The Integration Proclamation

I don’t even know where to begin. I know. I should have followed my first mind and not watched it. But I did and now with hindsight I wished I watched with no expectations. Here are some questions for the producers: What was your purpose? Who was your audience? Who did you consult?

Did y’all notice that for the first 45 minutes of CNN’s “Black Women in America” special it dealt with blacks and education? And then another 20 minutes on blacks and health? It discussed black women for about 30 minutes. Thirty minutes! To be honest, I didn’t know the show was over. I sat on my sofa waiting for it to really begin talking about black women’s issues. It never happened.

Also, did you notice some of the images in their “Black Men in America” special? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember seeing successful dark skinned black men who are married with a family (outside of DL Hughley). All of them were light skinned – and experienced some sort of ostracism from other blacks for being educated. I don’t remember seeing blue collar men with families (like my father) represented. There was no middle ground.

What’s interesting is both specials’ historical references are in the 1950s rather than slavery. So, it doesn’t connect the dots that every problem in black America can be traced back to slavery. Somebody on their team doesn’t understand that the breakdown of the black family didn’t happen during the crack invasion, it happened during slavery and that the same system that was created to keep black men out of their families is still working today. Whoopi Goldberg touched on it when she talked about the welfare system. But CNN missed the mark on talking about how women get more assistance when they don’t have a man in the home. That conversation would’ve gotten to the business at hand.

It was a grim program to watch and certainly one to live day to day. Why didn’t they discuss blacks and depression? There are studies now about how Hurricane Katrina victims are experiencing severe emotional trauma from losing their homes and loved ones. Surely, there are mental and emotional ramifications from 400 years of systematic inhumane treatment. But, overlooking slavery offered a very superficial report.

CNN presented all of these problems without even discussing who’s to blame. Not racism. Not the government. Nobody. How did they pull that off?

As subtle as the solution was, they did present one. It seems they were selling integration. The men portrayed as successful – even if the father grew up in the ‘hood– migrated to the suburbs, received a quality education and made a conscious decision to raise their families there. What’s interesting to me is how this message is reaching all of America at a time when the economy is the way it is. Let’s just say that Brown vs. the Board of Education didn’t go through and we lived in segregated communities. How bad would it be when African Americans – who have a buying power of over a billion dollars – kept it in the community?

Just think about it. Segregation allowed us to be self-sufficient. You live, work and are educated in your community. Gas prices really wouldn’t affect your commute. You wouldn’t have to travel 30 to 45 minutes to get fresh produce like the elderly woman living in Harlem told Soledad O’Brien during the “Black Women in America” segment. You’d be able to buy it at your local black-owned grocery store. Or better yet, you’d be able to go in your backyard and pick vegetables from your garden. I’ve run into five sistas who are starting or already started growing their own vegetables, including my neighbor who told me to come by and get some eggplant and squash. How empowering is that?!!!

My question is if their intent is to push integration, then who really benefits from it? I’m not against integration. I just would like to see a system set up where it doesn’t matter your race, economic status or social background, you have access to the quality education, healthcare and housing that all human beings deserve. Yet, the message I got is that if you want a quality lifestyle, you’ve got to go to the suburbs to get it.

I remember when I went to Cape Town, South Africa. One of the tourism board’s marketing directors – who grew up in a township – told us how he and some of his college educated friends made a decision to continue to live in the township so their money could circulate in their community. He felt like leaving would only make the impoverished conditions worse. But, he did understand why some of his friends left. Very interesting.

I’m dreaming one day that we will live in a world where the best education, healthcare, and housing is available to all, no matter where we are or where we come from.

Envisioning you with much love, light and fulfillment. See you next week.

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. More information on the group can be found at www.sistersong.net. Ahmad can be reached at missyaminah@gma