CNN’s Black in America 2: Individual Solutions

By Daisy Hernandez Jul 22, 2009

You got to give it to CNN editors. They’re good at what they do. Emotional storyline? Check. Failed marriages? Men and women trying to make their communities better? Close ups of grown men crying? Check. Check. Check. We got a preview here at RaceWire of CNN Black in America 2, which premiers tonight (the second show airs tomorrow). The focus? Solutions to Black America’s problems. For the most part, it’s the usual: individual solutions. Out of prison and don’t want to be sent back? Check out the program that teaches you to how to behave at work. Are you a Black couple struggling with a failing marriage? It’s Black marriage boot camp for you. Need a role model? There’s Tyler Perry. And yet I kept watching. Why? It’s stories of men and women trying to change their worlds (or pursue their creative dreams as in the case of Perry), and that’s something we can all relate to. Also, change of any kind has to be to some degree about the work within ourselves. The stories in Black in America speak to that. The problem is that they stop there. They don’t address the other work we need to do: changing the institutions and policies that shape our everyday lives. The one exception—and this was small but worth the mention because I wish CNN would do more of this—was the story of Black breast cancer survivors. The spotlight was on Dr. Lisa Newman, a Black doctor pursuing the cure for the high rates of deadly cancer in Black women. Part of her work is collecting genetic samples in the U.S. and in Ghana. The women who are signing up for her research are part of the Sister’s Network, a group of Black breast cancer survivors. And those women as a group should have been the focus. What are they doing together? Is it just a support group? Or more? Are they looking at the funding that’s provided to researching breast cancer among Black women? Or the reasons these women are developing this cancer at a rate that’s twice that of white women? Are they examining environmental racism? Or the racial disparities in health care? While I love the story of individual men and women’s work, the problems are community-wide and the solutions should be too. You can give your input including video uploads at