it’s inappropriate to use it? You wouldn’t speak that way to your boss, but you would be comfortable saying it to people who demand no level of respect from you. So tell me where is the power in “nigga”?

If you see a parent calling their young sons and daughters niggas and bitches, you probably wouldn’t expect those kids to amount to much.  It appears when you allow yourself to be called out of your name, even in friendly terms, you slowly (sometimes quickly) lose the power to demand respect in other situations. Those who refuse to be labeled by these terms are also the ones who seem to most garner respect from their peers. Women who run around referring to themselves as a “bitch” never seem to find men who treat them with reverence. Coincidence? Or are words more powerful than we give them credit for?

Why I Hate BET (more than usual)

16 07 2008

Bling Bling: $70,000 Net Worth: $35,000

First let me say “hello” to all the non-Black folks who may read this post. I’m not sure if you’re friends with too many people my shade, so I’ll give you a brief introduction to my people–who we are, what we stand for, and what we like:

1) Ass shaking. Who doesn’t enjoy a nice round-bootyed lady backing her barely covered hindparts into our face. Video hoes and groupies will be rewarded nicely…my autographed copy of Superhead’s book is still sitting on my mantle.

2) Drug dealing. There’s nothing that makes us prouder than seeing how many keys we’ve transported this month or how many fiends we’ve hooked.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

3) Designer clothes and gawdy jewelry. Why make money and then invest it in stocks, bonds, and college funds for your children?? We’ll have none of that here. If you can’t show me a $100,000 car with spinning rims, six DVD players, and a playstation inside it after you’ve netted $110,000 in work profits, then you just ain’t doin it right!

4) The struggle. Don’t let these “activists” fool you, we LOVE the struggle. You were shot 17 times and stabbed in the heart? Looks like you have a lucrative record deal on your way.

…at least these are the beliefs Black Exploitation Television has fed 24/6 to America ( and then they rest on Sunday). They’ve unilaterally helped turn offensive stereotypes for Black people into an accurate reality for some of us. . Sure, these elements and mindsets existed in Black communities before BET ever formed, but the network enhanced them then made a profit off of it.

Viacom took the lowest common denominators from our neighborhoods and turned it into a running parody of Black culture.  Then they put the stamp BLACK entertainment on it, telling the rest of the world this is what they can expect from all of us; these are the things we love.

But for most Black intellectuals, hatred of BET is implicit; there is no real news there. My renewed arousal of dismay came as a result of The New Yorker article I had written.  My thoughts went to the lack of black analysts on the news. Why do we have no voice? It seems the rare times a black voice can be heard on political airways, they are either a politician (read: panderer), an ambulance chasing, Al Sharpton-esque figure, or a conservative doing his best to ensure Mr. Man holds no blame for any Black-related issue.

There is no real insight into the Black community, because the ones who represent us on television have their own interests at heart when they speak. No Black person I’ve talked to was shocked, surprised, or in too much disagreement over what Reverend Wright said in his infamous sound bytes. NOT A ONE. Yeah we might not have agreed with how he voiced some thoughts, but some of the most oft-quoted portions of his speech are thoughts we’ve had often. Where was this reported on? CNN and FoxNews never pointed this out. There was no real reporting on the story, because no one wanted to hear both sides of the coin. There were two opinions that would be broadcast–either outrage or lukewarm disagreement.

Attacks on Michelle Obama’s forwardness, the constant attacks on Barack because because of his associations with “controversial” Black figures, Fox News’ “terrorist jab”…all of these are stark examples of the mainstream media’s complete ignorance of Black culture and the Black experience. But the worst part of all this is that rarely do networks even pretend to have a desire to educate themselves by doing some real investigative reporting and asking us how we feel. Those of us following election details closely had to have been enraged that NO ONE stood up and gave us real airtime to respond.

Rememer this, Bob Johnson? Bob?...why are you running?

Remember this, Bob Johnson? Yikes!

Where can we find a media outlet during such an important political season, where one of our own has a serious chance at the presidency?? Enter BET. Or more accurately, I’m still waiting for BET’s entrance.  You’d think BET would air one serious special that assertively lashed against the media’s unfair portrayals of our leaders. You’d think they could carve out one weekly news show informing our youth about the political process going on, and giving Black commentary. You’d think that some time after their 12 hours of broadcasting misogyny and violence, BET would patch out some airtime to give us a real political voice. You’d think. But I guess those infomercials for Miracle Water take precedence.

And if a BET exec is reading this right now and getting any ideas– no, interviewing Soulja Boy during 106 & Park will not count. Go back to the drawing board.