Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CNN Presents: Black in America (2 episodes)

"CNN Presents" tonight aired the second part of its “Black in America” series. The link is here. The two-hour episode is called “The Black Woman & Family.”

The program starts out with the performance of African Americans in schools, which is lower in America than in any other developed country. 50% of African Americans graduate from high school in four years, compared to 70% of whites. The show presented some incentives in the schools for learning under “No Child Left Behind” and showed one kid actually liking the idea of taking standardized tests to prove he has learned something. One child said when he was grown he would give half of his income to his father.

Later a Harvard professor articulated the theory that when the slaves were loaded onto ships from Africa, slave owners would lick the cheeks of women to see if they were salty. Apparently people with higher salt levels could stand the transit and horrible conditions, and this might account for the higher incidence of hypertension in African Americans

There was a discussion of the high rate of single parenthood among African American women, and of the incentives that discourage marriage (welfare). There is a movement called “Marry Your Baby Daddy,” where women marry the fathers of their children, all expenses paid.

There was presentation of the hardships faced by African American families in housing, as when landlords want to convert their lower income apartments to condos or houses for people with more money.

An interracial couple with their grown son was also shown.

The second part of the series aired July 24 and is called “Black Men.”

The early part of the show focused a lot on Little Rock Central High School (Arkansas), the very slow improvement in opportunity for black men with the slow (“with all deliberate speed”) process of racial integration. Even after integration, for a long time guidance counselors would discourage black men from going to college and encourage them to become custodians or carpenters.

The show went on to examine crime, and the basic explanation was that it “pays” relative to the work often available.

The show featured an African American man who made a career switch and became a superintendent of schools in Arkansas.

The show discussed racial profiling by police, and by employers.

It mentioned how society had made it possible for single women to raise children, rather than getting the fathers to be married to the mothers. 60% of all African American children grow up without fathers.

The show presented film director Spike Lee, who discussed the difficulty of finding financing in Hollywood for his African American oriented films, the biggest of which (“Malcolm X” “Ray” and even “Requiem in Four Acts” about Hurricane Katrina). His next film (“Miracle at St. Anna”) is about African Americans fighting in World War II.

The report concluded with an account of two brothers, one of whom became a college professor and the other of whom is in prison.

It would have been nice if the show had mentioned the film in progress, “American Lynching,” by Gode Davis.

Anderson Cooper hosted discussions on his 360 show after both segments. One man said that he had explained to his son how to talk to the police, because as African American he would look "out of place" in many neighborhoods.


Mochalight said...

Bill honestly I was disgusted with these episodes... They never once showed "Middle Class" Black America.. They introduced America to Stereotypes...

Bill Boushka said...

As I recall, toward the end the film showed some upper income African Americans in Atlanta looking for houses. And the school district superintendent in Arkansas was certainly upper middle class.

It's true that most of the report was "negative." On these reviews, I report what I see. Despite the demands for objectivity in journalism, these CNN (and MSNBC) films are not always as balanced as they should be.