Your place for social commentary

Being Black In America

Did everyone watch the first part of the documentary on CNN last night?  I was very pleased with the content and look forward to watching part two!  For those that missed part one, it focused on women and families.  A lot of the information was stuff we’ve heard a million times before, but the stories used to shape the statistics were more touching than the normal sound bites and editorial columns.

Eric Kennedy Jr., a fourth grade boy featured on the program, is saving money for college.  Despite the fact that he’s been homeless before, and might possibly be living in a shelter in Brooklyn as you read this blog, he’s decided college is his ultimate goal.  Can you even imagine??? (–Hold that thought, I’ll come back to that point later.)

Many would argue that America is the richest country in the world, yet one third of all Black children live below the poverty line and Black children consistently score below any other developing country when given standardized tests.  The amount of money we’ve invested into rebuilding Iraq is insane, especially when you look at the number of poor Black people that must depend on the Emergency Room for primary medical care.   

I am reminded of Kanye’s remarks after Hurricane Katrina….. “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”  While it may be easy to dismiss the problems that plague Black American’s solely on the government, at some point we have to decide to be successful and rise above the stereotypes that constrict us.  While two parent households in the best neighborhoods might contribute to a child being successful, some of those kids with the million dollar sweet sixteen parties and convertible BMW’s in the high school parking lot end up as profiles on Meth addict documentaries.  At the same time, some teen mothers go on to get advanced degrees and put their children through college.  Studies show that people born into poverty tend to stay poor BUT there are exceptions.  Little Eric Kennedy, and many of his classmates, have convinced me they are the exceptions!

Black people don’t own the patent on being poor in America, and contrary to what the media might say most of us have never been to jail, most of us aren’t on drugs, and most of us strive to provide better lives for our children. You can’t control your race.  We were born Black, and we live in America.  Is rising above the negative statistics an option for those that want it?  Can we agree success is a decision, and those that are determined to rise above the stereotypes eventually will?  







July 24, 2008 - Posted by | Opinion, Race, Society, Women


  1. I am still up in the air over this one. I mean this program seemed to bring the spotlight on a problem we as Black Americans are already aware of. I want to know what is the purpose of this documentary is, but is the rest of America finally going to see what we already see. It also let me see that we still have a lot of work to do as a people to get our stuff together. For instance, stop killing each other! However, is America going to continue to hide the problem like they are doing with regentrification and destroying those once Black meccas (Atlanta, Chicago and Harlem). We see this practice everyday by moving the problems to other communties and neighborhoods instead of dealing with them head on. Hence the situation in Clayton County, GA where the schools are facing the threat of losing their acceditation. I know it is bigger than just the mis-management of the school board….jeezeechick let me sit down I can debate this all day. I am sure we will all be at Starbucks one day going on and on….

    Comment by Venom | July 24, 2008

  2. I’m not sure if last night was part one, because they had 2 episodes last week. One was about the Killing of MLK, the other was a panel discussion on a variety of topics including education, HIV, etc etc….

    On last weeks panel, Tom Joyner said something that hopefully reached a lot of the “old head” leaders. He said “We gotta stop trying to solve new school problems, with old school methods”. And some of the new school methods are the brother who is paying kids to get good grades, and the All boys school in NY. But of course people will want to debate about whether those methods will work or not, But instead they should be getting out there and providing solutions. And to me that too is a part of the problem, black folks want to talk all day long, but when it comes to providing solutions, they leave it for someone else to figure out (then go on to talk about them too)….

    As a black man who grew up poor in the projects (to a single mother of 3), I can identify with what these shows are shining lights on. “Many young black men end up in jail or dead” is just a cliche to many folks, but its a reality to me. I grew up with at least 5 people who are in jail for murder right now. These were people who were FRIENDS, not just someone down the street, people I broke bread with and played games with. I know countless others who went to jail for various reasons. I know (knew) my fair share of friends who are now passed (many murdered). SO this stuff is not a TV show, or documentary, this is 100% real.

    I say all that to say, I was one of the “fortunate” ones that made it out. I was able to avoid any major trouble, and I was the first in my immediate family to go to and graduate from college. I was also fortunate to not have to change schools every year like little Eric, and although i lived in the projects, at least I didnt have to move constantly and live in a shelter like his family. But I believe in Eric, and hopefully others do to. It will take a lot of support from his community to help him make it through, but I really believe he will “make it”.

    And for those of us who come from better financial and familial situations, hopefully we wont be just sitting around debating whats on CNN or BET or HBO, or whatever station decides to air a doucmentary. Hopefully we will be a part of positively effecting at least one persons life who many other people may write off. Or at the very least, make sure your kids or family members strive to do well.

    Comment by CoFe | July 24, 2008

  3. *Is rising above the negative statistics an option for those that want it?
    Answer: Yes

    *Can we agree success is a decision, and those that are determined to rise above the stereotypes eventually will?
    Answer: Yes.

    I am not black I am puertorrican, and it is almost as being black, but I would not go there, just answer these questions.
    I had 2 choices when I was in school, stay in school and take all the scholarships and student aids that are out there for people from low income families or just stay home, married my sweetheart or nobody and raise kids and start the same circle of life, living from the government.
    I decided I was going to do the 1st, get out and do something about it. I did and I had to compete with those who had the parents that know people, but for my luck, your grades also count and I had good ones. And I took advantage of all the opportunities I could and in my second semester in college I started working for a Bank, while still going to college at night and still going out to party with my college friends some nights. But I knew what I had to do and what my priorities were. I finished college and kept moving up in the bank (for 10 years, I kept my Bank job in diff positions at the HR dept). Then move to a diff career, or diff job and it has being 13 years, in this one, moving up all the time. I never get down when somebody closed a door in my face. I go to the bathroom or my car, cry a little, get mad, calm down and then decide what my next step will be.

    Success is your decision, most kids today use the environment they grew up as an excuse for their failure, because is the easiest way out. Blame it on someone else. You are who you want to be, no matter were you were born, no matter the color of your skin, no matter what. There is more to say about this subject, but I will stop now.

    Comment by La Diva Loca | July 24, 2008

  4. I saw both episodes of Black in America. What I found most interesting was the work that the brother (who’s name escapes me)who is paying the children in the elementary school for getting A’s on their tests. I saw the panel discussion earlier in the week that he was on. He has come up with some really innovative ways to get children interested EARLY in getting good grades.

    What annoyed me was several other people on the panel were knocking the idea that we should pay kids for their achievements in school. They were insinuating that it sets a bad example for them and that when they leave that school there is not going to be someone at the next school to pay them. First of all, I think any program that gets kids exicited about coming to school and achieving new heights is successful. Children need a foundation in elementary school. If they fall behind there, it is hard to catch up later and that’s when they get frustrated and drop out. If they are paid to learn how to study, learn how to read, learn how to do math and excel in the sciences in elementary school no one can take that away from them. They will have learned the tools it takes to achieve success in school. And no one can take that away from them. And those tools will carry them through for the rest of their lives. These kids were excited about getting up and going to school everyday. How dare someone else knock this brother’s innovative approach at finding a way to get these kids excited about education.

    However, the brother’s answer to the nay sayers was gracious and said that this is just one of his ideas and said if this doesn’t work he’ll try something else again and again. And basically if you don’t like his ideas come up with one of your own and help him or some other people who are trying new approaches in education.

    It is easy to knock someone’s ideas. What is hard is getting involved yourself. If you are not a part of the solution…..THEN YOU ARE A PART OF THE PROBLEM!

    Comment by Miss Linda | July 25, 2008

  5. Part I of Black in America gave other cultures and races an overview of what the Black female and families go through everyday. However, Part II was a disgrace. It made it seem that all black men are in jail, not taking care of their children, or acting white. They did not show any positive brothers that went to college where no-one stated that they act white, belonged to a Black Faternity, and had a big house with a family. All of the Black me who where upstanding in the documentary someone stated that they acted white. Part II was in total contrast to Part I. To me it gave America the stereotype that they already had about Black men. As a Black woman I was offended.

    Comment by NIkichele | July 27, 2008

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