Review by Kam Williams
The CNN special report 'Black in America' was such a disappointment that it's not really worthy of a detailed review. The only reason I'm even bothering to do a post mortem on the program is because it had been so hyped by the network that it enticed millions of viewers to tune in on successive nights.
Hosted by Soledad O'Brien, the series was aired in two parts, the first entitled 'The Black Woman and Family,' the second, 'The Black Man.' However, each half was less a cohesive study of its two subjects than a string of very loosely-connected segments each introduced by lame raps by a dude in cap who always sounded like he was going into a commercial rather than just coming out of one.
Serving up everything but the kitchen sink, it opened with the reunion of an African-American family named Rand which we learned trace its roots to a white man who in the 19th Century had seven kids with his white wife and another six with his black mistress. This story built up to a first-time meeting of the black and white sides of the Rands. What a so called 'white patriarch' had to do with 'The Black Woman' was beyond me.
After that weird start, the slapdash investigation turned to the question of education. Here, we're informed that half of all black kids don't graduate from high school (What else is new?) before being introduced to Harvard Economics Professor Roland Fryer. He talks about a pilot program in four cities: NY, Atlanta, Baltimore and Dallas, where kids are being paid to get good grades.
But then the family he focuses on has much bigger financial problems to deal with, being headed by a single dad who can't afford the rent. In fact, a disproportionate number of interviewees seem to be facing eviction, almost as if it's a recurring theme of black life.
My biggest overall problem had to do with the program's periodic factual inaccuracies, like when Soledad referred to the 1992 riot which erupted in L.A. after the Rodney King decision as the most deadly riot in the U.S. in 100 years. What's up with that? She conveniently ignored several other more bloody incidents such as the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 when over 300 blacks were slaughtered by white militiamen.
The infuriating mistakes that I was aware of left me wondering how accurate CNN was when citing statistics I was unfamiliar with, especially since all the anecdotal evidence about rap music, AIDS, skin color, mixed-marriages and other issues sounded awfully subjective.
Soledad O'Brien - The 'CNN Presents: Black in America 2'
Soledad’s Eyewitness Report on the Haitian Relief
Black In America 1 - Over-Hyped CNN
Special Fails to Measure-Up to the Buzz
Soledad O'Brien - The "CNN Presents: Black in America 2" Interview