Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|America Beyond the Color Line|
Actors: Henry Louis Gates, Maya Angelou, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Don Cheadle, Aasha Davis
Directors: Daniel Percival, Mary Crisp
Genres: Television, Documentary
Henry Louis Gates Jr. travels the length and breadth of the United States to take the temperature of black America at the start of the new century. Gates visits the East Coast, the deep South, inner-city Chicago and Hollyw... more »
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Skip shows Black America.
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 04/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a four-part PBS/BBC series on one disc. I wonder if it is supposed to be the New World equivalent to the documentary that Gates did on Africa. I didn't see that series, so my analysis may not be as informed as it could be. This series continues Gates' acknowledgment as a public intellectual. Though the title says "beyond" the color line, it really could have been re-titled "about" the color line. This documentary covers mostly Black Americans talking about race; this is the same that that DuBois contemplated one century ago. To be fair, class does come up here, both in terms of the privileged and the challenged. Also, almost every interviewee does not know what to say when asked the question "Does racism still exist?" On the one hand, they don't want to sound naive, or like a Clarence Thomas or Stephen Carter. On the other hand, they want to more well-rounded in their answer and not sound like Chris Rock's character "Nat X." Many works on "the status of Black America" focus upon crime, education, and health solely. This documentary did go into new or different directions, discussing Hollywood, migration patterns, and success stories.
Gates interviews a large number of Blacks, both stars and everyday people. There is much class diversity here. You can see the richness of the dialogue as Colin Powell says, "Our generation could not use certain words when we were growing up." and then a second later Russell Simmons, a middle-aged man, has to be bleeped out every other sentence. Unfortunately, this series includes far more men than women, very androcentric. By the way, Alicia Keys looked okay in her "Gangsta Love" video. But when Gates interviews her on the set of that video, her booty is sticking out all over the place. Go buy a belt, Ms. Alicia!
It was difficult watching Gates ask simplistic questions of people on topics that he has covered in-depth or his peers have. I did love seeing a learned Black man speaking a bit of Ebonics here and there. In addition, he slips in scholarly quotes from diverse thinkers such as Audre Lorde, William Julius Wilson, and William Shakespeare throughout the series. I am perfectly fine that this work is not as complex as Gates' "Signifying Monkey"; however, it did feel a bit dumbed-down.
I HATE the way he covered Chicago. Whereas he portrays Atlanta as a thriving, black, middle-class Mecca, he shows Chicago as if it were only in decline. Chicago is not Detroit: we are not that post-industrial. The number of Chicago residents did not decrease over the 1990s as other cities in the Midwest and East Coast have. Chicago is still full of bourgie black people (I should know). One of the reasons that Illinois have elected 2 of the only 5 Blacks who have ever served in the United States Senate is because people of all races are so familiar and unthreatened by middle-class Blacks. This piece totally disrespects the Chi!
Further, Harvard is mentioned several times in this work and no other Ivy League is brought up. Yes, Gates is a department head at Harvard, but technically he's a Yalie. You would think he would want viewers to know that there is more than one Ivy. At a time when Brown University appointed the first African-American president, a woman, in the history of the Ivy League while Harvard's president has been in the news for upsetting female faculty and insulting Cornel West and Kenneth Appiah, you would think Gates would be broader in his coverage.
Gates is seen in most scenes walking with a cane. Because Cornel West walks with a cane as well, I am concerned about the health of Black public intellectuals. However, I am glad that the days of Americans hiding their disabilities are gone. In our age, FDR would not have to be ashamed of his wheelchair.
This series would be great for people doing cursory or initial investigations in the status of Black America."
Subject matter very important, approach to material mixed...
D. Pawl | Seattle | 06/03/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"My school career at the University of Washington has been filled with fascinating and important courses in Ethnic relations and studies. My focus has been on Latinos, Asian, and Indigenous groups. I only wish I had had more time to spend looking at African and African-American studies. Since Professor Gates is a notable professor of African-American studies I thought the series was definitely worth checking out. I was prepared to be educated, or at least enlightened.
Professor Henry Lous Gates, Jr. (or "Skip"---the name he uses when introducing himself to his subjects) took the education he had about his own culture and brought it with him into the field, as he focused on race relations in the south, and the MidWest, the divide between wealthy and poor blacks, and Hollywood's view of African-American performers in a business run predominantly by wealthy, old white men. When I use the word "education" in the context of Professor Gates, I am referring to his priviliged prospective of life in the United States. This man had opportunities that some poor whites, and other groups did not have access to. When he encounters poor, Black youth who have had to struggle to rise above the dangerous circumstances of drug and gang-related violence, as well as wealthy African-American entrepeneurs, he approaches both groups of people the same way. He wonders how success is made possible, and how others could've been anything BUT successful. Though, I think that education, building strong leaders for the future and young people growing into upstanding citizens in the community are all very important factors in this country, I kept feeling Gates lacked compassion for anyone who wasn't like him (i.e. Priviliged, upper-middle class, educated Blacks professionals). Though, I realize he wanted to understand how others "went wrong," for me his ignorance of the hardship others with less money and opportunity endure made the film rather biased and half-baked. However, this film is still worth viewing. In these times, I think that building awareness for the diversity of cultural, racial, and economic groups in the United States is vital in empowering the younger generations who will one day be running this country."