Your Black Writers: CNN’s Black in America Gets it Wrong

By Askia Muhammad

Senior Correspondent, The Final Call

The photography, the special effects, were all reminiscent of the best in contemporary filmmaking and broadcast journalism. Those are the kindest things I can say about the effort. History has not been rewritten by this CNN effort.

One scholar I spoke with said he did not see the program. By way of explanation, he said he doesn’t watch much television at all. Maybe that too is my problem with the program. I don’t watch enough other TV.

In my view, the report seemed to borrow stylistically from some of television’s more successful formats. In alphabetical order the things which stood out: Each segment was introduced by what seemed like a BET or MTV-wannabe. A young man spoke during segment transitions in faux-rhymes, as if to only slightly suggest a muted, and very toned-down hip hop artist, articulating his message rather than rapping it.

Host Soledad O’Brien seemed to be a kind of Oprah-in-waiting, charming, friendly, helping participants recall decades-old experiences, even taking them back for nostalgic strolls down memory lane, helping make their worst dreams come alive again.

There was even a Jerry Springer-show-like confrontation between an absent father holding his one-year-old daughter, while his baby’s mama (now pregnant with twins fathered by another man) accused him of neglect.

It was theater, meets journalism, meets reality-TV, all in one.

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