August 9th, 2008
06:40 PM ET

Being Black in America

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.

We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/03/art.martinlutherkingiiib.jpg width=292 height=320]

Martin Luther King, III

There is an important conversation taking place across the nation regarding being Black in America. It may be characterized by three questions Blacks seem to be asking: From where have we come? Where are we now? And, where do we go from here? CNN’s “Black in America“ documentary is a fresh and compelling entry, focusing more on the second question than on the others. One very noticeable thing about the documentary is that it joins a new cast of characters, from academicians to journalists, entertainers to everyday citizens, who are not the faces and voices traditionally associated with the subject.

This crew, colorful and articulate, is empowered by 24/7 cable news and the unfettered reach of the Internet. They are a new generation of thinkers and doers, impatient with the status quo, who feel “the fierce urgency of now.” They are telling of a tectonic change in the plates that undergird our long-held understandings of being Black in America. And, they are challenged by the opportunities most ardently symbolized in the remarkable story unfolding in this year’s presidential election.

But, not so new is the “now-not yet” tension one feels observing being Black in America today. During the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, my father wrote eloquently of a similar anxiety in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. Then the tension was between African Americans’ “now”, who wanted speedy redress to segregation, and many whites’ “not yet”, particularly, among the clergy, who protested the Movement’s demands for immediate remedies as untimely.

In today’s tension, the “now” recognizes a plethora of possibilities for achieving the American Dream. It beckons those adequately prepared to claim them. But the “not yet” realizes the obstacles that render the possibilities beyond the reach of those deprived. In the mid-twentieth century, that deprivation was largely made possible legally. At the beginning of this century, the deprivation is structural.

Perhaps even more interesting is that the tension then was principally between black and white communities. Today, it is also significantly within their communities, both black and white. There is vigorous and healthy debate in each group regarding the causes and effects of high unemployment and incarceration on the one hand and low test scores and two-parent households on the other. The conversation often heats up when the subject turns to who’s responsible.

While it can be helpful to isolate the issues of being Black in America, we must be careful not to stigmatize the group. The challenges and opportunities that African Americans face are the same ones available to and confronting Americans from all walks of life, notwithstanding the disproportionate gatherings of Blacks on the high end of the challenges and the low end of opportunities, which makes their chances as a group less likely to realize the American Dream.

That brings us full circle on the current conversation regarding Blacks in America. Among the many questions, too many to cover in this writing, is whether their circumstances are solely the result of historical causes imposed by outside forces. Are other, contemporary, sources the root cause of the obstacles? What responsibility do African Americans have, individually and collectively, to remedy the problems they confront? Does the broader community have any responsibility? Stated more simply, are the good and bad things that happen to African Americans, individually and as a group, of their own making and, therefore, their sole responsibility? These are important questions that must be answered.

In that same letter to the clergy of Birmingham, my father was reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr's observation that groups are more immoral than individuals. If that is so, are they also more irresponsible and, inversely, responsible? There seems to me to be a connection between immorality and irresponsibility/morality and responsibility. This was a point not only implied in the Birmingham letter, but also throughout my father’s sermons and writings. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” The saying is true: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In our nation, if one link of our community is fragile, we all have a responsibility to help shore it up; if, we are going to truly be e pluribus unum, the United States of America.

Over the coming months, a gathering of organizations along with Realizing the Dream, Inc., a new nonprofit I founded, will continue this conversation in a series of summits and related activities. Our website is www.realizingthedream.org. I hope you will join us as we seek to answer these questions and work together to realize the dream.

soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. Steve in Albany, New York

    MLK III should tell Barack Obama that. While he is playing good "house negro" in Europe, millions of Minority Americans are under attack by a sorry U.S. Congress, illegal aliens and their lobbyist. For example Jamiel Shaw was murder in L.A. County California by an illegal alien. CriminalSearch.com publishes the names of every Hispanic and African American citizen convicted of a crime in America. Type Pedro Espinoza's name into their search bar he is not listed. Espinoza has not been convicted of murdering Jamiel Shaw yet, but he has been convicted and jailed prior for violating U.S. Immigration Law. Are illegal aliens in America criminals? I am just happy that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 2nd Amendment, because I think in the near future it is going to be used. MLK III needs to tell Obama to come clean about his VIP loan and his connection to the failing Fannie Mae. It is sad when Bill Clinton has advocated more for African Americans then Obama. I guess we are ready for a "House Negro" President, then maybe some of us in the field can get a chance.

    July 26, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  2. Linda

    When will America just be America?  Not Black America not White America ,just America.  For example Obama is just as much a White man as he is a Black man, but the media refer to his as a Black man .  What happen to the DNA that his Mother contributed to his?  Don't get me wrong I am very proud of Obama .  Why can't he just be a very intelligent American Man?  If a person Black or White , mistreat or judge a person for the color of their skin,  he or she may need to check their family tree, you could be mistreating your cousin.

    July 26, 2008 at 6:41 pm |
  3. Faisal

    Dr.King earned his PhD at very early age, a man who was devoted to his wife and kids,a man who persevered alot and sacrificed a lot to get education,and for social justice. Is it social justice to continue having kids out of wedlock and complain about the society, I am wondering that few want to sacrifice for their community by searching education,despising rap music and going to the length to achieve education. Any one who read the bio of Dubois and past African Americans who taught themselves to read would not be shunning education.
    We have some things we need to work on, I know many immigrants who came here with 50 dollars and they successful,they had to overcome english and settling in this country.

    Please stop the nonsense about we are being discriminated and fold our sleeves to work. I am a provider and the only time I see gunshot,stabbing wounds is a balck patient,shot/stabbed fed crack by onother balck.


    July 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  4. Lordikim

    If America were a house then blacks would merely be renting a room. We will never be the head of household in America. Even if Barrack won the election we would still be renting rooms. He would still have to follow the laws of the land set by Whites who came before him. Blacks need to stop trying to live the American dream and focus on living the Black dream. For example: If my house burned down or I was forced from my home and I had to move into a whiteman's house with my family there are rules that were there before my family and I got there that still needs to be abided by. There will be additional rules added because I am now there. Yet, even though I am in that whiteman's house it is not his duty to raise my children and I don't have to allow my children to do what he allows his to do. I have to set my rules within his rules for my children. Blacks need to establish a set of rules for blacks to live by while living under the whiteman's roof. I care more about the solution than the problem. The solution is communication and control. We must effectively communicate with each other and take control of our family.

    July 26, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  5. JoAnne Gibson

    At 68 years old from Detrout, Michigan I saw noneof the people I knew or .know/I sawno union leadersfromthe AFL/CIO. people who made the life of the workingclass so affleuent they are now called middle class.. These were black men and women you don't acknowledge.
    I sisn;t see the barbers, beauticians secretaries ,usually in an intact family, but not living in a gated enclave.
    The myriad black government workers (that's where we got "good "jobs,) were not there,,,,did you not know they exist? Most have intact families,
    What of the black cubans,etc,?
    Your bias showed,and proved that even CNN can't "see" black america without drugs,prisons and the : debauchy" your rap star told,

    Shame on you.

    JoAnne Gibson

    July 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  6. Renee

    I found the series interesting and a good starting point in dealing with several issues. No one addressed the fact many unmarried fathers are involved in their children's lives or single father's raising children. And, yes mothers can place obstacles in father's paths as they attempt to interact with their children.

    In relation to Brandon, he looks like someone who was out of his element and didn't know exactly what to do, so perhaps with some guidance, he has the potential to be active in his child's life. Finally, we should remember that the vast majority of blacks as a group are working hard everyday, raising their children and doing the best we can, like every other American. To the commentator who stated that we 'shame' Brandon into stepping up to the plate. I would disagree with that, because Brandon needs to realize, why its important to be in his daughter's life and the community has to step up to the plate and help him be a good parent. And, that's from my nursing background and my legal background as an attorney who is also Black in middle America.

    July 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  7. Tammy

    It's true about black women on welfare without the black man in the home. also if you would have went a little deeper, you would have found out that most all blacks have white blood in them, because the white slave master had there way with the black women slaves. That's why there is light complexion blacks in every famliy. So that one family was just one family out of many, many, more.

    July 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  8. charley

    way to go

    July 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  9. Saadia, Bay Area

    Congratulations to Soledad for one of the most thoughtful and articulate series on this important topic and to the AC Team for their coverage. As a boomer who grew up with the many movements that continue to inform this country today ... civil rights, feminist, equal opportunity ... so much of the series and many of the articles and blogs continue to resonate with me.

    As a NYC-born Puerto Rican, who has a white exterior and was married to a black man that produced a male child, I have grown up with racial bias and discrimination. I was amazed early on as a young girl how many in my own family were willing to accept a message of low expectations. I became labeled the rebel from within, which only served to fuel my passions and motivate me towards a different experience. I witnessed as my husband struggled with his heritage and attempted to pass for Hispanic. I witnessed his humiliation at being pulled over by a State Trooper while we were driving through New England for no other reason than he was driving a car late at night with a "white' woman. Ironically, my husband was a NYC Highway Patrol police officer with all the required identification. That Trooper searched him and our vehicle, and detained us for 2 hours until my husband's "status" was confirmed. Ultimately our marriage did not survive his infidelities, which resulted in other children with an absent father. I wonder if he would have been a different man had he had strong male or female role models to guide his path and help set him straight. Unfortunately, he became one of the absent father statistics Obama has recently highlighted.

    I have encouraged my son to embrace his inclusive heritage – Black and Puerto Rican. SInce high school he resisted those White, Black and Hispanic categories and after an open conversation with me settled on Afro-Caribbean to embrace both sides of his racial equation. Racial bias flows in all directions. In high school he asked my support to participate in the Afro Am Student Union. I attended the first meeting, as was requested, to encourage a meet-and-greet among the students and parents. I was quickly informed that we had "obviously" entered the wrong meeting room. A few jaws dropped as I thanked the observers for their concern, announced that my skin was white, my heritage was Puerto Rican, that despite my son's light skin he was biracial, his father was black and I was present to support my son as he embraced all elements of his heritage. Not another word was said.

    Like DL Hughley, I too am realistic that our society has still a way to go to close the racial divide and also discussed with my son what his behavior should be if he were ever pulled over by police. My experience made it clear that any adolescent or man of color was a potential target – for cause or for no cause. This instruction proved invaluable, as he was pulled over for speeding late one night soon after being licensed and had to deal with police verbal abuse before being released. He came home shaken and it was very clear that every attempt has been made to provoke him to argue or fight with the police officer. He thanked me for teaching him how to manage such a situation and maintain his cool and composure no matter what the police officer said to him.

    As an educated and professional woman, I continue to reinforce the values of personal responsibility, choice, family, social justice and education in my son. He has completed a key milestone by graduating from college and holds close to the vest his responsibility to live a life that demonstrates personal integrity and strength. He does not aspire to become his father,

    July 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm |
  10. Kisanga

    When people say "being black in America" do they mean being african-american in America? Or black human in general? Certainly the african blacks who live in America have a far different experience than what CNN is talking about. Black africans face greater discrimation from their african-american sisters and brothers than from any other race or ethnicity or group. I hope the next documentary will talk about how african-americans relate to black africans here in the US and in Africa. Mandela is not the only black african living in Africa. How about those less known?

    July 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
  11. Marilyn Miller

    Thank you CNN for raising the issue. As I watched this morning, I had to disagree with the comment that Whites must only "think" positively about Blacks to improve the situation. First of all, many Whites do not see their racism. I read that in the blogs. Many do not understand that the first thoughts are those socialized by a racist system that promotes the stereotypes that keep people who are African American from achieving full equality in our society. As a high school teacher, I examine every day, often many times a day, the thoughts that rise in my mind when I see a student of color. I then choose to remember what I have been taught to think and realize that I can then imagine and promote a different idea. I talk to my students about racism and its insidious grip. I tell my students of color that it is not their fault that life is tougher for them. I encourage them to learn, stay in school, go to college, but on our faculty, there are only two teachers of color and the number of students of color is almost 50 %. What does that say about real opportunity and equal opportunity.
    I wanted to see more of the women's perspective. It seems we are still very much sexist in our portrayal. Where is Black Feminist thought in this. I wanted to see in interview with Patricia Hill-Collins. We need to hear more voices of women, especially women of color. Powerful women of color who understand racism instead of refusing to talk about it.
    Thanks so much for exposing our weaknesses and our strengths on this issue.

    July 26, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  12. Aninda

    Being "brown" ( indian, as from India) in North America and having grown up in West Africa (20+ years in Nigeria), i have always wondered at the reason why there is such a stark contrast between the meaning of Racism in North America Vs. in Africa.

    In my opinion the answer lies in the clear difference between "racism" (dislike towards people of color) and "racial bias" (perceiving people of color in a particular way). Although i believe that there is only a small pocket of americans who are truly "racist", many of them are "racially biased" due to the portrayal of Blacks in the american media, music and sports industry. After all, this generation has grown up seeing rap/hip-hop videos and movies, where being black is potrayed as flashy cars, thugs and treating women as 'Ho's" or seeing blacks as high profile NBA and NFL atheletes. After all, how often does the media potray blacks as CEOs, Doctors, Nasa scientists etc. ? Pereception is a strong tool and this often leads to racial bias.

    If you make a trip to Africa, you quickly realize that this perception of 'being black' is so different. You dont see media showcasing young men with jeans hanging from their hips, reverese baseball caps or any bling bling. You see respectable young men, treating women with respect and driving ordinary cars, leading ordinary lives.

    So let us look at thr root cause of racial bias in america and let us not muddle this with racism.

    – "the brown guy who is probably a doctor or a 7/11 store owner"

    July 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  13. Trevor

    As a white male in the south, I'm SICK and TIRED of being generalized. Just because I live in the south and I'm not going to vote for Obama, does that make me a racist? I've ALWAYS voted Republican because of their view on abortions and the economy. But this year every pollster says that we wont vote for Obama because were backwards hicks who are racist. But the news doesn't care, because it is known race generates ratings, which all three news stations crave over actual journalism.

    July 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm |
  14. Regina Askia

    As an african immigrant I am grateful for the myriad of opportunities available to one in this country. Watching the Black in America documentary I cant help but sympathize with the dark effects of a lifetime of brainwashing and ill treatment not to mention the viscious cycle of ill effects of drug abuse and alcholism in the black populace . Even in the poverty across much of Africa (children holding classrooms under trees) there is not much of the burden of being made to feel sub human. So far I have been slowly absorbed into the statistics of a divorced single mother, head of household and believe me its rough but I am getting it together as much as possible to turn things around. So I wonder how much of this black situation is personal responsibility and how much is societal impact. The power to break free or remain bound lies squarely in the choices we make each day. Oh sure the minor irritations of racism and its many intriuges abound but as most immigrants believe today I sweep your store , tommorow I manage it and in future I own it . So get off your pity pots people and get it together.

    July 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm |
  15. Vivian


    I am upset that more focus was not placed on how Black Men & Women can close the economic gap and what role "Rich Black Americans" play in the process. I am also shocked that as of 2008, Black America still does not have a clue about the creation of jobs that will enable us to assist ourselves and compete in a global economy. I am an Entrepreneur who has been trying to startup a "National Computer Company" in the airline industry, I walk alone. I am in the Venture Capital/Angel Investment community seeking funding. I have dealt with Senators, Lobbying Firms, Venture Capital Firms, and Angel Investors throughout the U.S. It truly amazes me how many of us do not even know what Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, or Lobbyists do, especially when it comes to starting companies that will enable us to compete in a global economy. What amazes me even more is the disconnect with the wealthy Black Americans and how they would rather buy big houses, diamonds, or 10 cars rather than invest in a Black Company. They treat us like the plague (my own people). You know who will hire a Black Man with a "Felony" that is trying to turn his life around, ME – The Black Entrepreneur. But first, we need to create "Black" Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors and a "Central" place that Entrepreneurs can come to receive investment from these individuals. P.S. – Thanks CNN, Soledad O'Brien, and Anderson Cooper for your hard work. Now CNN, if you could just do a story on Business Investment in the Black Community, you will really be on to something.

    July 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm |
  16. hali

    O'Brien would get a "D-" on this report. Being "Black In America" is more than just the negitive side. O'Brien compiled a report for one year and all of her topics contained MORE OF THE SAME " the struggle:" How about talking about the Positive contributions that blacks HAVE made in America. This was a LAZY report and require NO investigation or reshearch on her part. In my opinion this was one of the worse programs I have ever seen on CNN. O'Brien owes the Black community an appology or a follow up series on the CONTRIBUTIONS THAT BLACKS HAVE MADE IN AMERICA. Her report was boring, long and insulting.

    July 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm |
  17. greg daniels

    I would like to bring to your attention how the mostly white police force is turning young black boys into criminals. My son was accused of taking a white kid's money in the bathroom at school. The white kid lied that there were witnesses, However, it tuned out that were no witnesses. My son told me that that group of white kids didn't like him at all.

    The case went to court and we had a public defender. We went through three judges because they were upset that I as the father, did not let my son make any statements to the police. The public defender did not want to bring race into the picture. She felt that the case was so weak and with no evidence, that the case wouldn't even go to trial.
    However, we went from Juvenile Cout to Superior Court and my 17 year old son was charged as an adult. He was found guilty by one judge and we could not have a jury trial. And my son received a strike on his record. We filed an appeal and the appeal lawyer couldn't understand what happened himself, The appellate court upheld the decision.

    I've learned since then from talking with other people that this is done all the time to black kids in juvenile court. They wind up with scars on their records, while white kids are dealt with in juvenile court and their record is clean at the age of 18.

    Months later the same judge was accused by his clerk of helping the D.A. in court and telling him what questions to ask and not to ask to help convict people in court.

    If there ever was a lynching, I felt we were being lynched that day in court.

    July 26, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  18. Bill

    As an American man of Western African, Native American and Western European descent – I acknowledge all of my heritage – I'm glad I finally decided to leave the US, for good, 10 years ago. It's been a breath of fresh air and a huge relief to not have deal with US style racism since my immigration to New Zealand.

    I can go to a high end department store here without having security follow me around like I was a thief (i.e. racial profiling). And, in every resturant, shop, store, club etc. I go to I'm mostly treated very well – if I'm not it has nothing to do with my skin colour; the person is just a jerk. I know this because I've had white friends complain about the same people to me.

    July 26, 2008 at 11:23 am |
  19. James Hansen

    STOP COMPLAINING and take responsibility for your own actions that is part of being an adult. Stop using your race as an excuse. See the other side of things if at all possible. Family values are what is the most important factor. As a white athlete I was discriminated against due to my position even though I was faster than almost everyone else and just better. A new black coach came my Senior year and I went from all-league 2nd team to the bench for a player who had never even played football before and had no clue. The scholarship offers I had just stopped but I moved on and did what I had to do. How many blacks were promoted over whites during affirmative action? Was that close to being fair? I grew up poor and without a father and turned out just fine. My mother taught me responsibility and never looked for hand outs and did not complain. We are american not african american or french american or whatever. Have most who claim to be african american even been to Africa? Black women need to stop hating on the black men. The reason they do not want to be with you is your poor controlling bossy attitude not your skin color. Racism has totally flipped around and Black's use the race card way too much. Remember the Duke Lacrosse case? That about says it all, cry loud enough and you will be heard even though you may be wrong. That being said GO OBAMA!

    July 26, 2008 at 8:44 am |
  20. Kerubo Ondieki Doreen

    I watched the episodes of the Black in America,every bit of it is true.Whites never abandon their culture for the blacks' culture.so what do we expect as blacks? We blacks have to be humiliated even from our own countries by the whites simply because we want to adopt the white culture so they think they are superior to Africans..Am sorry to say this but we Africans have carried ourselves in a way to give the whites a loophole to the kind of lives we are living.

    There is a famous saying in swahili which states that he who abandons his culture is a slave (mwacha mila ni mtumwa)....

    Africans lets respect our spouses for a good future of our kids they need a bright tomorrow!!!!

    July 26, 2008 at 5:11 am |
  21. Lance

    As usual, you Negroes are just as confused as I suspected. You still don't get it do you? Black people are DOOMED! You have been here for over 400 years and you haven't even figured out that you're not African Americans.

    The White Supremacists have done a marvelous job confusing each and every one of us. Got you calling your selves something that you're not. Will we ever wake up?...

    Soledad, didn't even scratch the surface of the real problems we face. She simply gave the White Supremacists an update on how well the Business of Racism (White Supremacy) is functioning.

    They can rest easy and continue building more Plantations (Prisons) to house all the non-white people in the known Universe.

    If Soledad wants to truly report on the problems with Black people let her look no further then the mirror. She's just as confused as the people she interviewed.

    I'm going to leave you Negroes with some unsolicited information. All White people that are able to be a racist, is a racist suspect. That excludes babies and people that have either lost their mental faculties or never possessed adequate mental capacity to begin with.

    Just because White people agree with you on certain issues regarding race, does not mean they are not a racist (White Supremacist) It just means they agree with you regarding that particular issue.

    Please wake up!

    July 26, 2008 at 4:08 am |
  22. Anika Eden Chant

    Thank you for being bold enough CNN and AC360 to enlighten America on this strong fabric of the quilt in our culture as you air Black In America. I would really like to see, Black America, think "HUSBAND" and "WIFE" and renounce the terms "baby daddy" and "baby momma". HUSBAND / WIFE means family, unity, normalcy, responsibility and wholeness. "Baby momma" and “baby daddy” means disconnect, disjointed, irresponsible, aloof, carelessness, thoughtless sex, child-bearing and not parenting. Why do SOME to Most Black American men fear being a HUSBAND but can fathom being a “baby daddy”? This fear is so much the reason why the Black American culture is in despair. Animals tend to mate without facing each other and leave litters of their reproduction to chance. I would like to see the mentality of the sexuality of Black America to rise above animal instincts to that of intelligence and forethought instead of foreplay. The pattern of family has been torn and never mended, so we adopt the terms “baby daddy/momma” to palate the dysfunction that keeps crippling the Black culture. Black America needs the complete family unit to be an even healthier contributor to society: husband, wife then children. Black in America. Nice touch. Thank you.

    July 26, 2008 at 3:23 am |
  23. lynne

    The documentatry, Black In America was very good and educational. However, I feel that it was way too short. There should have been a discussion about what was shown and how it iwas shown, plus a little more.

    To me, it appeared that all of the 'successes' were by African-Americans that were light skinned, while the "screw ups" appeared to be those of a darker hue. That wasn't far. The income level went from poor to millionaires with their own businesses. Where were the $50,000 a year families?

    As a pecan brown-skin gal whose great-grandmother was dark-skinned, her grandmother light-skinned and her mother dark-skinned, I know how it feels to be treated less than (and still do) because of not looking a certain way. I have felt the sting of being treated like trash by light skinned blacks and shunned by those with means. It is not a pleasant feeling.

    I wish we all could look pass the racial issues that we have, but I'm not that optimistic. Because for the people that this was intended, I've noticed that it didn't help them understand.

    But please note that Sabrina in Los Angeles is right. "Trash is in all races/cultures/creeds and we should seek to hang out with those that are good not bad."

    The problem with this is that the folk that get the help most often are the 'trash' while the decent folk are left behind to struggle. Why? Because most often we don't have the straight hair, light eyes and light skin.

    People that are HR/Personnel Directors that do the hiring in the various companies that read this, remember it is the substance that matters. Not the package. The so-called unattractive people need a job, too.

    July 26, 2008 at 3:09 am |
  24. Kathleen

    Winston Churchill referred to us as the American race. That's what we should be. Our own race made up of people from every culture, every ethnic group, every religion.

    July 26, 2008 at 3:00 am |
  25. Trice

    I found the program Black in America to be quite informative. I grew up middle class in Northern California. I have family and friends of all racial backgrounds. I have been in integrated environments my entire life. Neigborhoods, school, work, church, etc. It has been a way of life. My parents provided me a wonderful life. They provided my siblings a wonderful life. I grew up with a stable, intact family, involved parents who knew what was going on with my school situtation on a daily basis. Family vacations every summer, financial resources to make sure that the only question regarding college was what college I wanted to go to. I know plenty of Black people that grew up the same way I did.

    I am a Black women who has a loving, beautiful, and amazing relationship with a Black man who grew up like me. I want to see more of my story. I saw a mere glimpse of it on the program. I commend the attempt to balance the success with the struggle, but there was truly a leaning towards the struggle and dispair. I feel that is what is always shown, written about, talked about, popularized in popular culture. My perpspective of the Black experience in America is largely ignored, and invisable. I have lived, and and am living a life of success, opportunity, emotional, and physical health, true diversity, and just genuine happiness. I want to see much much more of my story.

    July 26, 2008 at 2:50 am |
  26. Osadolor Aiwerioghene

    I have followed your work on this very important project religiously,and i must commend your effort for a job well done.There are a couple of issues that have not been addresed in this program,which relates to segregation within the black communities in America.There is a very serious divide amongst African Americans and African immigrants who have come to regard America as home.There is so much animosity between these two groups,where African Americans tell other Black Africans to go back from the jungles they come from.This is a recurent theme at the job place,on the streets,stores and all over.This is a very serious issue that needs to be addresed.This is creating very uneasy tensions in our communities,from personal experiences.I wil very much like for this issue to be addresed,in other for us to live and grow in harmony.This will help in healing our wounds and help us share ideas in family building and most importantly,a just and humane black society in America which helps growth in values and education.

    July 26, 2008 at 2:40 am |
  27. Dee Davis - Illinois

    On the subject "Missing Fathers", where are the Fathers I kept waiting for someone to mention how the "System" is designed? The "System" is designed to keep the male out of the house! If a women has a child she can get help from the government if the man is NOT around. It is more beneficial to the woman – link card, subsidised housing, medical ibenefits.

    In order to find a solution, you must go back to the origin of the problem. The system needs to be revamped. Some incentives or assistance should be given to the FAMILY not just to single moms!

    July 26, 2008 at 2:03 am |
  28. Harriet Knight-Everette - Beloit, WI

    How low down are europeans willing to go... to keep control of this country...I believe in the inner most parts of my being that Obama has been duped into making "a mistake"...it is quite obvious that europeans are laying in wait for something to use against him...he will never be accepted as a viable candiate BECAUSE he is black...it's enough to make you give up so called citizenship!!!

    July 26, 2008 at 1:10 am |
  29. Louis A Chitty, III

    The Black in America Series is fairly informative (especially for whites) and is long overdue - but it is a HIGHLY watered-down version of the truth, revealing mostly only what white America is more comfortable viewing. The series steps all over itself and does not present a compelling picture of the all-encompassing nature of racism, discrimination, hatred nor of the physical, spiritual and PSYCHOLOGICAL violence that the black community has endured for generations - nor does it show a clear link between this omnipresent oppression and how it has FORCED many blacks into their current social, educational, economic, political and familial and MENTAL state. It leaves too much to individual interpretation and imagination because it tries to cover too much from too many different perspectives. Blacks can connect-the-dots with their eyes closed, but I'm not so sure whites can - or will - based on this series' lack of passion.

    Showing Michael Eric Dyson (whom I truly respect) and his death-row brother was contrastive, but not especially revealing, except for some of Dr. Dyson's comments, as was also the case of Hugly and his son. Such cases are rife in black America. These depictions might easily be saying (to white viewers): "See they came from the same family, and one made it - it was all about choice," but being black in America is about a dearth of choices - and that is one point that the series fails to drive home.

    There was barely any mention of 300 years of slavery except en passant, even though this is the fundamental basis for today's treatment of American blacks - and we hear almost nothing from whites about anything significant. We hear that blacks score lower than any group, even in undeveloped countries. The fact is that black people from ANYWHERE in the world fare better in America, (on the whole) than native-born black Americans. But this isn't discussed, either.

    If CNN just wanted to get something out that is not necessarily compelling and that doesn't offend whites, they have done a masterful job. I could have created a more compelling work and I have no particular expertise in this area. Only because it's a lot better than nothing, I would give it a grade of C+.

    July 26, 2008 at 1:04 am |
  30. august

    I'm white in NJ and have a couple of simple questions; How many "Blacks in America" have no roots in slavery in this country and where do they fit in . Are they able to jump on the band wagon or how do we separate them for the statistics and government programs?
    Now since I'm the son of immigrants where does my family fit in this equation? I'm first generation: are we viewed as being responsible for situations that black people face or faced?

    July 25, 2008 at 11:33 pm |

    ROY EDWARDS, I felt that black in america, was a good step on getting folks talking, but i do feel that black fathers were shown in a negative manner, since i deal with men of all colors, from all over the world. with the same exact problem as yours, dont give up on your children if you pay support,you have rights, the department of child support services, i dont what state your in but, ask the courts for a visitation order. you also may want to contact- national coalition of free men, attorney marc angelucci

    July 25, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  32. Lamont Austin

    I had to address sean from ohio

    I really dont think MLK would be ashamed at all, he's a smart man and i think he would understand that to get elected to president in america as a blackman you couldnt be a black activist, you have to be active for all people and thats what Obama is about.

    I dont think you all are getting the problem. The problem is that the white people that started this country subjected us to aspects they didnt even fully understand the outcome of. Aspects like punishing or killing black people if they tried to read a book, blaming black people for crimes they didnt commit (thatll make anyone disregard police a laws), one of the worst thing I've read about in slave times was concearning slave owners who would gather all other female slaves pregnant and non-pregnant around while one pregnant female was giving birth, at the moment the baby was born the slave owner would take the baby and slam it on the ground and crush the head of the baby with the heal of his boot, that was to insteal fear into the female slaves so that they would be to scared to escape or disobey any rule. Sounds like our forefathers were just as bad as Sadame Husane or even worse. I also think there are modern techniques that provide the same effect of fear and or intimidation.
    The only difference now is we understand what type of people we are
    and regardless of what anyone says we'll do whatever we feel will counter the problem good or bad, unfortunately the bad things keep us imprisoned for years and the good things white people careless about. Its only the bad things about how black people are forced to live that effect white people and when it does you see police brutality and the stiffening of laws that basically only apply to black crime.

    White peoples laws and ideas have created a monster and now that monster is smart in all the same ways as white people are and smarter, it can articulate better and with more power, this monster appeals to white people and black, and seemingly seems to be more fair then anyone in history regarding moving forward with improving life in the USA and this planet, that monster is named
    Barrack Obama.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:21 pm |
  33. Brooklyn Girl

    For my generation Black History was not even taught in schools. The first Black History lesson I ever learned was when I watched the ROOTS series by Alex Haily on T.V. . Although I was just a child at the time, watching this changed my life. It opened my mind and made me yearn for more information about my people. In my Twenty's I attended Medgar Ever College in Brooklyn, NY. There I took my first real course in African American History. During this course my classmate and I experienced became emotional as we learned how slavery began in this county. My point is, as Black people we have to learn and honor our past, and then we can move forward with a better perspective about what we need to do for ourselves. Thus, education is the KEY, and the quality of education must include all spectrums of our history. Black kids should learn about their history as early as possible because it will provide them with a sense of pride. I can't speak for everyone, but I beleive that knowledge is power.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  34. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    My neighbor down the way is black and they moved in when I was in high school. Everyone in the neighborhood held their breath regarding their property values but they have proven to actually be very nice people.

    He is an accountant and very mild, quiet and educated. His girls are now grown and they are nice too.

    It is funny how these stereotypes make people react. Actually we should just react to the way people act not their exterior.

    I have met people who I would not associate with because they are criminal and ignorant....they are white by the way not another nationality. Trash is in all races/cultures/creeds and we should seek to hang out with those that are good not bad.

    Much like one of the guys on the special said (I am bad with names), it is a class thing more than a race thing when it comes to choosing people to socialize with...that is the right way.

    July 25, 2008 at 11:02 pm |
  35. Laura Thompson

    Your segment on Blacks in American was a wonderful start to open dialogue about some of the very important issues that need to be discussed in the Black communities across the country. It was very thought provoking and has really stirred up a much needed conversation on a national level. As an African American woman with an advertising and public relations firm, whose primary focus is the African American market, I would like to challenge CNN to schedule some impromptu trips several major cities across the country to continue the dialogue on local levels in forums that allow your very conscious raising segment to mobilize African Americans to continue to talk and start developing an action plan for positive change.

    Although it was impossible to touch on every subject of concern, it was a very good start to stimulate conversation for change. I would like to volunteer to coordinate a forum in San Antonio, Texas in hopes that you would send your team out to cover a shoot segments on CNN to start encouraging your very impactful message to continue.

    laura thompson
    san antonio, texas

    July 25, 2008 at 9:50 pm |
  36. Mike in NYC

    Dorothy L Brooks wrote:

    "We bought into white America’s lie that we should abort our babies, love whoever we wanted, smoke what we wanted."

    Most of white America never shared in those "values." White America was the principal target of the promoters of those behaviors.

    Shawna Moon-Torres wrote:

    "...there are no words for how difficult it is to be a black male anywhere in the world."

    I assume you are including Mother Africa as one of those places that are "difficult" for black males. Are you saying that black men find it difficult to fit in the modern world? Perhaps this is the origin of the Angry Black Man.

    To Teles:

    You made some good points. I agree that hybrid cultures are largely dysfunctional.

    However, I disagree that white kids are simply embracing black music. There is definitely some adoption of black cultural norms, albeit in a rather shallow way. Whites have also become deracinated – cut off from their roots.

    July 25, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  37. Larry

    @EJ (USA) Barack Obama, prior to his two years at Columbia, spent two years of undergrad at Occidental College, His mother was a catalyst for Barack to always strive to work hard at everything. Naturally, his mom's & her parents contributions to his maturation get thrown under the bus. As to his entry to Columbia, have you heard of affirmative action? Mind you, I'm not saying that he wasn't a good student, its the getting in that's the toughest parts to schools such as Columbia & Harvard.

    July 25, 2008 at 7:39 pm |
  38. Melissa, Los Angeles

    @ Roy Edwards it's called the court system. You sue your ex for equal custody. Don't blame your ex for your lack of involvement because she made it difficult – you made the choice to drop out because it became too hard.

    CNN didn't "make up" the people in last night's series. Brandon had 2 kids with 2 different women – neither which he takes care of – that's a fact. I'm surprised no one has addressed the mother of Brandon's baby now pregnant with twins from another man. It's sad to see this foolishness going on. This is reality and yes I'm sure this happens with other races too. We all need to be accountable for our own actions.

    July 25, 2008 at 7:26 pm |
  39. Mari, Salt Lake City


    So you think that Dr. King would be ashamed of Sen. Obama?????? How so? How has Sen. Obama used his race or promoted himself using his race?

    Your comment shows how ignorant you are! Back when Dr. King was alive and speaking against racial hatred, there were plenty of people who HATED HIM FOR EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS THEY HATE SEN. OBAMA TODAY!

    We ARE NOT, at least NOT YET......... a nation that looks beyond color! We STILL JUDGE people by the color of their skin.

    Sen. Obama has not as you, 'Seah' in Ohio, say 'against others'..... no one has suggested segregation.

    Dr. King's Dream IS the American Dream, where "ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL" ......... GOD WILLING WE WILL SEE THIS DREAM BECOME REALITY!

    July 25, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  40. Roy Edwards

    I watched your series on black in America. It portrayed the black man as not wanting to step up to the plate. It disturbed me that we are portrayed this way. Many of us want to be a part of our kids life, but many of the mothers used the kids as a wedge to control the fathers. In my own situation it got so bad that I had to just pay my support and not have anything to do with my kids. I have drove 200 miles to pick up my kids to come visit me and after I arrived she changed her mind after we had agreed. The kids didn't understand why they couldn't go, I later found out the she told them I didn't want to bring them back. This is just one instance. Many Black Men go through this and after awhile just drop out of their kids life. How much can you take? Please address this issue.

    July 25, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  41. Teles

    I would like to thank you for running episode of Balck America. I am a black man, from the Republic of Rwanda but I have lived in Canada since I was a teen.
    All that was said and presented seems to be right but one thing is ignored. That is culture. The backbone of every race is culture. Without a culture you are always swimming in someone else's and sooner or later you will drown.
    African Americans should embrace the cultural norms of their ancestral slaves like preserving themselves until marriage, respecting men despite their economical status and sticking to having a family as a fullfilment of what makes a black culture. The problem, African Americans have been mixed up. They are both white and black. It doesn't work and will contuine to cost us. How many white people have abandoned their culture to become black? Even rap music that is hugely bought by white kids, that is where its ends. it doesn't become part of them. It is just music and they just see it as such.
    Thank you!

    Teles Minega

    July 25, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  42. EJ (USA)

    As a Harvard graduate Obama Sr. made it possible for his american born son to get into Harvard thru the ‘legacy’ route

    You of course forget to mention that Obama went to Columbia for undergrad. Which 'legacy' route allowed him to get into there? Silly comment.

    July 25, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  43. Leona - Canada

    This series is quite an accomplishment and hats off to Soledad O'Brian and all responsible for the sensitive yet informative dialogue that has been long overdue....interesting to me due to the fact that I am a Canadian First Nations and many of the same struggles that have been shared along with the triumphs, have been felt and experienced here in Canada by many of our peoples. The reconciliation is so key to complete healing however until educating individuals all aspects of life including the poverty, lack of education, lack of parenting (& skills), lack of self-esteem, lack of self-pride and a true sense of acceptance and belonging can we begin to truly heal, understand and accept. It would be interesting to see if a follow-up would be considered by the major players and stakeholders to see how such a great educational program has reached enough individuals to stand up and make a difference as so with so many good "vehicles" of communication there never appears to be a solid follow-up and result in good acting planning. Thank you.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:44 pm |
  44. Shawna Moon-Torres

    What a great program and should be required viewing in all schools. This is a conversation that has needed to take place for many years. As a black married mother of biracial children, this is a topic that is never far from my thoughts, because one of my two children is male and even though it is difficult being black in America no matter your gender there are no words for how difficult it is to be a black male anywhere in the world.

    Shawna Moon-Torres

    July 25, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  45. Larry

    Its amazing when you think about it. If not for the JFK airlift of Africans from Kenya to attend schools in America, of which Barack's dad was one. Then it is somewhat unlikely that the next president of the united states of america would be bi-racial. As a Harvard graduate Obama Sr. made it possible for his american born son to get into Harvard thru the 'legacy' route; it was the same for Ted Kennedy, though Obama Jr was a significantly better scholar. As to Barack becoming the president of the Harvard Law Review, we cannot ignore that the qualifications for being awarded that position had been changed several years earlier; it had gone from being awarded to the student with the highest academic grade to a half-academic and half-popular vote. Blacks at Harvard had been making inroads to the Harvard Law Review long before Barack ever came along, Obama might want to give credit to those who opened doors at Harvard for him.
    Today we now understand the obama-kennedy relationship and why Ted Kennedy is against Hillary as vp as well as all the kennedys lined up to support Barack and Caroline is a member of his vp vetting group.

    Its a lovely day, I think I'll go over to the park and read a book on the african american impressionist artist Allan Freelon.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  46. Rosalind Johnson-Marshall

    While I was certainly impressed on how the series Black in America was delivered. I have to ask what portion of other races, cultures, etc had tuned in? I believe that it would be very beneficial for all us as a people to hear from all of us on this subject of being Black in America. If we are going to have a serious discussion, about race, let's truly discuss. While I applaud the efforts of getting national and international view points from African Americans, they are preaching to the choir, all Balck Americans know and understand the state that we are in, no matter where we fall on this vast spectrum. I would like to hear from other their beliefs, thoughts, and opinions on this subject we are not going to break barriers without serious dialogue.
    Also please know that the State of Black America is not easily fixed and what ails us is a direct mirror of the sum total of all Americans, so it is time to begin to cure the ailments that effect the least and the most of us.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  47. seah Ohio

    Martin Luther King would be ashamed of Obama.

    They have Different Dreams and expectations.

    Rev King would not be Proud of those using Race against others, and for Seperating with the African-American Stanza. Rev King would see that as self segregation.

    Rev King was honorable, yet firm. Rev King Believed in the American Dream for all. Rev King wanted mutal respect for all.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  48. JC- Los Angeles

    Very interesting talking points; I found your comment "the challenges and opportunities that African Americans face are the same ones available to and confronting Americans from all walks of life" extremely poignant.

    Today, people from all walks of life and all races have the ability to make the right choices, overcome obstacles, practice responsibility and display self respect; by creating a culture where nothing less is tolerated, change can begin.

    Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to change the past and the unjust treatment of good people; since we are not promised tomorrow, we can only do our best today which is what self respect is all about.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  49. Dorothy L Brooks

    I am of the baby boomer generation and I can tell you that I am disappointed and somewhat discouraged. Not by the program but this overwhelming feeling that my generation has dropped the baton and our legacy will be that we are the generation the FIRST generation that caused a regression. We benefited from being the ones who participated in sitins, work stoppages, etc but we hurt our Black family structure by not living up to our marital commitments, not marrying and staying married, not putting away the pot, crack, etc and not living the lessons learned in all those church studies that we rebelled against because we were "free". This freedom carried a huge price tag and we are paying it. We bought into white America's lie that we should abort our babies, love whoever we wanted, smoke what we wanted. We forgot the lessons of our forefathers that put such value and emphasis on fidelity, community, and religion. We bought into a lie and now we are reaping a whirlwind. An answer to some of this: no free ride (welfare money) unless you attend parentng classes taught by Black teachers who can empathize but lead; putting more money in education and programs for young offenders. Giving financial (tax) incentives to companies (and remove tax incentives for locating outside this country) who hire inner city workers but have those workers spend 2 or 3 hours a week in class upgrading their math and writing skills.

    July 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
  50. D-Chicago

    Being Black in American has been paved by historical and present social and political policy. Everyone speaks of solutions while avoiding how the problems began. For instance Black females have always been forced into the position of head of the household this started during slavery when the family by law could be divided and inventory needed to be increased. When welfare was offered to African American Women during the 1960's it required that no male be present in the home again creating the female headed household.

    My point is if solution are truly the goal, then true insight into how these conditions have evolved must be examined there is a beginning to every situation. Without such true insight the question will forever remain "What are the solutions?"

    July 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm |
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