Chris Chambers gives his preview of Black In America 2: weak, bleak or meek. In the end, the word for it he finds is “safe.” Here’s a smidge of what he had to say.
“Safe” has many connotations. Familiarity, universality, steady and expository communication. It also means routine, typical, unchallenging. Banal. The usual thing, made for the usual people, about the usual topics, garnering the usual responses. The make up of the panel and the folks who managed to get in on 7/14, and their input, their responses, is thus no accident, and it’s easy to see why CNN would consider the affair a success, setting up the Part I premier 8pm Eastern on 7/22 [assuming the President’s press conference doesn’t cut into the debut]. American University Professor Steven Taylor has studied how black folks see brokering, hooking up/being hooked-up, a sense of being “in” not out–all as premiums. It’s what we expect from our political, religious and media/entertainment leaders. (1) The hook-up, being under the velvet rope, will counterbalance a litany of sins and silence a lit of complaints–especially those about Black in America 2. Lamar can attest to the opposite from the folks waiting on 7/14 (albeit in mercifully low humidity for DC). Out there, the sins register. Inside, they are co-opted.
If the above sounds unduly cynical, perhaps this next angle might be less odious. While regular black people waited and were denied entry, the U.S. Naval Reserve and the Marine Corps were putting on a concert and cocktails there at the Navy Memorial. The guests, along with fannypack-festooned white tourists and yuppies on their way to happy hour milled about, gawking at the gathering well-dressed professionals of color. I went back outside to look around close to 7pm. A young lady waiting to flash a ticket to CNN flacks at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue was texting while simulatenously talking with her cohorts. The young woman peered up from her from iPhone at the gaping white people and said to her friends, “They [the white people] are ones who should see this, if things are going to get better.”
“Ya know,” a girlfriend answered. “This’d be like preaching to the choir.” Exactly. Safe. And I went back inside to hear the choir.