Just Sayin’ …Two beautiful TV series on race in America (Ulish Carter's Column May 17, 2017)


Last week, while flicking through the channels, I ran into two specials: “American Race” and “United Shades of America.” While both addressed the racial problems in America and were very interesting and educational, both only touched slightly on the primary problems shackling the Black community.
“American Race” is hosted by basketball legend Charles Barkley on TNT and “United Shades of America” is hosted by comedian W. Kamau Bell on CNN.
“United Shades of America,” which airs on Sundays at 8 p.m., was nominated for an Emmy at the 68th annual Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program category in its first season. CNN renewed the show for eight more episodes this year.
The episodes I watched were, “The New KKK,” “Behind These Walls,” “Latino USA,” “Chicago Gangs,” “Native Americans,” and “Protect and Serve?” The two that focused on Blacks were about police and the Black community relations as a whole, particularly in Camden, N.J., and gangs in Chicago.
Bell walked and traveled with police officers in Camden as they patrolled the Black and Latino communities, and talked to the people.
Camden has been rated as the most crime-ridden city in the country. To remedy this problem, the mayor, police and community decided to require that police officers must live in the city and that some must walk the streets to help them better communicate with the residents.
This sounds a lot like the debate in Pittsburgh, and other cities throughout the country, on police and community relations.
The results have yet to be known, but the police and residents are very excited, and hopeful that it will be positive.
The “Chicago Gangs” episode focused on the many gangs in Chicago and all the young people being killed by them. According to stats, 76 percent of the homicides in Chicago are Black and 51 percent are under 30, much like Pittsburgh and the country as a whole.
TNT’s Barkley-led four-hour documentary series, “American Race,” aired May 11-12. The show features Barkley traveling to different American cities to explore race dynamics in those cities. The shows cover race and policing in Baltimore; What it is to be Muslim in America in Irving, Texas; Race and entertainment in Los Angeles; and immigration in Atlanta. Barkley said he has wanted to form a production company for years and pitched the concept to Turner Sports executives, who greenlighted the idea.
Both series will be re-aired soon on their respective networks.
“United Shades of America” aired their three 2017 episodes, “Immigrants and Refugees,” “Chicago Gangs,” and “Native Americans,” last week.
The two series didn’t just deal with Blacks, they dealt with all people of color; how they have been and are being treated in the U.S., and how they are projected to be the majority in 2040. Each series dedicated one episode to Blacks.
Both series had an episode that dealt with police violence toward Blacks and the fear many Blacks have of police, but only touched on Black-on-Black violence and how many Blacks, if not most, are prisoners in their own communities because of the violence that comes with poverty and street drugs. People appeared more than ready to talk about it, but time limited the episodes.
At the end of the Black episodes on Blacks, Barkley asked the question, “What can be done to remedy the problems in a city like Baltimore and the various other cities throughout the U.S?” He said that a better understanding between police and residents is needed with more businesses in these cities. Which is right, but…
I believe that in order for Black communities to grow, Blacks must be willing to put more of their money into businesses in their community. Right now, we are too dependent on government money, money from foundations and White private investments. What we need are more Blacks, like Barkley and Bell, to show leadership by investing and shopping at Black businesses.
Many White businesses grow because of Wall Street investments, which are perfect strangers investing into businesses they think will grow. If we are ever going to develop as a people, we have got to stop killing each other in the streets, abusing each other at home and teach our children to not only support Black businesses when they can, but how to create something that others are willing to pay for.
White people have towns and small cities with hundreds, yet they have a business district, sometimes several. We have cities with thousands of Blacks, but no business districts, and, if there is a district, it’s owned by Whites.
We need more series like these two on TV.
(Ulish Carter is the former managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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