Paula Zahn devoted two of her hour-long CNN shows this week to the topic "Skin Deep: Racism in America."
After taking the time to watch, the question I walked away with was: "What was the point?"
In my view, the shows told us little that most of us don't already know _ strong racist sentiments exist in the country _ and really never asked the deeper and more important questions about what this means and why we should care.
According to Zahn, the production was provoked by Michael Richards' now-famous racist rant in an L.A. comedy club. Given the incident, the CNN crew thought it was worth examining, "How much racism is there in all of us, just under the surface, that we're really not aware of or willing to admit?"
But, again, what's the point? Everyone has something just under the surface that he or she is not proud of or at least not ready to admit. Will national racist sensitivity training make this a better country? Was that the point?
The centerpiece holding the presentation together was a CNN/Opinion Research poll reporting that 84 percent of blacks and 66 percent of whites believe that "racism is a serious problem." And, 51 percent of blacks say they feel they have been victims of discrimination.
Somehow, I couldn't keep from looking at my watch and thinking about my laundry, despite the revelation of such bombshells as: there are still white-supremacist Ku Klux Klanners in America; there's a little town in Texas with a racist past where those feelings may still be harbored; in association tests, psychologists show that people tend to be more positively disposed toward white faces than black faces; real estate agents can sometimes tell a black voice on the phone and decline to show a property.
I just couldn't help wondering where Zahn and the CNN crew hang out if they really thought any of this was prime-time-worthy news.
Most blacks picked at random off the street could tell you by rote everything that this CNN show reported.
Which maybe drills down to what bothered me about the show. The point had to be to communicate with white America, because there certainly was no news for blacks. What was the message to white America?
Feel guilty? Be more sensitive?
Guilt I don't need. Sensitivity is fine.
But how about the implicit message of the show, hanging so much of the quality of black life onto how whites feel about blacks?
As much as I would love to see greater sensitivity and humanity on matters of race, far more important to me is that the really hard questions are asked. Those that make concrete demands that might produce real change and improve black life in America.
In this sense, Zahn's show failed abysmally.
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