CNN ended its documentary last night with my former Hip Hop professor, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and his incarcerated brother meeting in jail. This scene was representative of the whole documentary. CNN did not show Black men in America, they showed the tragedies and success stories of black men, without giving any light to the middle ground.
They started in Little Rock Arkansas, which was a good place to start, given its history. They covered one member of the Little Rock 9 who went on to become a judge and then covered a man who had a long history of drug abuse and crime who had turned his life together. They did show some insight into how he fell into drug abuse and crime. The man was a Vietnam veteran who had begun abusing drugs while fighting the war. The Vietnam War, which disproportionately recruited black men, did a lot to damage to the black man and subsequently the black family and community.
The Vietnam War brought a lot of stress and trauma to the black men who were forced to serve, many of whom did not believe in the war. Many black men also had good access to heroine in Vietnam, which they brought back home causing the 1st devastating drug epidemic in the black community. The stress and trauma of the war led to many soldiers falling into permanent drug addiction.
CNN also went into depth on the incarceration rate among black males. It seems that a tactic CNN likes to do is take a negative thing and then give statistics about it in which black people are double or worse than white people. One statistic they didn’t give is that black people and white people use drugs at the exact same rate as black people. Why is it then that black people are arrested for drugs at 5 times the rate than white people?
After the white-collar criminal, the least risky criminal profession has to be the white drug dealer. Without having to be worried about stopped and frisked, pulled over or followed, white drug dealers are free to get through customs, move enormous weight and freely sell cocaine, ecstasy, crack, meth without facing any of the risks of incarceration that a black drug dealer would. Its not like all the white people are going to the black community to get drugs so there must be a large amount of white drug dealers seeing as there are a lot of white drug addicts. If white people’s sons or daughters were being arrested at the same rate as black people, I’m sure a public outcry at the injustice and unnecessary incarceration would lead to a change in the drug laws.
The drug war is really a war on young black men. These men serve as a scapegoat for the drug and crime problem in America. I won’t say that selling drugs is a victimless crime, but the drug addicts are victims of their addiction and the drugs, not the drug dealers. Unfortunately drugs have become intertwined with American life. If America is going to deal effectively with drugs they are going to have to deal with how drugs actually come in and how to treat addiction. Black people are not bringing in cocaine or heroin to the country and mostly serve as low-level retail distributors. If the US were to invest the money they did in the war on drugs, into drug education, addiction treatment and providing other opportunities to the young men who sell drugs, police would be able to put people in prison who really deserve to be there.
The USA has not only the highest percentage of incarcerated people in the world and has more people in jail than any country in the world including China which has 3 billion people and is often attacked for their human rights violations. In the US, jail does not rehabilitate its prisoners; it just serves as a place for criminals to train and network with other criminals. USA brings in the drugs(CIA), creates the demand for drugs, and gives little opportunities other than drugs to the black community and then locks them up for selling them, creating a new cycle of poor fatherless children who face the same lack opportunities.
While the USA chases down black people to fill their jails, they are ignoring the growing meth and prescription drug problems that are plaguing their own white communities. Jails are owned by corporations who lobby politicians for longer sentences and harsher drug laws so they can fill up their jails. Corporations like Pfizer are also lobbying for stricter drug laws so they can knock out the competition for their own prescription drugs. The drug war is like the war in Iraq, it is an occupation, with the black community being held hostage in the crossfire.
CNN profiled two successful black males in different worlds. One was a family man with three sons living in the suburbs, the other a successful New York marketing director. Rather than focusing in on their successes, they focused on their struggles with keeping their identity while assimilating into the white communities and workplaces. The family man lived in the suburbs and all his sons dated white women. One son said he used to try and be real black by wearing cornrows and listening to hip hop as if that’s what being black was all about. They didn’t mention at all the growing number of black suburbs near DC, Atlanta and LA where black people have been moving without leaving their people or social class. They also played no mind to the growing number of black businesses in which black people work together without having to sacrifice their identity.
Spike Lee also showed a lot of insight into perceptions of blacks in the media. Lupe Fiasco proved to be an articulate spokesman for the current state of Hip Hop, while Russell Simmons refused to criticize any part of Hip Hop, proving that he will promote anything he makes money out of whether it be blood diamonds or the negative influence of current Hip Hop.
Overall this show presented two different parts of black America, the tragedy who felt the pains of drugs, crime and poverty and the success who has to assimilate into white society. They left out the working class black man, the successful black man who lives among other black people or works with other black people. They focused on lot of problems in the black community but did not look at any of the causes or solutions.
Watch the Whole Second Part Here