Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Racism as usual 

Between a Barack and a hard place

I knew that it was too good to be true. CNN was producing a special on African-Americans entitled Black in America. I had the privilege of attending a special screening of the series and found it moving, informative and reflective of many joys and challenges faced by black Americans. Hearing from "everyday" people about their experiences was way overdue. Too often folks identified by the media and empowered groups had been allowed to dictate who gets to be the voice of black America as if it is some monolithic group.

At any rate, I was excited about this series, especially because it was being hosted by one of my favorite anchors, Soledad O'Brien, and included partnerships with magazines like Essence. Surely if CNN felt the need to explore the experiences of black folks, then maybe, just maybe, discussions about race were becoming less of a minefield and more of an integral part of the national dialogue. Perhaps one day, we could all really get along. A lovely song was playing in my head and I was moving to the beat.

Scratch. Take the needle off of the record. As I was surfing the Web last week, I came across a headline on CNN.com that asked the question, "Could an Obama presidency hurt black Americans?" Huh. I was taken aback: I don't think I've heard that question asked of any other presidential candidate in recent years. Furthermore, the idea that a black man could do any worse by black people than those before him is sheer lunacy.

The network that had heavily promoted this Black in America series had hoodwinked me. Plymouth Rock had landed on my mind when I dared to suspend my disbelief in a media system that is racist and flawed. I felt like CNN had done a bait-and-switch on me -- act like our network gives a damn about black people, and when I let my guard down, go in for a one-two punch.

I was down, but not quite out. It did not get past me that this network had not asked the same of George W. Bush, John McCain, John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney or Rudolph Giuliani. The network that feigned concern over the affairs of blacks had lured us in, while promoting the same racism that they claimed they were trying to expose and eradicate with Black in America. How could blacks suffer under Barack Obama any more than any other candidate, past or present? This headline smacked of an attempt to divide and conquer by suggesting to all Americans, especially blacks tuning into this series, that Obama could be bad for black people.

Black folks who think that Obama is a demigod who will change in four years what term what took 400 years to accomplish are in for disappointment. But disappointment and hurt are two different things. He is a politician who cares about everyone -- period. Why is it that a black man who is concerned about the needs of all Americans is made out to be a traitor to his race? Have we forgotten the civil rights movements that, though led primarily by blacks, benefitted all Americans. Black folks were not saying give us equal access to education and forget everybody else. We said give everybody equal access to education and an abundance of other human rights.

Obama comes out of that tradition, not focusing on his particular group, but on all Americans. Has CNN pointed that out? Would we see a headline on CNN or any other mainstream outlet that said, "Will McCain as president hurt poor and working-class whites?" Probably not. And why not? Because of racism. Let's hold this black man to a standard that has never been raised or enforced by any other presidential candidate while we let Sir Nix-a-lot off the hook.

By the way, why isn't CNN asking that question? And why isn't CNN asking why McCain, who was stateside, declined to speak at Unity 2008, the world's largest conference of journalists of color, including African-Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans and Native Americans. The presumptive Republican nominee, who complains about his lack of media coverage, blew off 6,000 reporters of color. Obama made it to Unity 2008 at the conclusion of the European leg of his world tour, answering questions, even some racist ones.

At the convention, Leonard Pitts, a columnist for The Miami Herald who is black, asked him why he had not visited a mosque. Has anyone posed this question of presidential candidates before? Why would a man who has been falsely identified as a Muslim visit a mosque? If he visits a mosque, then he is a Muslim. If he does not visit a mosque, then he is anti-Islamic. Maybe he has not visited because he is a Christian. Maybe he has not been invited lately.

In his talk, he highlighted the fact. Obama, one of a few politicians to publicly defend Muslims in America, pointed out that he delivered a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention asking America to end hatred against Muslims.

It would seem appropriate to end this piece with the colloquialism that Obama cannot seem to win for losing. But I won't. Instead I will state concretely that racism is alive and well and is playing out right before our very eyes in this presidential election. In spite of the questionable tactics of CNN and the racism that Obama faces from journalists of all colors, he continues to press on, which is as African American as one can get.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events

www.flickr.com
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation