I sat down last night to watch CNN's special Black in America: The Black Man. I will admit I went into it with little hope after sitting through the first half of the documentary on women. Unfortunately it suffered from some of the same fatal flaws that the women's did.
Okay CNN where are the gay and trans men? Why the hell aren't they worthy of 5 mins of representation, in your documentary that attempts to teach us all about the experiences of black men? I understand that part of your goal is to push heterosexuality, however heterosexuality is only understood as good because homosexual is constructed as bad. It seems in its quest to push heteronormativity, certain groups of people due to their sexuality or gender fluid identity somehow become non black, and non relevant. I am sick of this shit. When we refuse to acknowledge gay men, and trans men we leave them open to attack, and some have paid for homophobia and transphobia with their very lives. This is a black issue, just as much as men in prison, or men dealing with a high unemployment rate.
I went to Anderson 360's blog and posted the following question. "Hello Anderson….Here is my question, why is it that gay men and trans men were not represented in a documentary that claims to be all about black men in America? Does their sexuality somehow negate their blackness? In a world that is both trans phobic, and homophobic not representing them is the same as saying that these bodies don’t matter." An hour later it is still in moderation. It seems that unless you are praising Obama, or telling them how wonderful they are for creating this series in the first place your thoughts are unwelcome.
Anderson's general response was ( I am not arrogant enough to assume he was speaking to me) "no one documentary can ever cover all we would like it to, but I think Soledad did a terrific job. a monumental task and she really pulled it off."
Translation, your black ass should just be happy that we spent four hours focused on your issues. Now shut up, and tell us how much you love us.
Throughout the documentary there was a huge push for black men to be "real men" and settle down and marry the mothers of their children. What if we don't want to marry? Oh wait, of course we do, they told us that we wanted that on Wednesday. The solution is for black men to marry, establish a patriarchal household and live the black fairy tale. It seems that the true testament to manhood is reproducing, and oppressing women. I have a solution, how about these men work, and pay their damn child support...How about they decide the way forward is to partner with black women as equals, and not potential oppressors, wife beaters, or rapists. Of course not all black men fit this stereotype but black women cannot afford to assume that just because a man is black, that he is not capable of inflicting pain and violence.
One of the issues that they really focused on was black over representation in the prison population, and the effect that it has on their chances of getting employment. I thought that was a particularly good segment but it should have been married with the fact that black men are also over represented in the military. It is no accident that they appear in both of these groups. Black men are cannon fodder, to fight wars in which they have no personal stake to enrich transnational corporations. Remember, diversity is supposed to be a good thing. On a day when Barack Obama spoke to the world about the future, black men are dying on foreign soil. There is a connection between racism, poverty and blacks as tools of war. I have sworn as a mother that no matter the conflict, no son of mine will ever die in a war to enrich a white man that is intent on oppressing him.
The other message that was pushed in this documentary is that success is defined by possessions..yes worship the God of capitalism. This is problematic as it is in the pursuit of material gain that black men engage in drug dealing in the first place. It is through prioritizing commodities over their fellow men, that black men addict whole families to illicit drugs. Yet even this could end if legitimate economic opportunities existed, and drug addiction was treated as an illness instead of a crime. To be clear, imprisoning whole generations of men with this "war on drugs" is really a form of neo-slavery. Consider that in prison camps these men labour daily for ridiculously low sums of money. To talk about the prison system one should also consider who benefits from it. There are towns that are dependent on prisons to support their local economy. Black men in prison benefits our white racist patriarchal society, and that should have been said very clearly. Whites have a history of enslaving the black man for profit, and nothing has changed since our ancestors first stepped foot on this continent. Of course the aforementioned is not the angle that CNN chose to take...Oh no, they found an apologist by the name of Joseph C. Phillips to parrot the personal responsibility mantra...Where was his buddy Bill Cosby to back him in his fallacies? Of course the black Afrostocracy is going to push the meritocracy angle, they don't want to admit their complicity in benefiting from the poverty of others....I know, I know, how can we possibly expect them to explain an obvious division in a two hour time frame, what if they weren't able to cover rap and hip hop because of it?
I did learn something really substantial watching this series....drumroll please...blacks don't have disabilities. Nope we are all incredibly, magically, able bodied. I guess that is the reason so many of us are represented by athletes. There are no blind, deaf, or mentally disabled amongst us, and even if there were, what possible special challenges could they have? Whatever they daily negotiate is certainly not legitimate enough for CNN to look past the impoverished ghettoized man / affluent bourgeoisie dichotomy. If you don't fit specifically within these limited categories once again you are not black enough to count.
While I feel that this segment did a much better job at showing a wider range of the black experience (no surprise it was about men) there were several critical connections that they failed to make. When you are going to discuss "isms" it is important to understand that they are interlocking and as such, cannot be examined individually. In the four hours that I dedicated to watching this, I certainly did not learn anything new, but then this show was not created for the black community. Try again CNN maybe next time you might get it right.