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CNN's Black in America: A Documentary in Need of a Solution
By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
July 25, 2008

 

 

To: CNN, Dr. Dennis Kimbro, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Dr. Roland Fryer, Bishop T. D. Jakes, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and Soledad O'Brien 

I would like to thank CNN for making an attempt to show the world the conditions of what it is to be Black in America.  After watching four hours of the documentary, I am sure that a lot of people enjoyed it because it genuinely addressed the main problems of Black America, but it did not address the solution to the problems.

To every folklore or story, there is a moral to it.  It is the duty of the storyteller to leave the audience with a moral to the story no matter the variation of opinions each member of the audience will leave with.  This is where the audience needs to be served the most, not just the story.  Many Americans know that many Black problems stem from fatherless homes, teenage pregnancy, high drop-out rates, drugs, incarcerations, poor health care, and low income just to mention a few.  The documentary showed all these problems, but did not give a reasonable solution to even out the socio-economic disparities between Blacks and Whites in America or how to simply improve the social-economic conditions of Blacks. 

Instead of solutions, I saw sexism towards the Black man.  He is the reason why Black women could not find him to marry because he is not sophisticated enough to spell, work in corporate America, and is insecure of his low income.  It showed Black men to be so irresponsible that they forget their son’s birthday, which is taking place in their mother’s house, and have many children with many women.  Also, Black men hate school and would rather sell drugs than get a job. They did protected the women and never ask the women why they were having babies for many different men or why a single mother should be with five children.  Like the intellectuals and guests in the documentary pointed out, Black American problems are based upon poor education and low income. 

 

CNN did not stress that the purpose of Black slavery in America was to use Blacks legally as free or cheap labor to generate wealth for White America.  Slavery only stopped when they realized that it was more productive and profitable to pay a slave a little wage for encouragement than to maintain him in bondage.   So to maintain White American wealth, despite time, civil rights, and affirmative action, it was necessary to keep the descendants of the slave as legal cheap or free laborers.  This is the purpose of incarceration, unfair drug (crack) laws, the welfare system, high unemployment, police brutality, and racial profiling.  This is what leads to inferiority complex, frustration, bad health, single parent homes, drugs, low incomes, and not to mention that Blacks are the last to get hired and the first to get laid-off or fired at work.  The question is how do we get the rest of the nation and the world to understand the conditions of the Black race, like the feminists, gays, and Jews have done successfully, and encourage the masses to pressurize their governments and judicial systems to address the Black dilemma adequately.  This is the purpose of cultural or social documentaries.  To make non-members of a group willingly carry the cross for another in all walks of life.  This is what Black American scholars, the media, and political leaders are not achieving. 

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We all agree from the documentary that adequate education and better source of income for Blacks can effectively and efficiently break the spiritual shackles of slavery that has kept Blacks as free and cheap labors for over four hundred years, even to other minority groups and immigrants.  I must also add that this is also possible because of the way American laws are written and can still be referenced no matter how old and unjust they are towards Blacks.  Many towns, cities, and counties still use lots of “old slave laws” against Blacks everyday in their courtrooms to tarnish their social records and make it almost impossible to gain a descent wage or even turn them to a life of crime.  This is what other minorities and immigrants do not have to worry about because the law was never written against them specifically.  They even have a better chance of improving their already established educational culture and getting better jobs than the descendants of free and cheap laborers of America.  For many Blacks, education becomes secondary when the constant and daily effort to rise above an ancient judicial system that births low income becomes the main occupation for survival.  After all, food, health, and shelter come before education. 

The purpose of this documentary should have been to not only educate non-Blacks about the effect of slavery on Black America after 400 years with the help of the judicial system, but always to win the support and eliminate the apathy of other races towards our plight.  This documentary did not achieve this necessity.  If America is truly interested in a free, just, and equal society that it claims to be, it must allow the descendants of the free and cheap laborers of over 400 years have free access to college education for the next 100 years.  This must also include the cancellation and reimbursement of the school loans of all surviving Blacks to date.  This free college education should be a compensation for their legalized social setback and will give them the opportunity to acquire the knowledge that they were deprived off for so long.  It will also give them a better chance to compete for descent paying jobs and a better understanding on how to create businesses for themselves.  This effort to even out the socio-economic disparity in America will only be effective if all of America speak out against the “old slave laws” that empower the legal system against Blacks and demand that these laws be abolished.

   

Responses

Dear Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu,
           
Thousands tuned in to watch Soledad O’Brien divulge into “Black America” and try to address the issues, barriers, and circumstances in which many people of color face on a day to day basis. Hundreds talked about what they saw and heard for the next few days around the water cooler at work. A few felt compelled to actually take action and make things better within their own communities. But, one had the courage to not only disagree but enter into what we know as civil discourse. For that I thank you. Your courage is admirable, your intellect is simply brilliant, and your theories are absolutely thought provoking.   
            I agree 100% with the overall just of your argument. While I concur, that CNN’s team did a great job putting this documentary together they pointed out the obvious and did little to explain how these rather known facts could or should be resolved. Is it meant for us the viewers to come up with our own solutions to these worldly problems? I doubt that was their intention but became the reality as you proved to do so throughout your letter.
            I fully agree that the problems Black America faces today are a direct result of poor education and low income. I loved your idea about a free college education as compensation for America’s “legalized social setback” which is also known as slavery. To me it’s like an unfair race to the finish line where our White counterparts received a 400 year headstart. Why not even the playing feel and have a fair race? I believe the answer is fear. Obtaining and acquiring more knowledge then the average African-American due to unfair opportunities within the states is one way the “master race” is able to keep the huge hand of oppression over our heads casting shadows that do nothing more then perpetuate the slave mentalities within out own community’s. I mean what is 100 years of free education in return for 400 years of slavery. We never did receive that 40 acres and a mule.
            “A documentary in need of a solution” was a well written piece and in my opinion the un-written end to what I would consider an un-finished documentary. This was the buried treasurer, the never before seen last chapter, the cap to a bottle of information that had opened and unl eashed on thousands of Blacks and non blacks alike. Presenting a problem without a solution serves no purpose but thanks to you, Soledad O’Brien and the entire CNN team have no reason to fret. You have clearly saved the day!
 
                                                            Sincerely,
                                                            Milan Z. Kunin

**************************************************

Hello,

You may have noticed that recently you received an influx of emails in response to your editorial on CNN's documentary, "Black in America." First and foremost, please allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Jodi Fernandez, and I teach an African Diaspora course at Peekskill High School. Peekskill High School is located in Westchester County in New York State. My students viewed the CNN documentary, and as a culminating activity, they read your editorial and were asked to respond to specific aspects of it. We were, to say the least, intrigued by your observations and thought-provoking ideas. Your response to the documentary presented ideas that stimulated a great deal of "accountable talk" in my class. We plan to continue to use your site "EdoFolks" as a resource. Thank you for having the courage to disagree and the responsibility to offer solutions.

Sincerely,

J. Fernandez
English Teacher

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Dear Mr. Aimiuwu,

            My name is Janel Leader, I am a student at Peekskill High School. When reading your article on Soledad O'Brien's documentary Black in America, you brought  a lot of things into the light that I didn't realize while watching the documentary. O'Brien did show the viewers problems that have a strong grip on the black community but did not give any concrete solutions to loosen that grip. I do agree with most of your article except for that one point you made that O'Brien tried to blame most of the problems on black men. In my opinion I don't feel that she tried to "demonize" them  or place the blame on them for why they're so many baby mothers instead of wives and why black women can't find good black men, she just did a poor job on showing in her documentary that black women are also some what responsible for these issues. Education like you stated would be the something that would help us as a people over come the issues that affect our community for example, health, violence & crime, and poverty. This is something I agree strongly with education is the starting point for a better life, and we as a community should value it more than we do at the moment, which I why I agree with your suggestion to give the ancestors of free or cheap laborers a free college education for the next 100 years so we could economically and socially better ourselves.
 
                                          Sincerely,
                                                Janel Leader

************************************************

Hello Ehimwenma Aimiuwu , my name is Briana Clemmons and I am currently an 11th grade student at Peekskill High School in Peekskill , NY. My African Diaspora class watched CNN's Black In America documentary and then read your article "A Documentary in Need of a Solution". I agree with your theory that Soledad O' Brien's documentary is in need for a solution. I knew that being black in America was struggle but I didn't know how horrific the black society was. I also agree with the fact that you said in your article that you seen sexism within the documentary because there was negative connotations towards the black man being unintelligent and not being a strong foundation for the black women and their children.
   
    But what I don't agree with is the part in your article when you stated the quote, "Also, Black men hate school and would rather sell drugs than get a job." I don't agree with that statement because there's a couple of young black men that loves to read and actually wants to make something of themselves. The real problem is that there isn't enough black men the wants education.
 
    Overall, your article has great solutions to "Black in America" and I appreciate the fact that you really care about the black society. 

****************************************************

Dear Mr. Aimiuwu 
Back In America 
CNN’s Black in America pin pointed the down falls of Africans in America as well as issues we face as a whole. Though brilliant, the documentary=2 0was disturbing to watch due to the face that it was true. I am enrolled in an amazing class: African Diaspora – the voluntary or involuntary movement of Africans specifically to the Americas via slave trade. In class we’ve recently came across you editorial: A Documentary in Need Of a Solution which contained magnificent ideas. I definitely agree with your argument regarding the need for a solution. For many years we’ve cried out in documentaries, and people have clamed to show sympathy, but yet we are still at the bottom. Basically the whole entertainment industry is black. People like O’Brian have made amazing documentaries. So many sophisticated authors, teacher, doctor, and ETC. are black, but this isn’t enough. Why is it that Jews have been put in harsher situations then slavery (the Holocaust) and have made it? I believe a solution is much needed but shouldn’t be handed to us. 
 
Kevin Bass

***************************************

 

Dear, Ehimwenma Aimiuwu

My name is Malcolm Kristopher Owens and im a junior at Peekskill High
School. I am a seventeen year old African American male. I am Very
interested on your piece that you wrote about the video CNN's Black in
America. The part that caught my attention the most is when you felt
that since blacks were working hard for over four hundred years that now
we should be able to go to college for the next one hundred years. I
agree with that's 100% becauce one reason why im not going to college is
my family does not have enough money for me to go. So if college was
free i can go and get my degree and find my self a great job and take
care of my family and I. Your next topic i 50% agreed with was that
black problems stem from fatherless homes. I think people can't blame
their problems on not having a father because i grew up in my mothers
house without my father and i never been locked up before, and i never
start problems in school or in the streets. Well thanks for writing your
piece it was amazing.

Sincerly yours,
Malcolm K. Owens

**************************************

Dear, Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
 
I’m doing a class project about the story you wrote. I do agree with your documentary “A Documentary in Need of a Solution”. One reason is because they were just saying negative things about black fathers. It takes two to have a kid, so it’s some what the mothers fault to, but that doesn’t make it right for the father to leave. At least he can do is come to his child birthday party once a year with a gift. You have a whole year to get a nice $50 gift for your child. Now back to what you were saying about the free college for 100 years, I think that is fantastic. That would make all the black kids who have dreams want to go to school and do not have to worry about the money issues. I think that would be a lot less crime on the streets and drugs. I think this will also fix our economy because more people would have jobs and start spending money again. Mr. Aimiuwu you have came up with a good idea, and I think everything would work out but that’s just another dream that most likely not happen in this lifetime.
                               
-DOMINIQUE HOSPIE-

**********************************************

Dear Mr.Aimiuwu,

 

    Hello, my name is Christopher Kennedy and I am writing to you in regards to your response on CNN's Black in America documentary. I do indeed agree with many of the points you make. Such as, the sexism the documentary showed toward the modern day black man. Although this is indeed sexism it is showed in a way that is only truthful, without a steady income and no education to rely on, women are not going to be looking for a black man as a partner. As it is shown well enough today many black men do not choose to go to their local library or participate in their community’s activities, these untaken opportunities keeps us at a distinct disadvantage as a whole race. I also agree when in your article you state that, "...America used blacks as free or cheap labor..." and this is very true because just as human beings, being showed a reward (that is tangible as money), gives us the right amount of encouragement to want to do whatever it may be even more. overall, I agree with your response to CNN's Black in America because its logical, understandable, and above all true, everything mentioned in your article are things that are apparently open and now free opportunities for all in the black community. The question is, why aren’t there more of us taking them...?

 

Christopher Kennedy

***********************************

Dear Mr. Aimiuwu,
 
            In my African Diaspora class at Peekskill High School we read your editorial in response to CNN’s Black in America, I was surprised and intrigued by your unique and thorough response to it.
            Some parts of your article grabbed my attention. The topic about sexism towards men intrigued me, when you said “They did protect the women and never ask the women why they were having babies for many different men or why a single mother should be with five children.” As a woman I feel like the point you made is true; however, many sexist comments and discrimination fall upon single black mothers. One must not look at every woman and think that their “baby father” is in jail, a drug dealer, or a deadbeat. That is not the case. In every household, women are independent and don’t always need a man to complete them. Yet it’s true that the women’s independence may hurt their kids in the future due to the fact that they are growing up without a father figure. The point about men falling victim to sexism is absolutely true, and I definitely agree with you. We can’t forget that black women along with black men are victims of sexism.
            Another part that grabbed my attention was at the and when you said, “The purpose of this documentary should have been to not only educate non-Blacks about the effect of slavery on Black America after 400 years with the help of the judicial system, but always to win the support and eliminate the apathy of other races towards our plight.” This is absolutely true; after 400 years of slavery the fact of being “black in America” is only being thrown at Black people. As you have put it, it should be told to everyone so that we can gain help in mak ing it. 400 years and our people have gone through enough; after all of this we still have to go through racism. It’s harder for black people to survive in America with racism gnawing at our backs.
            You have shown me more than the problems we face, but also solutions to these problems. After reading your editorial I’m no longer ignorant towards learning about my peoples past I am more open to it. We have started another editorial of yours and I cannot wait to finish it and be empowered.
 
                                                                                                Sincerely,
                                                                                           Charnice Jones

********************************************************

Dear Mr. Aimiuwu,
 
   My name is Gyse Sorrell and i am a senior at Peekskilll highschool.I have read your account by the name of " A Documentary in Need of a Solution" and i love it.You have opened the eyes of many people of the african american race. You have not only discussed the issues that were pin pointed out in cnn's" Black in America", but you have also brought about several ideas as to why these issues even exist and is still existing to day.
  You also brought up a good point when you stated that the documentary was not fulfilling its "neccessary duty".It was supossed to address solutions to these current issues yet it did not. I agree with everything you have stated one hundred percent.I agree with you because most of the "social or cultural documentaries" are not achieving or fulfilling the main goal of the show.Indeed that is to "make non-members of a group willingly carry the cross for another in all walks of life".
  I think this account that you have written will actually make the media, Black American Scholars and political leaders see this as an opportunity to change and create solutions to the these issues.Thanks for speaking out on this important issue that needed to be adressed. 
 
                                                                 Sincerly, Gyse Sorrell