Black Men in the Age of President Obama: 4 Things CNN Got Wrong

By Guest Contributor jbrotherlove, originally published at jbrotherlove

In case you missed it, CNN aired Black Men in the Age of President Obama this weekend. The special was hosted by Don Lemon who I’ve applauded in the past for his insightful coverage and inclusion of social media in his journalism.

Black Men showed how the interest in education and public service has grown in the black community, seemingly as a result of Barack Obama, despite broken homes and a downtrodden economy. Also, noted was the positive effect our society has received from viewing an intact, loving black family on an international stage.

But there were some negatives.

1. “Down Low” Men & HIV

Again, black men on “the down low” were blamed for the high HIV rates among black women. I had a fear the conversation would go that route despite evidence of the contrary. CDC Director Dr. Kevin Fenton recently stated HIV infection in black women “is being fueled by heterosexual Black men with multiple sex partners”.

But that’s a fact the black church and others who typically demonize black gay men don’t want to accept. It means the “blame game” should be re-focused on conversations about responsibility, self-esteem, acceptance and empowerment. Don Lemon missed a crucial opportunity of framing this conversation in a different manner.

2. No (out) black men

There wasn’t any gay representation on the panel.* This was ironic because the panel was held in Atlanta (which has a large, black gay population) at Morehouse College, of all places. The concentration of gay students at Morehouse is well-known and is partially why the the historic, black college created a new, controversial dress code.

Even worse, Bishop Eddie Long was among the panelist. His disrespect of non-heterosexuals is well-documented. Like the rest of the panel, his comments on black gay men included PC words like “respect” and”love” which failed to convince me of their acceptance.

*I know there’s speculation about at least one brother on that stage. But he’s not out so, it doesn’t count.

3. Gay is not a lifestyle

I’m almost tired of having to repeat this because, at this point, anyone holding lofty discussions about homosexuality should know they shouldn’t use the phrase “gay lifestyle”. Granted, there are many within the gay community who have been taught to use the phrase as well. But we need to stop that.

During the brief discussion of  black, gay men, the panelists appeared to wear a mask of enlightenment as they talked about accepting those in the “gay lifestyle”. Before we pat them on the back for that lip service, I’d like to offer a reminder:

This phrase “gay lifestyle” is inaccurate and offensive. It implies people willfully choose to live a different way. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people do not choose their sexuality any more than straight folks. And sexual orientation is not a lifestyle.

4. Our sisters are still holding us up

The majority of statistics about black men were culled from Essence; a black women’s magazine. I have a deep respect for Essence and their work; so, this isn’t a criticism of them. However, I am troubled that black men do not have a major media outlet focusing solely on their issues. We have plenty of destinations to discuss sports and hip hop. Yet, when it comes to issues pertaining to our health, family and livelihood, we are still allowing our sisters to do the heavy lifting.

My overall thoughts?

I have to thank CNN for tackling topics in specials like Black in America, Black in America 2 and Latino in America. Barack Obama’s presidency has ignited suppressed conversations that need to happen in our country. But so far, most of the coverage feels a bit like Sociology 101. Then again, maybe that’s where we need to start for most of the country to catch up.