Program Note: In the next installment of CNN's Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien examines the successes, struggles and complex issues faced by black men, women and families, 40 years after the death of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Watch encore presentation Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m. ET
We devote several days on the blog to smart insight and commentary related to the special.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/22/art.bia.soledad.jpg caption="Soledad O'Brien reporting for 'Black In America'"]
CNN Anchor and Special Correspondent
I'm on the phone with a confused reporter, and I'm confused too. She keeps asking me why I "count myself as black... And why does Barack Obama?" My answer (for Sen. Obama, at least) is "have you seen him?" But she won't let it go. "Is your father annoyed that you deny him?" My dad is white. I interject. "Let's conference him in," I say. "Listen, he married a black woman, he has six black children. He'd be the first person to tell you I'm black."
The questions, to me, reveal more about the asker. This (white) reporter surely doesn't know a lot of black people, or she wouldn't be struggling so hard. She'd know black people come in all hues.
Our documentary, Black in America airs on Wednesday and Thursday and now all anyone wants to talk to me about is race. A clear sign, if you ask me, that this is a discussion that's been long in coming.
The TSA screener at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson airport asks me if the documentary is "worth letting his sons stay up to see?" I tell him definitely yes.
It's an indication that the story of black people in this country needs to be told – a wide range of stories – some of successful blacks, stories of some who are struggling. We interview corporate execs and recovering addicts, parents who've proudly sent all six kids to college and single moms who are struggling. We have lots of stories that make up who we are – and guess what, we're more than rappers and ballers and Secretaries of State (though we are that too).
Which brings me back to the reporter. Finally I tell her "this is clearly more about you than about me. Why is it so hard for you to see me, and Barack Obama as black?" I'm trying to remember that talking about race is a difficult conversation and it sometimes means starting at the very beginning. Let's start talking.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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