Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
"Black In America" Producer
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I signed on for the documentary project, Black in America. Years of walking around in this skin meant I pretty much have being black down to a science. And when it comes to being black one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you will have to answer a lot of questions, primarily from non-black people. Questions like "Do you tan?", "How do you get your hair like that?", and "What’s wrong with saying someone black is articulate?"
I was worried that this project would only scratch the surface of what it meant to be black in this country, rather than really examining the challenges and triumphs that we face everyday. How do you fully explain the great success of the black middle class in the last 40 years, but at the same time explore the tremendous growth of the black male prison population and dozens of other topics in only four hours?
The process wasn’t an easy one, but in addition to its challenges it presented great opportunities. It was a chance to have honest conversations with a wide range of people about how race is lived in this country, to examine how far the black community has come in the four decades since Dr. King’s assassination, and to paint a fuller, more realistic picture of a group of people who are often underreported in the media.
The most difficult part of the 18-month long process was realizing that there were no answers and the experiences of African-Americans are as varied as the people themselves. But ultimately, the documentary was never about providing answers. It was about asking the questions, providing a thoughtful and nuanced look at the issues, and hopefully starting a conversation that is long overdue in this country.
We knew we couldn’t cover every issue and some people will watch the four hours and see glaring omissions. But my hope is that this will be the beginning of a long and productive dialogue and there will be more.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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