Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jason Whitlock on "The Wire"

Alex Haley’s TV miniseries "Roots" set Nielsen Ratings records, won numerous awards and made the whole country take part in an uncomfortable-but-healthy conversation about race and racism.

For a lot of people, "Roots I" and "Roots II," released in 1977 and 1979, put the Black condition in context for the first time. It was largely a story about what institutionalized, white racism did to black folks and how one black family chose to fight it.

America, it seems, takes great satisfaction and perverse pleasure in watching black people battle systematic disenfranchisement imposed by white people.

We apparently have little interest in watching or learning about how black people participate in their own disenfranchisement.

Yes, this is AOL Sports, but I told you at the outset that Real Talk would stray into more important areas than sports. We want to be a vehicle for change, a place that sets the standard for honest, intelligent conversation about the issues that separate us.

Today I want to talk about my favorite TV show – "The Wire" – because it chronicles a self-imposed enslavement, and it’s being ignored by viewers and the Emmys. Worse, David Simon’s powerful HBO series about black youth caught in America’s war on drugs and our collective indifference to the bloodshed has sparked little healthy conversation.

"The Wire" details a genocide in poor black communities that in some ways is much sadder than anything in Haley’s epic. Roots focused on Kunta Kinte’s legacy of fighting back against the oppressor. The Wire meticulously details that political forces, black and white, work in conjunction with what I like to call the new Ku Klux Klan (black gangstas) to keep black youth uneducated, strung out, parent-less and unprepared for a life that doesn’t include prison bars and a same-sex life partner.

Like Haley’s Roots, Simon’s Wire, especially season 4, should be hailed on the cover of Time, analyzed on Nightline and discussed on Oprah’s couch.

Instead, we’re ignoring it because black people are embarrassed by it and still think the solution to our problems is the responsibility of a white daddy. White people are ignoring the discussion because they don’t want to appear racist and they don’t want the responsibility of fixing a problem they acknowledge white racism created but they know has a black-led-and-created solution.

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3 comments:

Brother Spotless said...

You know I had to comment on this...


"The Wire meticulously details that political forces, black and white, work in conjunction with what I like to call the new Ku Klux Klan (black gangstas) to keep black youth uneducated, strung out, parent-less and unprepared for a life that doesn’t include prison bars and a same-sex life partner."

More is needed if one attempts to compare black rappers to the KKK. There are many steps a black rapper has to take in order to be accuratly compared to the KKK. The KKK, in my opinion, suffered from a level of hate black rappers haven't reached. Also, it takes something different to espouse self hate of your own people than it does to profess hatred of another race. However, black rappers, no matter how much control of their music they have, should shoulder a good portion of the blame with respect to the condition of the black youth. I find a more accurate comparison to be black rappers represent the new age Uncle Tom. The Uncle Tom stereotype no longer points to a corporate token black "yes man," but more accuratley points to a black person who will do and say almost anything for the almighty Bling (this is a reflection of present day male rappers and female video vixens).


"What will work is a sea of change in black American culture. We’ve lost our inner Kunta Kinte."

Brother Tallness, is the Inner Kunta similar to the "Inner Bama?"


"It’s on us. Begging white people to give us jobs and wallowing in victimhood won’t stop black men from going to jail at an alarming rate or slow incredible divorce and child-illegitimacy rates or improve our performance in school.

If begging white people to take care of us worked, Jesse Jackson would be president and Michael Jackson would be the First Lady."

Outside of the "Michael Jackson would be the First Lady" comment, I agree with Mr. Whitlock, as well as Bill Cosby for that matter. As I see it, black folks can ask for and be granted a certain amount of the preverbial 40 acres and a mule (read: reparations), but until we get our act together, we will never achieve the respect needed to truly turn around the current black condition. For that, we have to look to ourselves for the answers. Therefore, while slavery and Jim Crow effects still linger in our communities, the majority of the blame for our current social, political and economic failures should rest firmly on our shoulders.

People, when will it be time for us to take reponsibility for ourselves and the direction of our people?

Brother Darkness said...

Brother Spotless I don't think he is addressing black rappers with his KKK reference. He's calling the drug dealers in "The Wire" as well as real life the NEW KKK. In some ways I agree with this comparion but what is missing is the hatred for black people. I'd say the New KKK is more like a parasite feeding off of their addicts.

Drug dealers are aware of the detrimental effect that they have over their own people yet their motivation is strictly economical. There is a lack of morality that makes it even scarier than the KKK's beliefs of blacks being inferior thus not deserving to live. With drug dealers there is not even any thought of the people they sell to. They don't see people, they see money.

But I do agree with the point that rappers do have to shoulder the blame with respect to the condition of the black youth. The pursuit for the mighty dollar has caused many artists to throw all creativity, morals and overall common sense aside.

"Therefore, while slavery and Jim Crow effects still linger in our communities, the majority of the blame for our current social, political and economic failures should rest firmly on our shoulders." I think Whitlock's article touches on Spotless' point a bit. The fact that "The Wire" isn't being discussed by blacks (at least those not named Brother (fill in the blank)).

Brother Spotless said...

Please forgive me if I misinterpreted the KKK comment, but Whitlock further discusses his understanding of the New KKK with this:

"We’ve lost our inner Kunta Kinte. Too many young (under 45) black men and women are on the payroll of the new Ku Klux Klan. Oh, Klan wages are high. A talented rapper can make a fortune sucking on the N-word like a Tic Tac at an onion buffet and promoting crack dealing to single black mothers. And TV networks are passing out phat contracts to black men and women willing to Flavor Flav and Nat X for dollars. "

I do agree that Whitlock hit on a lot of what I said.