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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.

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[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. amuhaya pius lubega

    being kenyan i have this to say to my brothers; go to school andd get results and do that for your daughters and sons, because you wont go wrong

    July 28, 2008 at 5:03 am |
  2. james Milton

    Something else that needs to get attention is how the black children that ACTUALLY grow up in a nice home with a nice family, seem to want to be "hood" or "gangsta" when they are not. Black children who are born into a good family seem to regress into wanting to be either Rappers(on the male side) and Models(on the female side). For some insight i am a 22 year old black male attending an HBCU. So i see this mindset everyday on campus. One would think that most students want to graduate collge and get a degree; and don't get me wrong a lot of them do, but for the most part; growing up in a nice home and also with a nice family is looked down upon most of the time when we leave school and see our friends who didn't attend college; they have so many excuses but their are none when you come out of a nice home. I know this was overlooked but i witness this on a daily basis. If CNN ever gets a chance to talk to some black college students about this i would appreciate it; because to be honest every black male that has lost their way in this life, haven't been raised in a bad home, they just lose their motivation and focus in life; so in turn they turn to the streets because trust me, running the streets is a lot easier than going to college or working hard to get a job, its really easy to do wrong in this life, but why does america make it so hard to live right??

    July 28, 2008 at 1:33 am |
  3. John Lane

    Larry, Barack Obama was a brilliant young man. This was noticed by people all along his path. His success at Harvard was due to his strong mind, and not to affirmative action. Read up on him some.
    Is it surprising that Obama is brilliant? Both of his parents held doctorates. His mother did everything she could to further his intellectual development. Also, have you heard of "hybrid vigor"?

    July 28, 2008 at 1:22 am |
  4. mike biscan

    quit whining. Your group has so many advantges that are simply unfair. affirimitive action is a thorn that simply cannot be justified. It's hard to believe that you're only 12% of the population...you people are everywhere!

    July 28, 2008 at 1:18 am |
  5. Carol H.

    Talk, talk, talk. When is anyone going to do something besides talk? I consider myself to be a very well-informed and self-educated woman, but yet, I haven't heard or read about one educated and intelligent black person who will address the real issue that lies at the bottom of the whole topic. A person has to WANT to be educated, CRAVE the freedom and prosperity that only true knowledge and hard work can bring to that person. Whether he/she is black, red, brown, yellow or even white, they must truly want that freedom, and be willing to work for it.

    Yes, I know that black people were brought over to this country over 400 years ago as slaves. It was a horrible and wicked thing to do, and was done by people who were themselves, desparate and even uneducated. But, the majority of the blacks living in this country today don't even know or care about that history. They use that horrible fact, as an excuse to continually mask their real problems. Hello, that was 400 years ago, you were not alive then, I was not alive then. This is now, that was then.

    Stop using that ugly fact of history and start making your own today. Get a job, any job. Start out at the bottom if you have to. Start by wanting to work for what you want to achieve and not get it handed to you through welfare, affirmative action programs or any other government program that is just a crutch or excuse for laziness.. I have seen and met black people who have achieved that American dream. How did they do it? They worked for it! They wanted it, craved it and went out and worked for and achieved it! Stop whining and making excuses. Just DO IT!

    July 28, 2008 at 1:07 am |
  6. Laura

    I think black people are just people like all people. White, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Irish, Polish you name it. All of us with a lot in commom except for some of our cultures, traditions, and religion may be different. We are all of Gods children though and equally love our families and want the best for them and ourselves. As an American eachother also. We also enjoy some of the same music, and eat the same food. We all work hard to take care of our families. Love Jesus and thank him for our blessings and all the beauty in the world. Including all different kinds of people like all different kinds of flowers and animals. Each emiting it's own beauty and light.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:29 am |
  7. Steve

    There is very little shame or honor in a huge segment of the black community. The same holds true for the white community (if there is such a thing), but not remotely in comparison to the black community. It should be shameful to have a child out of wedlock. It's something that can be dealt with, but it's shameful, nor normal. That said, it should be especially shameful to have multiple kids out of wedlock. Conversely, it's honorable to make sacrifices in order to take care of your family. However, the series (and later black CNN commentator) correctly pointed out that the sense of shame and honor with many blacks simply isn't there. (Street honor OG style doesn't count.) Until many of the blacks (not all) shown in the series get their moral compasses straight, they are lost and no combination of government programs can save them.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:28 am |
  8. peter

    I am a black American married to a white American. I am from Virginia, and I understand what this is all about. However I don't think we are going to make any progress until we understand that everyone is valuable in God's eyes, and that what was done in the past is the pass. And though I support Obama he is just a man with clay feet and will make as many mistakes as any other. It will be an encourage ment to some, but a discouragement to others. I have taught many and from what I have experienced most people are just looking for a free ride. Everyone would love to hit the lottery, or have a generous millionaire relative.

    We as a majority are looking for the get rich quick scheme, which have resulted in a lot of our problems. If Obama wins it will be a little like South Africa. He will in principle be in charge of the government, but finances is what really turns the world. He can say all he wants, but even now he couldn't be where he is without without big sponsors.( Call them what you will.) The course is set and he is another pawn in the game.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:22 am |
  9. Julie L

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

    Nice. You want equality and you want others to treat you with respect. A good way to go about it is to complain about why they don't treat you well and then make ridiculous statements like the one above. I am pretty sure those aren't the values of ANY race, but keep telling yourself it is if that makes you feel better. You have to give respect in order to get it. I guess all whites/blacks/hispanics are the same and grouping them together just gives others someone to blame for their problems.

    Racism does exist. However there are some people...yes, even white Americans that want to be able to live in a society that doesn't judge people by the color of their skin.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:21 am |
  10. Robert

    There is too much emphasis put on being black or white or the differences between the 2 and how we should teach and interact socially to appease everyone. There will always be boundries as long as we always continue to point them out. We are all people, things have happened historically to what one considers whites, just as they have to blacks, slaves have been in all colors throughout history.

    But because we dwell on this and use it in politics and so many other aspects of society it will always be the same, never change, the differences are in the people not their color, we all have a choice how we act, how we interact, how we choose to be and raise our children. But because it is such an issue, the press is always pointing it out , people looking for sympathy are always pointing it out, so we will always have boundries drawn between races.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:07 am |
  11. Milton - San Antonio

    As an older white male raised in South Texas, most of my intersocialization has been with Hispanics except for 8 of the 11 years that I coached football in San Antonio where I had my first experience with Black ( I hate to make that distinction as we are all Red Blooded Americans ) players and students of which I found to have two completely different attitudes. One group, mostly kids whose parents were in the U S Air Force, were much more studious, hard working, outgoing, motivated and popular among a prodominately white student body and then there was the other group who were from, evidently, the "typical" black family as depicted on CNN's Black in America. My eyes were opened and things became much clearer to me after the "Rev." Wright exposure and it was repeatedly told, "Oh, most all Black churches are like that!!" If so, then that explains everything about the second group I observed. In the last 40 years, what Black person in America has been obsturcted from achieving what they really wanted?? Many comments I read preceeding mine are from those who evidently attend a Wright-like church. I spent last September in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. If some Black Americans feel they have an attachment there, I wish they could go take a look. They would not need a month of observation before they would come HOME with a different attitude and ready to get themselves educated and go to work like the rest of us Black, Brown and White Americans who take responsibilty for ourselves, our families and our God Given Nation.

    July 28, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  12. Yvette

    I would like to commend Soledad O'Brien for taking on the monumental task of attempting to share with America a slice of what it means to be "Black in America". I am quite sure that it took courage to embark on this journey. Ms. O'Brien took on the task of attempting to summarize in four hours hundreds of years of history of the "Black Experience" in America. This of course is no easy task; however I congratulate her on initiating the discussion about this topic in the medium that she did. By the supportive and critical responses that the documentary has illicited, I conclude that she has been successful. I make this bold statement because I would suggest that as a result of this documentary conversations about its topic have begun in some homes, have continued in others, and maybe taken a different direction in others. I do not view this documentary as the end of the depiction of what it means to be "Black in America" since it would be impossible to cover every aspect of this topic in four hours. Instead we can use it to further our discussions on its topic.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:54 pm |
  13. Patricia

    I forgot, here's more:

    Stay away from drug and alchohol abuse
    No gambling
    Stay out of debt
    Embrace your WHOLE self, no matter what hue you are and don't try to fit yourself into something you are not
    Apostle Paul's admonition: If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, seek after them. Follow good examples from all walks of life, regardless of race.
    Know your value. As a child of God, there are no obstacles placed before you that you cannot overcome

    July 27, 2008 at 11:49 pm |
  14. Ricky

    solutions....

    Solutions are what we need. It's time to discuss how we can turn many negatives of being black in america, to positives. As an African American living in Chicago, I see all types of roles of my black brothers in the inner city and am very sensitive to thei plights we face and hope that what I offer is not meant to be miscontrued as an overall solution but one such thought as to how we can begin to turn an uglyy situation to a positive outcome.....

    Prisons.......
    1) Remove all privatization from the prison system. Remove the capitalization of and corporate greed from the scenario and shutdown the new prison slavery system. Convert more prisons into boot camps that teach discipline, morals and character.
    2) Require all inmate to enroll in state funded schools which is part ot the $21,000 funding that most states pay for each inmate.
    3) Require all inmates to receive testing for aids before entering and exiting the prison to prevent spreading the disease to our uninfected sisters. Upon exiting the prison system, all inmates must report immediately to job training i.e. (for Green construction demolition).
    4) Require all inmates to attend 100 hours of mandatory training in basic book keeping and finance.
    5) Hold parole officers more accountable; i.e. reporting in times, random visits to parolees home.
    6) Provide training to family members of parolees that have immediate interaction with the parolee on do's and don'ts and how to avoid recidivism.
    7) All non-violent offenders required to buddy up with another non-violent offender for support

    This could help some of our problems as Americans.
    God help us all and let freedom ring!

    July 27, 2008 at 11:49 pm |
  15. Donna from Illinois

    CNN, Essence and Soledad owes all of Black America an apology for only half-doing this series; unfairly perpetuating stereotypes and myths that have long surrounded the Black community. What she has done has made life more difficult for all of us. White Americans watching, with no prior inside knowledge of Black Americans are most assuredly left with a negative view of us. You are right, Soledad only addressed the second of three very important questions and that is inexcusable since CNN is big and powerful enough to have sufficiently covered all three. Anything less is irresponsible journalism and unfortunately this has been done at a great cost to African Americans.
    Shame on you CNN, Soledad, Essence, McDonald's and everyone else who approved this BIA program.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  16. Larry L

    I would like to see CNN run another program on a common problem. Many qualified, experience Blacks (male) have train many novice White which later became their boss and continue to move up the career ladder while the Black is still holding it but can't step on it t all. This is discouraging to the individual and our young Black children who is watching it. hey say, "Look at you. Why should I try. I'll go where I know Black can make it. Music, sports, labor force, and a trade. What did your education do for you." I keep trying to convey the inportant of education, but I can't argue they point from a realistic "Black" point. Can a law be inacted to protect those who can prove that a less qualified individual was chosen?

    July 27, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  17. Ray in Calilfornia

    I was disappointed in Black in America. It started with someone using so-called black dialect, difficult to understand. My wife attended a pubic Los Angeles high school in the forties which was totally integrated at that time, and blacks sought to speak excellent English. . This two part series could not have been inspiring to the young blacks of today because it did not show the thousands who are successful in all of the professions, and in elected offices in city, state and national government. It did not show all of the successful blacks who volunteer part of their time working with youth groups in the inner city. It did not show the gifted black teachers in the inner city who have inspired their students to prepare for top colleges. It did not mention that the 12 to 20 million illegal Mexicans in our country are unfairly filling millions of jobs that blacks AND whites in our country used to hold as a way of paying for their education and/or as stepping stones to better jobs.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  18. T T

    I was pleased with the first episode of Black In America but I must say the second episode narrowed our men to dead beat dads, convicts, and those who may be viewed by the Black community as white washed. What about the Black man who has been reared from a good family, attended or attends an HBCU (Historically Black College & University) to get closer to his roots? What about our men who are working good jobs, taking care of family and responsibilities and are still connected to the Black community? What about the Black man who doesn't have any convictions or run-ins with the law? What about the Black man who LOVES his Black women and is searching for her to close the circle on his life? What about him? What about them? I know MANY Black men who are OUTRAGED at how they were portrayed. Black men who raise their children, Black men who are great citizens. CNN did a poor job of showing the much needed positive images of Black men.

    Ok...it's important to show the struggle, it's important to show men who have been affected by the harsh realities of being Black In America but when are we going to start replacing the stereotypical images with REAL images of our men? So much focus was placed on the other stories that people from other cultures probably believe that if you're Black and successful, you must have drug dealers in your family and you just happened to make it out, or have been accused of "acting white" to make it.

    Next time, include more images of Black men who are doing all of the things your program said they are not. They are out there and they deserve an applaud.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  19. jt

    I am a Gay Hispanic male from Small Town USA. I have been discriminated against for sexual preference and my race. Ideally I would like to have equality in everything I do but I am also a realist. I don't let the prejudice get me down. I don't want GLAAD or LULAC standing up for me every time something questionable happens to a Hispanic or a Gay person. I will fight my own fight if needed but most often I go about my day trying to do the right thing and sleeping weel at night for it. Political Correctness has dulled the creative and the free. Enough is Enough.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  20. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    (sigh) I will be most happy for the day we get to be "Compassionate People in America".

    Ours is an inter-racial family, and frankly we are tired of hearing complaints and excuses from both sides about the "differences".

    All our inter-racial friends and extended family feel the same. We (inter-racials) feel abused by the society from all angles. However, in about 100 years, we are going to be the norm. So, all you "pure breds" had better starting thinking about what it mean to be Americans, period.

    (deeper sigh)

    July 27, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  21. Rev. Ruth

    Dear Mr. King:

    Your piece succinctly and poignantly reveals the continued struggle in our nation. CNN posted your piece as “The Conversation Isn’t Over.” I would suggest, in substantive ways, that the conversation is barely begun.
    When your father invited people to join with him in “I Have a Dream” most Americans forgot that he spoke this at the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” As you noted, “the deprivation is structural.” So many of us yearn to run to your father’s dream and we have failed to notice that, even 45 years later, “the promissory note is returned insufficient funds.” The continued “disproportionate gatherings of Blacks on the high end of the challenges and the low end of opportunities” is not, ipso facto, the responsibility of Blacks. Indeed, all of us who have white skin benefit simply from the incumbent dividends of our appearance.
    Your father challenged white clergy, like me, from his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." The “fierce urgency of now” compels those of us who have worked in urban areas and daily witnessed the profound systemic inequities. So many of my white friends, in self-congratulations, believe we have come “so far” in forty years. And so many of my black colleagues, in reflecting over these two score years, say “nothing has happened.” This “inescapable network of mutuality” continues after this election. I pray that, regardless of whom we elect, that we as the “United States” realize that we have barely etched the surface of what your father yearned for, as detailed in his speeches and sermons.
    As your father said in "A Time to Break the Silence," when they formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, their motto was: “To Save the Soul of America.” He wrote that we “affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear.” These shackles remain—and it will take ALL of us to remove them. But this will require REAL conversation, for we have not yet confessed of our sins of slavery or segregation. South Africa boldly modeled the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; would that other white Americans hear the stories I have heard. As a Kenyan clergy friend who helped broker peace said this February, “we are talking, but we are not yet speaking the truth.” May we as Americans be courageous enough to speak the truth—and may that finally make ALL of us free.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  22. Mike

    You came from Africa. Where Blacks sold you to white slave merchants. Where you are now is having the same racial issues as anyone else. and even being prejudice against othercblacks for being too dark, or too ghetto.
    You're going to the same equality as anyone else has. things have progressed immensley for blacks.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm |
  23. Patricia

    This is interesting reporting. Many seek solutions. This is simple.

    No premarital sex.
    No children out of wedlock.
    Good education (and I mean a Bachelor's degree and good grades)
    Have strong family foundations with a father and mother
    Honest hard work
    No short cuts to money (ie. drug dealing, robbery)
    Don't blame others for your problems
    Take responsibility of your actions
    Respect those around you and most of all respect yourself

    July 27, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  24. Joe (Jackson, MS)

    As a young white male growing up in Mississippi, I have seen racism my whole life. It is alive and still a very real and serious problem. Although great strides have been made, the reality is, there is a lot of work left to do. Since the majority of my friends are black, I have often found myself in a very confusing and eye-opening position.

    The reality is that the black community, as a whole, are victims. They are victims of a nasty and horrible past, one that will not and should not ever be forgotten. But present day, they are are also victims of their own self pity and pain. It has become convenient for every flaw in the black community to be blamed on the ever present "White America". The statistics on homicides, STD's, education, and fatherless homes are NOT made up. There is no "white council" in place to fabricate such numbers. These are real and serious issues that will never be solved until the black community takes responsibility for their part. The blame is not all theirs but the beginning to the resolution is in their hands. If black america demanded from themselves and their leaders, what they demand from white america, the process would take care of itself. Where is the accountability for self. Responsibility for one's own actions.

    I know the system is flawed and the world is not perfect. I have been pulled over by police just for being in a car with 4 black men. I see the struggles that my closest friends go through on a day to day basis. I know that in most black neighborhoods, the opportunities are not as plentiful. I know all that exists. BUT... Black america will never move forward until they let go, but not forget their past. Let go of the easy way out of blaming everything on someone else. Let go of believing that every bad thing that happens to them is because white america wanted it that way. There ARE success stories. There are black men who have made if from nothing to something. Black women who raised 3 and 4 children on little more than crumbs. Homes where both parents are there. There are success stories. It can be done!

    I know my opinion will probably get blasted by 9 out of every 10 people on here. They will say I am out of touch and have no idea what I am talking about, and that's fine. But I do hold on with the utmost hope and sincerity that one day this discussion will not be necessary. God Bless...

    July 27, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  25. Chris

    In this country we are taught to think in terms of black people and white people. The conversation we have is in those terms, as if anyone who is not black is automatically white. That the conversation about the plight of Blacks in America is so loud means that the conversation about every other immigrant group who has struggled and suffered is snuffed out and not considered.

    I'm not black, and I'm not white and I'm not latino. What that winds up meaning is that I have no political voice in this country, no entitlement programs, no help from the government, no CNN specials. Greeks, Chinese, Irish, Koreans, Italians, Japanese, Indians, Pakistanis, Iranians, Russians ... all of these people have similar immigrant stories, similar tales of difficulty and suffering, prejudice and second-class treatment. It may not be the same story as black Americans, but that doesn't negate their trials and scars.

    To induce a pun, the conversation is TOO black and white and disrespectful of the true diversity of this nation. It is far harder to be a non black / non white in this country with no resources, no leadership, no government programs or worthwhile representation that it becomes difficult to constantly sympathize with the "plight of blacks in America."

    Blacks in this country have achieved parity with other American immigrant groups, and none of us have achieved parity with the "White Elite." But then again, we're making our way in the world regardless of that fact and most of us aren't complaining too loudly.

    July 27, 2008 at 11:00 pm |
  26. Jean

    First of all, I salute who ever starts that conversation. You must be really brave,
    You can't forget all blacks are not dealing with the same problems. We have blacks from the rock bottom. Those are the ones who have no education or who drop out as early as before graduating high school. They can't get a descent job, they have two or three kids, they more likely have to be involved in drugs or illegal activity to make a living. We also have the other class of blacks who are educated, able to get a good job, but are experiencing income disparity. They working twice harder than a white person, but getting paid way less. The last class are these balcks who have a subtantial amount of money and education, but the white men tell them, well eventhough you have money and education, there is a limit on who you can be(not a president, not a television network owner and so on).
    Some times this is the reason why you see blacks are discriminating against one another. They don't have the same experience and certainly not the same problem.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:51 pm |
  27. Heather

    I am Jewish and often I am treated differently because of that. My Rabbi actually met Dr King and marched with him. My biggest hope is that someday this country that we live is known as much for truly treated each other fairly with dignity and respect as it is for being the home of the ipod and microsoft. We must show the rest of the world on this great planet we live on that not only are we capable of inventing and creating technology that has literally changed and transformed the way in which people live their lives and companies do business globally. We are capable of so much, we can send an African American and a women into space yet there are those who treat people differently for such primitive reasons. We must evolve as human beings. We are all different for a reason. We need to get over it and evolve into equal and talented human beings with unique abilities to offer the world. We are our only obstacle. We have to raise the standard of what we expect. We have to show the world we do practice what we preach.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  28. Rudy

    Melissa, get real! Clearly you are unaware [I won't say ignorant] of the workings of Family Court. Any family court lawyer will tell you men are on the short end in that court. I understood everything Roy Edwards stated because I've been there. When you stand there and hear a family court judge tell you when you ask for an accounting of how the child support you paid was spent that he doesn't "care how it was spent...I don't care if she buys a Mercedes Benz, YOU WILL PAY."

    Of course I paid, and I didn't need a damn judge to tell me my obligations. I paid child support, private school, and plane fares for 15 years because I co-created the child, and I was responsible and took care of my responsibilties [and am not looking for a medal, I was just doing my job]. But on the other side, for 15 years everything I did with my child WAS BY COURT ORDER – even to talk to him – because his mother – afflicted with parental alienation syndrome – did everything she could to make him hate me, and used him as a pawn to hurt me. Lesser men would have said to hell with it, and reduced the child – if that – to a check. And don't tell me and other "good" fathers that we – as you put it – "made the the choice to drop out because it became too hard."

    Talk to some of these sick mothers and tell them to stop playing the child against the father because of their sick anger! A lot of times fathers want to be in their child's lives but we're only human. Faced with opposition from the court which sees us only as "cash cows" and and sick mothers, many just fade away.

    Now, I'm not talking of fathers like the that disgusting idiot Brandon or his baby momas. I'm talking about real fathers, real men who are men and have to deal with a system that seeks only one thing – collecting money – not the welfare or best interests of the child, because if that court system you seem to speak so proudly of were to really do it's job they would ensure that fathers are in their child's life.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  29. jumlum la.

    It is good to see that the condition of blacks in america is being talked about. But, when you look at the fact that blacks has been in america for more than 400 years. Even the blacks and Indians that were free had there land taken and laws created by whites to protect there own greed. How many black women were forced to gave birth white men babies in 400 years. The black man in america owns nothing even land that he has paid for can be taken for taxes if he has no income. This story of black in america has many angles and deep roots of victimization.
    Even after the civil war and the trail of tears many of the so called whites were new to america and took advantage of the laws that weighed in their favor. When the color of a black mans skin was made his enemy for the white mans gain. Even though the civil war ended for the white men from the north. The white mans war with the black man has continued even until this day. The KKK may have changed their tactics but their flag and enemy are the same.
    The black man in america will never know the american dream because he is still being terrorized by the white supremacists in every level of society and justice is blind to the black man. Look at new orleans superdome after katrina or the fema trailer formadehyde problem and you will see the american holocaust and the neo-nazis.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:36 pm |
  30. DarkDragen

    I am from the cyber age, a keyboard cowboy. I am also a minority due to religious belief. But minority or not, There should be no color, should not be any I am minority I get this because of quota, and the my family was this and I demand repreave payments.

    Honestly, Rev. King saw a truly devine dream. I truly believe so but people idolism him. His holiday comes around and people talk about him like a god. He is a great man, with a great dream. Instead of saying African American just try American. Instead of saying I am part of a quota get educated and earn things by your own merrits.

    What I am getting at is that regardless of color, religion or creed we all have common problems, we all go through issues, but the people Rev. King saw in his dream are called Americans. Ones that will sit at a table work out the issues, help one another, and continue to grow with each other. Not those focus on paste hatred or past deeds, not those focused on any color. Rev. Kings dream although limited to America, I believe could be a world dream if we humans put away the petty differences.

    As another great man once said, "The mind is a terrible thing to waste". We should not judge but focus on expanding our minds. That comes from all walks of life, not by color, religion, sex, or creed. That comes from all people.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  31. Shawn in NC

    Mari,
    Please know what you are talking about. Obama has on several occasions flaunted his race (or 1/2 of it). Check the Berlin speech.
    And to the King family – you have done a dis-service to Rev. King – where is the money? I contributed in the past but will not again.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  32. rossansa leblanc

    I am a Hispanic woman. I watched your series intently and found it to be very well done and informational. Thanks you so much for doing this for Americans. I have recently been listening to a set of cds of the speeches of MLK Jr and was so impressed by him. All Americans have a great historical treasure expressed in the words and delivery of MLK Jr. His words are universal and timeless.

    Gangs are also destroying Hispanic neighborhoods they are really a cancer on our youth. Thanks for featuring leaders who are inspiring kids to look in a different direction.

    I would love to see a series about the Hispanic experience in America as well.

    Again thank you CNN, I find myself watching you more and more in the last year and a half I find your programming even more balanced than other networks.

    July 27, 2008 at 10:03 pm |
  33. Alexis

    I just hope that Soledad and CNN will do a follow up show on all the feedback both negative and positive and also include other races in the conversation espically those who had negative comments such as go back to Africa under other blogs about this series. I would like to see more positive stories and solutions/programs that have already been started to help turn our community and kids around. Not all of us wait on or think the govt should save us. The govt does not care about black men and I highly doubt that they ever will. Class should also be addressed more in a follow up series.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  34. Claire

    The CNN feature rightly focuses on African-Americans. However, "Blacks in America" include the many Africans and West Indians of several generations who have achieved academic and career success here in the U.S.A. Nigerians are among the most educated immigrants in the USA today, surpassing even the white population in the percentage with post-graduate degrees, according to the US Census Bureau.

    African-Americans might benefit greatly if they adopt some of the attitudes and values that have helped these immigrants attain success and integrate relatively well in American society, despite being "Black."

    In general, these qualities include a strong work ethic, strong extended family system, willingness to face difficulties and adversities, a drive to achieve goals, and a refusal to carry racial "chips" that can stifle their progress. In fact, these qualities were embraced by earlier generations of American-Americans in this country, and are prevalent among many other ethnic groups including Asians and Latinos.

    I do believe that African-Americans can learn much from Black immigrants and overcome many obstacles they face today, even as racism and discrimination linger in this society.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  35. mlk

    Being a white man, I am discouraged by the free rides that are given to African Americans. Everyone I know from University had to go to the back of the line to get into grad school. Two of my friends graduated with honor and a 4.0 GPA. Neither got into law or medical school because they had to fill the quota of African Americans who as you may already know had much lower GPA's. Now if you are in the emergency ward, wouldn't you prefer to be seen by a doctor with a higher gpa or a lower one, just because they needed to get a certain race quota of doctors. A person should be rated on their intelligence not the color of their skin. This is very unfair and should be stopped. This country isn't going to advance and is going to fall way behind the rest of the world because a lot of times the most brilliant minds are excluded.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:53 pm |
  36. Cherry

    I enjoyed this program (and series of subsequent discussions) very much.

    I would greatly enjoy seeing a sequel entitled "Being White in America".

    Just as black individuals are often stereotyped and misunderstood...so too are modern whites. I feel that in order to continue this "conversation", we need to allow whites to enlighten other cultures about what it is like to be a post-modern, post-civil rights, post-women's rights majority. To demonstrate how whites face similar challenges with education, economics, cultural integrity and social mores.

    Whites are just as often written off as generic stereotypes and denied their individuality as minorities (maybe even more so...since as a majority- their struggles are negated).

    Plus, it may enlighten minority races to hear how many whites really feel (and not just how polls and political discourse personify them). White America is a diverse demographic and deserves equal study and recognition.

    Many whites have tried to experience and understand what it is like to be Black in America...now lets give them the chance to explain what it is like to be white.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  37. Big Country

    To: Dorothy L Brooks

    I am disheartened to hear people use these wide, sweeping, ambiguous statements like, "White people's lies", "White Man's Priviledge", etc...

    Most North American whites never had anything to do with pushing a lie onto black people. Please stop over-generalizing and over-simplifing the nature of the problem, many, many North American white people never had an agenda to push lies upon black people or to persecute them....

    All I am saying is just dont over generalize, please.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  38. Randy

    I have been shocked by hearing lately how many blacks dislike Obama. Jess Jackson's remarks stunned me. What shocked me the most is that the same black stated they support Obama and will vote for him. That is totally wacked. They dislike him, but support him, simply because of the color of his skin. Is that racist??????

    July 27, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  39. John

    Unfortunately the constant re-occurrences of shows like this one, even under different titles or labels but holding the same general content, have caused serious fatigue on the American public.

    There are other races who have suffered equally to black Americans and yet have found a way to prosper morally, psychologically, and economically; all the time while not having the constant spotlight of media on top of them asking "why is your culture in this position? what did you do to get here? where are you going from here?"

    We hear the same rhetoric year in and year out. Fatigue has set in... and when this happens, your progress will not only stale but in-fact regress.

    You will hear this type of comment from a small subset of the Black community but their opinions wont be published, and moreover if they were it would cause a storm of controversy.

    Change comes from within, and if you need the media as a constant litmus test as to where your culture is, then you're not doing anything except prolonging the inevitable.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  40. Randy

    I find it interesting that blacks blame whites for all their problems. One black responder wrote that whites put the crack pipe into the mouths of blacks. I bet in 99 percent of the time they purchase their crack from another black. She also wrote that whites are responsible for single parent households by providing welfare to single parent households without requiring both parents to marry. Wow, She also stated that blacks should be allowed three hours a day from work to study english and math. What about the 12 years of high school that they were provided? Wake up black America, whites are not your problem, just your excuse. Responsibity, that is the education you need.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  41. Yolie

    All the issues being discussed in "Black in America" are the same issues that affect all people of all races in America. Perhaps it should have added other cultures going through the same thing and instead have the name of "Black America". It is not always greener in America. All cultures have the same immorality. Both Men and Women are equally immoral. Both Women and Men abandon their children and their home. Both men and women seek drugs and alchohol. People don't have to be a certain color to go through these issues. Those who have more money and are living well should invest and adopt a family in need instead of spending their in drugs and alcohol it'll make them feel better. You can get a high from planting a mustrad seed and giving to those in need. This also includes all cultures and races world wide. God's one commandment, "Love one another as you love yourself."

    July 27, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  42. John

    "judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin"

    A favorite King quote. To be applied universally. Not just to blacks. If we can do that, then we can live the dream.

    But to do so, means to be an American. Not African-American, not Scottish-American. One people united, wanting peace.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  43. Barbara

    I'm surprised by some of the rude insensitive comments. No one has thrown Barack’s mother or Grandparents under the bus. If you will recall that is the reason just 15 months ago the statement was made he is not black enough, had no experience growing up around Blacks. Why are comments always made that Blacks get into Ivey league schools due to affirmative action and not because they deserve to be admitted based on their scholastic achievement? I did not hear any complaints about Bush getting into Yale due to his great uncle legacy what was his daughter Barbara's acceptance there about? Bush by his own admission states he was a bad student. No one questions admission based on being a children from wealthy benefactor or influential individual, color is the problem.
    Reading all the blogs here and else where tells me what I already know America has a race problem. All Americans must work together to solve it.

    July 27, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  44. carl

    I'm watching B in A and listening to a Black guy talk about job applications and endless rejections. Sounds exactly like my twenty-two year old white son who continues to try to re-invent himself so that someone will hire him. His life, and the lives of most of his friends, all white, are a mirror of the man in the documentary. The jobs aren't there. What's it got to do with race? Nobody will ever make a doc about a struggling young white man however. Who cares?

    July 27, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  45. lampe

    Is CNN going to do a special on what it's like to be JEWISH or LATINO, or maybe what it's like to be WHITE IN AMERICA? Seems only fair to me.

    July 27, 2008 at 8:48 pm |
  46. Jay Thomas

    Sen Obama is a product of the work of Dr. King' dream. It is painful to read and listen to other blacks attack him. Come on peope get together and stop being crabs in the barrior

    July 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  47. Gerald C. A. Layne Sr.

    I am a member of the Generation X-“ample”. Hats off to CNN for engaging in a very tedious venture, but it is important to mention it failed to include that the black community is not monolithic and like other races in America, is made up of many subgroups and cultures. It is important to mention that the subgroups that make up the black community are the clandestine blacks A.K.A. legacy members of the black church, black Muslims, black Catholics, Caribbean blacks, & Hispanics of African descent. Many of the pandemic ills in this Special Report are problems affecting the black church/ clandestine blacks. Although, I commend Soledad O’Brian for her hard work, it is a disservice to the subject matter to not mention this important caveat. In conclusion, no outside observer can wield any effective device of change unless the affected members are willing to incorporate lasting change and progress from within. Thanks for allowing me to submit my opinion.

    July 27, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  48. Jay Thomas

    Black in America focus was on the pathology of Black in America. There are milions of African- Americans who live norma lives, have good jobsa and good income, I raise three childen on my own after their father-my husband left us. My girls have college degrees and good jobs. I have two master' degrees. I could not watch your show to the completion. Most of the peope on the show do not look like me and my friends. Peope who work hard, have their chidren in wedlock, and work for a living. Black in America did not give its. Jeanne Thomas a fair look at blacks in America

    July 27, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  49. J - South Carolina

    Excellent Article by MLKIII, "now-not yet" focuses on the chiasm of blacks in america. At first I thought this article would be yet another "poor blacks" in america but rather focused on the success and further challenges that face blacks in america and more important MLKIII emphasizes that all americans and all walks of life face similiar challenges and opportunities. As a "non-black " american I involuntarily get irritated when people whin about external circumstances and am told "you just don't understand" Well one thing I do understand is that a person can control their internal circumstances and take advantage of the great opportunities this great country has to offer regardless of race, color, gender or creed.

    July 27, 2008 at 8:16 pm |
  50. rodger whiteside

    Black in America, why was there not a segment on single men trying to find good black women? I would have liked to have seen more middle of the road black men, loving black women and their black children, the true middle class living in black neighborhoods that are not ran and crime infested. This series was good ,but showed two extremes of black america and not the regular black folks who don't stuggle, but don't make figures either. We are more than those extremes.

    July 27, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
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