July 24th, 2008
07:32 AM ET

Wasting energy on racism

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.

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Editor's note: Lou Gossett Jr. has focused recently on 'an all-out conscientious offensive against racism.' Lou says "Violence is a war, and the energy we exert on war, I would like to pray that energy gets reverted back to a communal effort to save the planet.'"He shares his thoughts here:

Lou Gossett Jr.

The planet is dying or dramatically changing. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis are taking their toll on humanity. We need to drop everything and pay attention to the planet. This should be our number one agenda – not issues like racism or our ethnic differences. It's like we are all in a plane at 30 thousand feet plummeting to the ground, and the people inside are fighting over who will be in first class.

Perhaps we need to go back to where we started. The most important commodity on the planet is not oil, or military might or other riches; on the contrary our single most important commodity is our children.

What we plant in them is how the future will go. So it becomes important that we only plant the positive and not the negative. Racism is the negative. One thing that I tell all children is to repeat this affirmation three times: "No such thing is impossible."

The family institution and our neighborhood units no longer seem to exist. We need to find a way to return to that ... in a place not unlike a synagogue or a temple or a church. We need a place where our children learn to respect themselves, the opposite sex, their elders, their spirituality, and their physical fitness.

A large percentage of them would come out ladies and gentlemen. Much more prepared to learn in school and be responsible for their communities.

If everybody wants things to get better, this might be a good idea.

Filed under: Black in America • Lou Gossett Jr.
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. armond

    i get so sick of these arrogant white people that want to disregard what blacks still go thru but say theyre not racist. its funny how they always go to the "jews have had it hard since christ "but the issue is black people. none of u tell the jews to get over the halocaust but we should just get over everything. the jews dont care about what people think and neither should we. if thats your argument its a weak one because that would mean the jews have had 1000s of years to overcome and we had the civil rights movement only 40 years ago to undo 100s years of oppression including today. this goes to show that black life is still devalued in this so called 'POST RACIAL" society. this was a disaster by cnn. they failed to show us unapologetic black folk who dont care what white or house negro blacks say. what about the black nationalists who believe in black empowerment and contribute to building up our communities. there are several blacks who are dedicated to the black family and dont buy into the propaganda spewed on tv. barack aint changin ish but his stance on issues that can get him elected. u think he'll do for blacks, please get real. he cowtowed for aipac, the hispanic community and evreyone else but told blacks on fathers day what theyre not doing. why didnt he make a speech to honor the black men that r there. more black men take care of business than those who dont and that was a time to point that out as a BLACK NOMINEE. what good is he if he doesnt show respect for those who do the right thing. oh yeah i forgot he has to impress white folks to win. black people stop giving your vote away for free and make this man answer to our needs. do you think the latinos would allow him to say that or speak out against illegal immigration in their church? hell no!!

    July 25, 2008 at 2:38 am |
  2. lily_white

    p.s.s. There have been plenty of times I have walked into a store and followed around and given dirty looks for shopping in a store that was "upscale" even though I am an educated with a good paying job. Does that mean that I "looked out of place"???

    July 25, 2008 at 2:38 am |
  3. Connie

    I'm sorry for the things that black individuals have and must go through directly related to race. However, what if you wrote a segment titled "White in America" or "Islamic in America"?

    July 25, 2008 at 1:36 am |
  4. Kathy

    What about doing a version of "white in America" go into those trailer parks, little broken down towns and farms, black America might think there is nothing to complain about after they see this. What about forgiveness? Black America goes to church and ask God to forgive them for present situations, but they have enslaved themselves for over 200 years with unforgiveness for people they never met, who enslaved the blacks back then.
    It is time to set yourself free, and stop the excuses, slavery is still going on around the world, prosecution and racism is all over the world, it is not a black in America thing, it is hatred dressed up in many forms. But unaccountability for self is also a form of hatred, pointing fingers at others, blaming others instead of looking at yourself and fixing that. is a form of hatred. God has no color, neither does hate.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:56 am |
  5. William G.

    Let the truth be told, school will not teach it, parents will not speak it, preachers fear preaching it, so let the truth be told.Thanks CNN so such a wonderful piece of work done on behalf of the Black family and community. Wake up America, come out of the dream of yesterday and see the hope of tomorrow before its to late. CHANGE ....Let the truth be told.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  6. Dave

    It is wasted energy. Thousands in Darfur are being murdered. Billions in China live as slaves of their government. A Cuban dictator holds his people hostage and a madman threatens the nuclear extinction of the Jewish peopel in Israel. Add famine, AIDs, and poverty to the list and you'll see that while there is racism in America still, our current problems don't even rank in the top 10 worst travesties of our generation. The bottom line is that pretty much EVERYONE in America still has a better opportunity than 95% of the rest of the planet. We need to stop blaming our parents, discrimination, reverse discrimination, poor role models, and so on for our perceieved problems. There is no shortage of positive role models of every skin color in America. So, point your kids towards one of them, no matter what your color is and start focusing on the less fortunate in this world. It is ok to discuss racism and continue to make progress, but it cannot be allowed to consume our entire perspective on life when there is so much more to be accomplished in our short lives.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:32 am |
  7. Kim

    The environment is a very serious issue. But those who are suffering the affects of racism on a daily basis, will suffer more of its affects when our natural resources are further depleted. Because those scarce resources will go to the "haves", and the "have nots" will suffer greater disenfranchisment.

    July 25, 2008 at 12:31 am |
  8. Cliff

    From what I have been reading it seems like the biggest issue is racial profiling.

    If we can find a solution to this problem, then we probably eliminate the biggest grudge of our day.

    I am always amazed that humans continue to focus so much attention on an natural adaptation to varying environmental conditions across the globe. This is what people call "race" – natural adaptations. Crazy

    July 25, 2008 at 12:10 am |
  9. Dorene

    Being Black in America? Has hinder me in so many ways, there were so many comments that was discussed in this segment that right now is effecting me. From being denied a job that I have applied for eight times, and three of those eight people whom my employer saids that they were more qualified came to me and asked me how to do something pretaining to their job. I will stay on my job, I will continue to appling for that job position, this is not just about me it is about stomping racism out of our public school system. If our children, and grandchildren do not see black teachers teaching, in their mind it will tell them we can not do this job. ABC, CBS, NBC you need to step up and spend your money on more platforms like this,look at your shows how may black decent shows do you have? compare it to how many minorities you have cleaning your bathroom.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  10. H Harrison

    I am tired of hearing how the black are victims of racism. I lived in North Carolina for 3 years and taught at an all black high school in Greensboro. I have never felt racism as intently as I did there. I overheard a black teacher telling his students that white people are building prisons black people in them and that gun control is about taking weapons from black people so that can accomplish that goal. Being from Arizona I was stunned and being white: “How is it I have never heard about this plan”. What is this all about? I was also treated very badly while there – clearly in a resist manner. Can we please stop this? My grandparents did not own slaves, even thought the students told they were sure of this. What are we teaching...and why is this still going on? The door of racism swings both ways!

    July 24, 2008 at 11:24 pm |
  11. C.S

    Ive been watching this series black in america and you would think that blacks are the only ones with financial problems, and i think that it portrays the right message that blacks should listen to. Ive always believed that alot of black problems are there own doing, it was easy to blame whites for everything. I think that there are some racist tensions in white people but not as much as you think. I believe that the last two generations and specifically the newest (my generation) are colorblind, of course there are exceptions but i believe this is a small number. Think about this relation in how the media blows up a story when a black person commits a crime to when a white person does something to a black person. perception is that blacks are criminals and whites are racist. Is good to see CNN producings positive shows instead of the usual.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  12. CKB

    Aww, for God sakes, let's get over this poor black oppression. The Jews have been condemned since the time of Christ, and they have certainly risen well above their afflictions. Playing the race card has become nothing more than a matter of convenience to continue a life of laziness and sloth at the expense of the working public. It's time to stand up and take ownership, in that there will be a tremendous amount of respect.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  13. Jan

    Because PAUL the playing field is not balance, it never was and probably never will be! The government caters to the immigrants by turning the other cheek while they sneak over here to work for below minimum wage in most cases. It's all gravy when everyone is making a huge profit off cheap labor, this is why half of the cable channels are Spanish speaking and Americans have to push 1 for English. We've been over here since the middle passage and I can't recall anyone EVER catering to us for anything. The stereotype that bugs me the most is the labeling that we are "LAZY", my "hard working” ancestors help to build this unjust country. In my opinion all the media has done is to help perpetuate these negative stereotypes by only showing the very small percentage of us who are not holding up our end of the bargain. I agree that the environment is important but i also disagree that we should stop discussing our issues with racism in this country. I don't need the white man to apologize to me for slavery, I wasn't here and neither were they; however, I do believe that whites needs to stop acting like there's nothing wrong with this country when it is.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  14. cheech

    being black in america does have some drawbacks. also has a lot of perks. y'all got BET, miss black america, the untied negro college fund and a host of other "black" only stuff. not to mention affirmative action. whitey would never get away with miss white america. or WET. we even.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:53 pm |
  15. Marsha

    Racism...I hate the word with a passion and have been in denial that it exists like in the past. Maybe I was naive in my youth or just didn't take heed to remarks I may have heard as a child. Never have I considered myself to be a racist, it hurts me terribly when I see anyone mistreated, black, white, yellow, brown. I am a caucasion. People, if you don't have what you want in this day and age, you have no one to blame except yourself...I know I blame myself for not doing more in life, not my parents, grandparents. Blacks and whites both are mistreated by many narrow minded people, ignorant people as I call them. I admire a man like Lou Gossett, in fact, he's always been a hero of mine, listen to him, regardless of your origin, stop with the petty issues. Yes, we all need to know our heritage, but, if you think about it, we can and should do as much as possible to make this a better world.
    Children learn what they hear....
    Children learn what they see...
    With that said, if we continute with all the talk of racism, our younger generation will be racist.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
  16. Sunny

    Although I do understand Mr. Gossett's concern and position on focusing on the preservation of the planet, as I do share those same concerns and agree that as a species, we do need to become more cohesive and involved in preserving the planet and reuniting as a species.

    HOWEVER, and this is a strong however, I think it is totally unfair and completely inappropriate and irresponsible to suggest that we not focus on or address issues of racism that plague our society without considering pertinent aspects of racism!

    As a young Black woman, with multiple graduate degrees from one of the country's top ivy league university's, I know that because of racism and sexism and ageism, are BLATANTLY PREVALENT in our society. I have had guns drawn on me by state police, have been racially insulted at one of the most "diverse" universities in the world, and have even been told I am too young to do a job effectively! I studied the blue prints, followed all the rules, and still, face the same challenges as many of the people chronicled in this documentary, all because of the color of my skin!

    But I am resilient and still keep going, because I learned a long time that my uniform (skin) never comes off and I will always have to put forth 200% more than my majority counterparts because I'm Black and because I'm a woman!

    So for Mr. Gossett to dismiss racism as unimportant in the wake of the current state of the environment/ planet and human relations is ridiculous!

    People in our society are not cohesive and can't be for the benefit of mankind because they are too concerned with acknowledging their differences and not their similarities... as a result of embedded racist attitudes.

    July 24, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  17. Paul Wolborsky

    Though I find Lou's point very appealing, racism is an unavoidable reality that we must deal with and deal with now. The environmental dangers are real, and it's likely that we've passed some thresholds already.

    But how can we teach our children to love the planet if they cannot learn to love themselves and live with each other? And how meaningful can the future of this planet be to people who are rotting in prison, desperately trying to survive while going through a daily gauntlet of injury and insult, fearing the night because of gang violence, fearing their brothers will die before they're 18 and sisters will be machine-gunned in their beds, and that there is no future worth having because nobody cares about you because of the color of your skin, or that you have to listen to your father tell you what to do in case the police pull you over so you won't get shot. It's awful damned difficult to care about the planet's future when you have no future.

    Fact is, our planet is in trouble, but we still have to deal with our own troubles too. It's all part of the total package. Let's bring justice to people who have been denied that justice, and then we can better deliver justice to our planet.

    July 24, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  18. Reg

    I disagree. The planet doesn't mean as much if I am shot dead driving while black or can't get a car because I can't get a job. Green is not at the top of my priority list when I as a educated black man without a criminal record is constantly reminded of just how black and unwanted I am in America.

    You might have "arrived" Lou so you can just forget about it. However the rest of us do not have the resources nor the luxury to devote our time to higher pursuits. We would love to do that if this darn racism thing wasn't in the way.

    July 24, 2008 at 9:50 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    Finally someone is reminding us about the environment. If we don't pay deep attention to the environment quickly racism will not matter because we will all be too busy trying to adapt to weather extremes, much higher food costs, water scarcity, etc. Let's all work as Americans on solving the environment crisis and perhaps in working together we might just alleviate some of the racism at the same time.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 24, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  20. Chris

    I do agree with Lou to a certain extent.. I feel however that not having dialogue about racism is not good for our children because it exists. I hear experts say that as a parent it is my responsibility to prepare my child, well unfortunately teaching them about racism is preparing them so they know how to react when it rears its head in their lives. So how does LGJ suggest that we avoid this?

    July 24, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  21. Chris

    That's just it Paul, why can't a low income English speaking person do well? Not because of their socioeconomic status, but becaus eof what they look like. That is the bottom line, it's not what you know, who you know, it's what you look like.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  22. damian

    Waisting energy on racism?

    How about waisting energy talking about it...

    July 24, 2008 at 11:48 am |
  23. Paul

    I am not saying there is no racism in US. There is lot of it and I can see it coming from a different country. People are segregated by their race. Even when they have lunch at work place you can see black people sit together Asians sit together and whites sit together. There is also a big movement against segregation, you see younger people mingle with other race much more easily than older people. One thing I still don't get is, if an immigrant can come to US at the age of 40 or 50 and make fortune by working hard. Why lower income people who know to speak English don't do that well.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:12 am |
  24. Valerie

    As an African American woman, I have mixed feelings about the documentary, Black In America. I attempted to watch it last night with my son and it was so depressing that neither he nor I could stomach it. For it was if EVERY negative statistic that could be found about black folks were on display. My twelve years old son didn't know that he was expected to fail in society until he watched that show.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  25. Ilhana, Bosnia

    Bravo! Environment is getting overlooked every time! I love the metaphore of the plane, as it is exactly so! I firmly support this as no.1 agenda, all the "passengers" here need to support it as well!

    July 24, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  26. Sandra, Wadley Ga

    I agree with you Mr. Gossett. If we all made a conscious effort to make this world a better place to live, then harmony within our society will exist. We have become a Babylonian society; bigger is not better; excessive living has endangered future generations. Our children are our future and the future of this great nation, so let us stop the bickering and really start living as role models for them.

    July 24, 2008 at 9:13 am |
  27. Cindy

    I totally agree with Lou. We need to install from a very young age into our children that they are great and beautiful and can do anything that their heart desires. That they are the only ones that can make themselves happy and it doesn't matter what anyone else may say or do to try and bring you down. That they are the captain of their own ship and can take it where ever they please. That is the only way we will ever make this world a better place to live.


    July 24, 2008 at 8:20 am |