Archive for the ‘reality’ Category

I spent much of the week following the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial and the not guilty verdict online trying to reason with Zimmerman supporters.

Now, being a trained journalist and a fairly astute judge of people, particularly based on what I have seen and heard following the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black youth by an armed, shall we say, non-Black adult, many Zimmerman supporters will already take umbrage with what little I have written above. But I tend to choose (at least most of) my words carefully and I chose the words “reason with” on purpose, knowing that they might offend some.

I do not use this terminology to impart some sense of superiority or to be purposely divisive but to point out that if you say something as (what I think is) innocuous as “Trayvon Martin was just a kid walking home minding his own business” before he was killed, you unleash a stream of passion that no amount of argument seems able to penetrate.

Another way of saying this is, although I expressed no opinion one way or another as to the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, people made assumptions about my opinions  as to the outcome of the trial based on that one statement and my race, which, I might point out, was apparent in my postings. One thing is clear in the online “conversations”; if race was not a part of the trial, it is the driving force behind all of the discussions about Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s resultant trial.

What many — not all —White people can’t understand or admit is that it is not just Black people who see all of this as a race issue. They do too. Not only do Black people see this case as having social ramifications beyond one case. White people do too. They are just loath to admit it honestly and openly. They couch their race discussions as presentations of “facts” while accusing Black people of being overcome by “passion”, racial paranoia or worse.

Let me be clear. When I say, “if race was not a part of the trial” I am not saying race did not enter that courtroom or that race did not color that encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin on that February evening in 2012 when Zimmerman followed and ultimately killed the 17-year-old. I am not saying that race did not enter the jury room as deliberations unfolded. I am saying that just because you don’t speak the word doesn’t

Al Sharpton lynching

This Investor’s Business Daily cartoon by Michael Ramirez, leveled at the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and MSNBC host, after the Zimmerman trial verdict, uses racially charged imagery to make its point. Lynchings were used well into the 1900s to oppress African Americans, a fact that remains close to the consciousness of many Black people.

mean it isn’t there. I am merely acknowledging those who state that race played no part in this case. I hear you, but you’re wrong.

So, on the one hand you have people — White and Black — saying this trial outcome offers an opportunity for an honest conversation about race and on the other hand you have White people saying “What are you talking about? This case wasn’t about race, why should we talk about race?”

This is how you know this case and its aftermath was and is about race for the White people who say it is not about race or those who have charged Black people with making a racial issue where none existed. They dredge up every racial grievance against Black people they can think of even though those grievances have absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin, the Zimmerman case or themselves! They rant about O.J. Simpson, President Obama (he’s not only racially divisive, he’s a socialist), the Duke lacrosse team, Tawana Bradley, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rodney King  and any other story they have ever heard or read that even remotely involves a Black person in a negative light. They cite “facts” promulgated from every White nationalist blog on the Internet by rote as proof that Blacks as a whole are bad people and just don’t want to admit it.

Interestingly, those posting these “facts” about African-Americans are either unaware or uncaring that what they are writing (or in the case of television or radio saying) might be perceived by African Americans as insulting, hurtful or untrue. There seems little recognition that Black people are people. That we are, well, humans, just like White people. We have some unique challenges, yes, but we breathe air, we eat food, we bleed red blood and we have thoughts, feelings and problems just as they do. There seems to be an overwhelming attitude that Black people are not entitled to any kind of feelings — whether it is fear of being stopped by police or of being followed by strangers or of being insulted by those emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet or by those earning the millions of dollars they earn from the racist idiocy they spew about us in print and on the airways.

Trayvon Martin

This photo of 33-year-old Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka rapper, “The Game”, is being circulated as a recent photo of Trayvon Martin, the photo the mainstream media won’t show you. Zimmerman supporters are using the photo to support their argument that Martin was actually 6’2″ and 175 pounds and could easily have crushed George Zimmerman in a fight.

So many White people have taken this tragedy to chastise the President as being racially divisive just for saying “if I had a son he would look like Trayvon” when if we truly lived in the post-racial, color blind society they claim we live in they could envision their own son standing in Trayvon’s shoes. Can you ask yourself, what is it that makes you unable to accept that Trayvon Martin was a child, a human being, who could have been your child, your brother, your nephew, who was confronted by a full-grown adult? In a situation involving a child, a teenager, a young adult, who has the ultimate responsibility to act in an adult manner? Those of you who want to proclaim that the President is not Black because his mother is White, pretend he was speaking of his “White half.” Could you then find some empathy toward a family that has been nothing but classy through this whole ordeal?

White people seem extremely comfortable telling African Americans how we should think, feel and act when they would never accept the same from us. Many of them have taken this as an opportunity to do so. Can you imagine the backlash were Black commentators to fill the airwaves every night lamenting the 38.8 % of White people on welfare as obviously only wanting to suck on the government teat rather than work or if they lamented the disintegration of the White family because of those 9.5 million White kids living in single-parent households, and that all of those children (under age 18 who live with their own single parent either in a family or subfamily) were certain to grow up to be thugs? And what about that staggering 84 percent White on White murder rate? Pretty horrifying. Why aren’t White people doing something about that?

To be sure, many White people are aware of their Whiteness and the privilege that attaches to it. Unfortunately these people are often dismissed by other White people as victims of “political correctness” gone amok, as blinded by White guilt or attacked as what used to be called “race traitors”. People like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many of their viewers and listeners would do well to listen and learn from them. Here’s a newsflash: not all of those who see a problem are President Obama supporters or left-wing radicals. Even if they were, that would not disqualify them from understanding what it means to be a White person in America today or from exhibiting compassion or empathy toward people who do not look like them (as far as color goes), traits the exhibition of which have been severely lacking in the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

Those who are seeking a conversation about race are not trying to take your Whiteness away from you. You are welcome to keep it. You are welcome to talk about it with us. That is not a bad thing to do. We are not willing to accept it as a badge of superiority where you get to use it as your birthright to tell us how we should feel or live. The last thing we need is White people lecturing to us about race and racial issues when they themselves have not come to grips with them. African Americans are forced to live with the consequences every day.

So, my White sisters and brothers, if you’re still not convinced, let me try one more line of argument to try to persuade you that we should talk about race. We should have this talk because you are angry, you’re hurting and you’re afraid. We should talk about it because you have some legitimate grievances but you’re taking out your hurt, anger, fear and grievances on the wrong people. Despite the fact a lot of people are trying to convince you otherwise, Black people are not your enemies. We should talk about race because there are some very important people who don’t want us to talk because they are afraid that if we do we might discover that we like each other and then we will focus our anger in the right places. We should talk about race because we have more in common than you might recognize because we don’t talk. We should talk about race because you don’t seem to know that it is okay to notice or even talk about your own or another person’s race. To notice that a Black person is Black is not in and of itself racist. It is what one does with this knowledge that determines whether one is “racist,” a term which is really of limited value in a conversation about race.

This case could provide an opportunity, but it won’t unless something drastic happens — and it hasn’t yet. At least it hasn’t for a lot of White people. You can’t have a telephone conversation if the person on the other end won’t pick up the phone. And too many White people aren’t ready to accept the call for an honest racial conversation. They believe the call for such a conversation all by itself is racially divisive. They fear that to accept the call is to accept the label “racist.” Once again, they would be wrong and that is precisely why we need to talk.

So as I see it, we are at a crossroads, one of many we will approach. White people can stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you,” or you can be willing to listen before you talk, and learn.

Please read “A Race is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being A White Person or Understanding the White Persons In Your Life” by Janet E. Helms, Phd


If you’re not a soap opera fan bear with me. Even though that is ostensibly the subject this is about much more, though far be it from me to say much more important.

As I’m sure almost everyone knows by now ABC announced last month the cancellation of All My Children (AMC) and One Life to Live (OLTL), each soap operas that have been on television for more than 40 years.

The rationale is that viewers’ habits are changing and that daytime television is facing increasing competition from cable television, the Internet and social media. It has been no big secret that network executives have been courting younger audiences and have been disappointed that their efforts have failed to attract a younger demographic as far as soaps are concerned.

Among the network arguments is that the shows continue to lose viewers and they can no longer justify their huge budgets. Reality and talk shows apparently cost some 30 to 40 percent less to produce than do soap operas. Moreover, reality and talk are what viewers want to see, they say. So, AMC and OLTL will be replaced with the type of programming viewers want, the Chew, a cooking show, and the Revolution, a makeover show.

Now, as a daytime television viewer I don’t watch Rachel Ray. I don’t watch Nate Berkus. I stopped watching Dr. Oz when I figured out he was making me think I was going to die from everything I was or wasn’t doing. I’ve watched The Talk twice; once when Eric Braeden (Young and the Restless) and once when Shemar Moore (formerly Young and the Restless) were on. I’ve tired of The View, so I don’t watch it much anymore. I rarely watch Oprah and she’s going off anyway and I hardly ever watch Dr. Phil, although his fight against violence against women has drawn me in some this season. Why would I watch new versions of dreck I already don’t watch now?

A lot of fans of the cancelled soap operas are asking this same question. What makes ABC think they can replace daytime dramas with reality/talk shows nobody asked for and expect us to just follow like sheep? The answer is because we always do. We accept our plight, we whine a little and we never fight back.

It would seem for once they’ve picked the wrong target; this time the offended do not accept their fate and slink quietly into the night.

Now, here is where this stops being purely about daytime television for me, and more about what I originally intended to write about, although I will continue to use soap operas as the basis for my argument.

Listen. This isn’t about pure greed or finances. It’s not just about ABC/Disney. This is about a culture of ageism and a little bit about sexism. It’s about condescension and ignorance. The people who control the television resources are telling us that our time has passed and they are finished with us. They want 18 to 49 year olds and that age group doesn’t want soap operas. If you are older than that – even if you do have the majority of the spending power – they don’t care what you want to see. They are telling us we have no real power. They are moving on and there is nothing we can do about it. Of course, they don’t put it quite that crassly, but the message is there just the same.

I’ve watched as thousands of protestors have commented on Facebook pages, websites and blogs about the cancellations. They’ve shared stories of how they grew up watching the shows, how they’ve watched them for 40 years, how they have watched them with their children, mothers and grandmothers. They’ve demanded that ABC rescind its decision, praised Hoover (vacuum cleaners) for its decision to pull all of its ABC advertising and urged other advertisers to do the same, and threatened never to watch another ABC program again. They’ve taken out media advertisements to ask Disney/ABC to reconsider its decision.

Disney, of course, has taken the attitude that there’s nothing anybody can do to make them change their minds; even though thousands of viewers are telling them they don’t want another talk show, another food show, another makeover show. Viewers are telling them, we’ll desert you. ABC is saying go ahead. We don’t believe you.

Hoover is only hurting the cause by pulling its advertising from ABC, not helping, ABC says. Do you think for one minute that if Poise, Activia, Vesicare, Reclast, Juvéderm, Bayer, Symbicort, Colonial Penn, Advair, Clinique, Miracle Ear and others pulled all of their advertising from ABC and spent it at, say CBS, it wouldn’t hurt? Do you think for one minute ABC would maintain its haughty attitude? It’s too late. There’s nothing anybody can do about it? I don’t think so.

My point is this. Although it is clear not all soap opera fans are over the age of 50, a great many of them are. The networks have decided – as has the rest of society – that this is a disposable market, rather than an age group to be courted. They’re wrong. We are strong in numbers and in buying power, and we are going to be around for a long time. You should not ignore us, take us for granted or condescend toward us.

I am heartened to see that so many people will fight for a cause they believe in. Generations watch these shows together. I’ve recently discovered the dozens of soap opera message boards that discuss the comings and goings and plot lines of the various soap operas. I think of how before her death my mother would call my sister to discuss episodes of the Young and the Restless. It brought them closer together. G-d knows this society needs things that keep us connected.

My hope is that win or lose the AMC/OLTL fight – and I hope ABC sees the light and does change its course – we continue to believe that we have the power to change the course of big business decision making. We have great battles ahead in the name of fighting ageism and we need each other more now than ever. I hope we will carry this spirit over into the fight against ageism in other areas, particularly ageism in hiring decisions.